SAN FRANCISCO -- Tonight, it begins.
Tonight, Xander Bogaerts will begin his major league career, likely at shortstop, against the San Francisco Giants.
It's hard to remember the last time someone's major league debut in a Red Sox uniform created this much anticipation. Was it Nomar Garciaparra, almost exactly 17 years ago?
Even then, things were much different. Garciaparra had been an All-American at Georgia Tech and a first-round draft pick. But that was in the pre-Internet era, when information on minor leaguers were much more scarce.
Garciaparra was a rumor; Bogaerts, by contrast, is a well-known commodity.
Fans have seen him in Portland and Pawtucket, if not in person, then on video. He's played in televised spring training games and on the international stage in the World Baseball Classic.
He's been in the Future's Game. He's been blogged about, speculated on and projected.
Now, he's here.
Comparitively speaking, Garciaparra was some sort of mythical legend -- heard about, but not much seen.
Thanks to ESPN, Baseball America, the MLB Network and countless blogs and analytics sites, many Red Sox fans feel more invested in Bogaerts, as if they'd been a part of his journey to the big leagues.
It's impossible to develop quietly as a top prospect these days. There are too many media outlets, too many eyes and ears focused on the Next Big Thing.
In that sense, at least for the game's top prospects, their development is almost as chronicled as top college football and basketball stars.
Two of the most frequently-asked questions by Red Sox fans in the last year have been: How good is Bogaerts? And, When will see him in Boston?
If composure means much, Bogaerts should be successful. He sat atop a dugout bench Monday afternoon, surrounded by 20 or so reporters, and appeared more bemused than anything else.
He was asked about everything from his travel day to with whom he sat on the plane ride from Boston to the origins of his first name.
Bogaerts answered all of the queries with good nature, and mostly, a huge natural grin that adds to his charismatic bearing.
Along the way, he made sure to utter answers about expectations right out of the Crash Davis Book of Cliches: he's here to help the team, you understand. And to help in any way the team sees fit.
He made no assumptions, took nothing for granted. When he asked about the possibility of family members making the trip in time to watch his debut, he allowed that that was too long of a trip from Aruba on short notice.
Maybe, he speculated, they could see him play in Boston next week -- "if I'm still with the team."
And you sensed that there was no false modesty at work there. Bogaerts was, smartly, assuming nothing.
It helps that Bogaerts is joining a team in first place -- however precariously -- and not in free-fall or out of contention. Bogaerts is being added to the roster to augment, not save the season.
Who knows how much Bogaerts will play. For that matter, who knows where, or how well?
Farrell gave every indication that most -- though not all -- of his playing time will come at shortstop, at the expense of Stephen Drew.
It's a safe bet that most of Bogaerts' playing time will comes against lefthanded pitching -- against which Drew has struggled, hitting just .193 with a .588 OPS.
But it's also clear that the Sox will find ways to shoehorn Bogaerts into the lineup on other occasions, as will be the case Tuesday night against a righthander.
There will be other opportunities, too, especially as the team plays in National League parks. He could be used to pinch-hit for a pitcher, or be part of a late-inning double switch.
This isn't just the introduction of Bogaerts into the major leagues. It's also a precursor to next April, when, presumably, the Sox open the season with Boagerts as their everyday shortstop.
For now, the spots will be chosen more carefully, the training wheels still attached.
Still, it's hard to ignore the excitement, or fail to recognize the obvious: a new era begins tonight.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Tonight, it begins.