If it's true that Brock Holt will be called up from Pawtucket as Jose Iglesias's replacement, as has been reported by WEEI.com, it makes sense on one level. Will Middlebrooks -- the Red Sox' starting third baseman on Opening Day -- has done nothing during his return trip to Pawtucket to indicate he's ready to come back to Boston. Reinserting him in the lineup would be an invitation for a repeat of the .192/.228/.389 slash line that got him demoted last month.
But what of Xander Bogaerts?
He's a shortstop, true, and Stephen Drew has that job at least until the end of the season. But he has played some third base for the PawSox and his offensive numbers are a lot more robust than Middlebrooks'. He seems to be almost a direct comparison to the Orioles' Manny Machado, who was called up last midseason at age 20 (Bogaerts' current age), held his own over the last few months as the O's made a successful playoff run, and is currently blossoming into a star. Why Machado, goes the thinking, and not Bogaerts?
The answer may lie in a fascinating story on Bogaerts written last weekend by Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. (Total disclosure: I worked at the Journal for most of my adult life and spent my last 10 years there as sports editor, though Tim was hired after I left for Comcast SportsNet New England.) Look at the quotes from Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina:
-- “What would he do tomorrow if he got called up? I really don’t know. He’s 20 years old. He’s learning.”
-- “He’s made some really nice, terrific, mature plays out there late in games. And he’s also made some plays that make you scratch your head and wonder."
-- "When he starts learning to pull balls and take advantage of hitters’ counts where he can cheat a little bit, I think he’ll blossom a little more than he has right now.”
Me? I see all of that and three words pop to mind: He's not ready.
Bogaerts, points out Britton, is the youngest player in Triple A. Just because Machado successfully made the jump at that age doesn't mean Bogaerts can. Nor does he seem to be thinking about it. ("No. No, no. [I don't] worry about that," he said when Britton asked if he wonders if he'll be called up to Boston.)
It's all moot, anyway, since Holt -- barring another trade -- appears to be the choice. And if I read the tea leaves correctly, at least the ones laid out by DiSarcina, it seems to be the right one.