Holt, Snyder fitting in fine at third for Sox

Holt, Snyder fitting in fine at third for Sox
August 5, 2013, 2:00 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

BOSTON -- Last week's trade deadline has come and gone, and Phillies third baseman Michael Young remains in Philadelphia. Will Middlebrooks is down at Triple A Pawtucket as he works to resolve lingering offensive woes. Jose Iglesias has been dealt to Detroit.

For the Red Sox, the third base position has been a hole that's needed plugging for much of the season. Though they still don't have a regular for that corner infield spot, the team has been pleased with what it has received from its current platoon of Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder, who receive their at-bats against right-handed and left-handed starters, respectively.

"They complement one another obviously, that goes without saying," manager John Farrell said Sunday. "They've come up with some big hits, they've come up with some key defensive plays . . . We're able to kind of match them up and get the best of their abilities right now.

"Even though they're younger players relative to other guys here, they have a feel for the role, and they've been doing a good job at it. To each of their credit, they fill both sides of the platoon well."

Holt made good on his manager's praise Sunday when he got the start against Diamondbacks righty Brandon McCarthy. He turned two double plays to get Felix Doubront out of innings -- "He saved me," Doubront said afterward -- and laid down a sacrifice bunt that helped push two Red Sox runs across the plate in the sixth inning of their 4-0 win over Arizona.

Drafted in 2009 by the Pirates, Holt arrived to the Red Sox as part of the deal that brought closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston in the offseason. He knows that performances like Sunday's will help him remain in the big leagues.

"Just going out and doing the little things," Holt said. "I'm up here for a reason. Get bunts down. Run the bases well, play good defense. Obviously I'm not going to hit a bunch of home runs, but get a few hits here and there and just have fun."

Brought up from Pawtucket early last month, Holt is hitting .261 with 10 RBI in 14 games at third and two at second. Snyder was called up in late June and is hitting .243 with two home runs and seven RBI in 16 games as a third baseman, designated hitter and pinch hitter.

Both Holt and Snyder are relatively new to the position they now share. Holt only played seven games at third in his professional career -- all at Pawtucket -- before getting called up. Snyder played 73 of his 660 career professional games at third base before getting the call.

For Holt, a middle infielder by trade, and Snyder, more of a first baseman, it's been a crash-course to get a feel at third.

Staying sharp in the field and in rhythm at the plate without regular at-bats has been a challenge for both, they admitted. But if it means a spot with the big-league club, they are more than happy to do the work those things require.

"I think the biggest thing is I make sure I'm getting my reps in when I'm not playing," Snyder said. "I'm working with [third base coach Brian] Butterfield a lot at third base, making sure I'm staying sharp over there. And we have a lot of good [batting practice] pitchers so I'm able to get a lot of extra BP in. It's just one of those things. At first it's kind of difficult, but once you get the mindset right, it's a lot easier."

Holt in particular has come a long way defensively since spring training.

"He'd only had a couple games if at all at third," Farrell said. "Defensively he's adapted to that exceptionally well, [taking] different angles to balls. I think he's shown offensively what he's shown with the Pirates and the ability to put up a quality at-bat. But it's clearly the defense at third base [that has improved the most]."

When the Red Sox opted not to acquire a regular third baseman -- like Young -- Holt and Snyder were encouraged. They know, as platoon players, a long-term future in the big leagues is far from guaranteed so team's inaction at the deadline was taken as an implicit vote of confidence.

"For them to have confidence in me and Brandon," Holt said, "to put us out there with this squad, the amount of talent on this team, it's a huge confidence boost for me and the same thing for Brandon."

"We have fun with each other, we root each other on," Snyder said of Holt. "And we know if one of us is doing well, it helps the other out. It's just trying to get out there and do it every day."

Snyder knows that things can still change after the trade deadline, though. As a member of the Rangers, he was sent down to the minors in early August last season. Since he's out of options, if the Red Sox wanted to demote him, he would have to be placed on waivers, where any number of teams looking for a corner infielder might scoop him up.

"I want to stay here, I don't wanna go anywhere," Snyder said. "Obviously being out of options, there's a chance if I go somewhere I end up being somewhere else. I don't really want to, but that's the game. I went down five days after the trade deadline last year, and it sucks, but it's just part of the game. It's not for me to worry about."

For now, both Snyder and Holt are simply enjoying being in a major-league clubhouse and contributing to a team with the best record in baseball.

"It's one of those things, when you're on a winning team that's having fun doing it, it's tough to beat," Snyder said. "It kinda makes everybody play better. You come to the ballpark every day early and everybody's excited and ready to work. It's just a good atmosphere."