Ever since Rafael Devers entered the big leagues in 2017, baseball fans and writers have assumed the Boston Red Sox would move the third baseman across the diamond if he struggled defensively.
Well, maybe that would’ve worked a couple decades ago — and it still might. But these days, in an age of increased athleticism and widespread defensive shifting across Major League Baseball, it would be far easier said than done.
Devers was rough at third base as a rookie and not much better as a sophomore. The hard-hitting Dominican dramatically improved in 2019, but regressed last season and this year once again looks uncomfortable at the hot corner. Devers only committed one error — and it was ugly — in his first three games but bounced multiple throws to first base.
Predictably, Devers’s struggles have led some to call on the Red Sox to move Devers to first and Bobby Dalbec, drafted as a third baseman, across the diamond. But Boston manager Alex Cora is not high on that idea.
Check out these comments from his appearance Tuesday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” show:
“Is it smart that we have a first baseman that hasn’t played that much first base, that we need at first base, just stop playing him there just to move him to the other side of the field? You saw what happened (Monday) with the Rays. A routine groundball to first, contact play — we score one run. It’s not just, ‘Go to first base and catch the ball.’ You know, with the shift, we put the first baseman almost at second base. This is not the 80s, this is not the 90s. You know, it’s a different position at first base. It’s a hard position. So, it’s still defense, and you gotta be ready. And to learn a position at the big league level, with expectations? I don’t know, man. It’s not that easy. It’s not that easy. I know people think it’s just, ‘Move him there, do this, do that.’ No, it doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work that way at this level.”
Cora is right, but he and the Red Sox might have a tough decision to make if Devers doesn’t improve at third. The 24-year-old has shown the ability to field the position at an at least average level, but nevertheless must prove it over a full season.