Cherington: 'We still believe' Bogaerts can play shortstop

Cherington: 'We still believe' Bogaerts can play shortstop
May 21, 2014, 8:15 pm
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(AP Photo)

Despite the addition of Stephen Drew, who will get the lion's share of playing time at shortstop for the remainder of the season, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington remained steadfast in his support of displaced rookie Xander Bogaerts in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

"We believe Xander can play shortstop and can play it well,'' said Cherington. "We've seen, even over the last two or three weeks, his defense at shortstop stabilize. He's certainly has worked hard at it. I know he made a couple of errors there (Tuesday) night.

"But we believed last year, in the off-season and in spring training, that he can play short. We still believe that. This move with Stephen is not in any way about a lack of belief that Xander can play short. We're just trying to make the team better. We're just trying to strengthen the roster. In fact, Xander's ability to play short and third allowed us to consider different options, different alternatives. Stephen just ended up being the one that made the most sense for us to pursue.

"Right now, we're just focused on 2014 and trying to build the best team we can and trying to get on a roll. Bogey's versatility is an important part of trying to do that. And certainly, he's a very important player for us more generally speaking and we're starting to see how good an offensive player he can be.  He's going to be a good player for us for a long time and adding Stephen hopefully makes us a better team in the short term.''

Cherington maintained that the Sox weren't "trying to send any message'' with the addition of Drew and denied that the Sox weren't patient enough to develop homegrown young players.

"We're just trying to get better,'' he said. "There happened to be a guy available who we happen to know well and is a good major league player who had an interest in coming back here. Committing to young players and helping them in anyway we can become good major leaguers and also trying to improve the team any way we can are not mutually exclusive.''

Cherington said the Sox weren't having Bogaerts serve a scapegoat for their 20-24 start.

"Our performance to date is all of our responsibilities,'' he said. "We haven't played as well as we want and we all have to -- including me -- look in the mirror and do a little bit better job.''

The signing of Drew also calls into question the role for Will Middlebrooks, currently sidelined with a broken finger.

"We've got to get him healthy first,'' said Cherington. "That's going to take some time. We're talking weeks, not days to get him healthy and back playing. So that's the first step. The way we see it if Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks are all healthy and playing up to their capability, then we'll have a very good offense on the left side of the infield and it makes us a better team. So that would be the optimal scenario.

"We know that when he's healthy and doing the things he's capable of, there aren't many third basemen in the big leagues that can do what he does. So we're absolutely committed to getting him to that point. Along the way, we're just trying to build the best team we can and we hope, certainly, that Will's a part of it.''

When asked if, given the depth on the left side of the infield (Bogaerts, Deven Marrero, Garin Cecchini), Middlebrooks might be tried at another position, Cherington passed.

"I guess you can never rule anything out,'' he said. "Right now, our focus is on getting him healthy. He's clearly shown he's capable of playing defense at third base in the major leagues and with the power he has, he can do things that not many players in the big leagues can do.

"We just need to get him healthy and get him going and then as far as how he fits in we'll see when we get to that point.''