PAWTUCKET â€” There have been three editions to Paul Dicksonâ€™s handy and comprehensive â€śThe Dickson Baseball Dictionary,â€ť though no revised version has graced bookstore shelves in the past five years.
If and when Dickson gets around to updating the gameâ€™s vernacular â€“ 952 pages of words and phrases suggests that the author has covered all the bases (no pun intended) â€“ he should make it a point to insert the full name of the Red Soxâ€™ current version of a Swiss Army knife: Brock Holt.
Hereâ€™s a suggestion on how the entry featuring Holt would read: A player who was introduced to new positions at the major-league level in order to keep his red-hot bat in the lineup. In a perfect world, Holt would have been allotted time to hone all three outfield spots and first base in the minors. Thanks to an avalanche of injuries and sub-par contributions from several Boston regulars, the door opened for him to stick in the majors as opposed to returning to the PawSox.
Whether you prefer to call it a crash course or learning on the fly, Holtâ€™s adaptability has not gone unnoticed at his former baseball port of call. With the name of the game being able to stick around the majors until the manager taps you on the shoulder and says that he wants to see you in his office, the ability to be flexible and move around the diamond like a piece on a chessboard is mandatory.
If you can enhance your versatility in a minor-league setting, you donâ€™t have to worry about pulling a Brock Holt, i.e. eliminating the kind of on-the-job training that has unfolded upon his reaching the top of professional baseballâ€™s pyramid.
â€śI think what (Red Sox manager) John Farrell has done in being able to have the guts to do that with Brock Holt, whether itâ€™s playing first base or all three outfield positions, all bets are off down here,â€ť stated PawSox manager Kevin Boles. â€śIf the front office wants us to move some pieces around to try and fill a need at the major-league level, thereâ€™s no reason why we canâ€™t do that down here. What John did with Brock, itâ€™s just amazing. He kept that bat in the lineup and Brockâ€™s done terrific. That takes some guts to do that.â€ť
Exposing minor leaguers to new positions, particularly once they reach the Triple-A level, is not exactly breaking news. Yet at a time when Holt has opened eyes with â€śone day at first base, the next in center field,â€ť itâ€™s worth noting the expansion of the workload of three infielders by trade.
By spending two games in left field when Pawtucket was on the road earlier this week, Garin Cecchini has joined the club that already includes Mookie Betts and will soon have to make room for Will Middlebrooks. A second baseman for most of his minor-league career, Betts was moved to the outfield just as his two-month stint with Double-A Portland drew to a close. Including Wednesday, Betts has logged 15 games in the outfield as opposed to five at second base.
â€śBrockâ€™s a special person. I think itâ€™s amazing heâ€™s played every position except catcher. I think thatâ€™s really good to be that versatile,â€ť said Betts.
Keep in mind that Betts has not strapped on shin guards as of this writing, or taken the mound.
â€śIâ€™m not exactly sure if I could do it. I think I can, but I donâ€™t know,â€ť Betts said. â€śI think itâ€™s different for (Holt) because heâ€™s up there and knows about all those little things that I donâ€™t really know much about.â€ť
In Cecchiniâ€™s case, the third baseman has set out to â€śplace an additional tool in the tool boxâ€ť as former Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina so aptly put. If his fish-out-of-water moments happen in Moosic, Pa. or McCoy Stadium as opposed to stationed in front of Fenway Parkâ€™s Green Monster, Cecchini can most certainly live with that.
â€śI feel like itâ€™s been natural,â€ť said Cecchini about his left-field experience. â€śI made some plays that were pretty tough â€“ I robbed a ball in foul territory and caught a ball where I had to change my angle â€“ but itâ€™s been good.â€ť
Wednesday saw Cecchini start his third game in left field.
â€śIâ€™m glad theyâ€™re using me that way because thatâ€™s the way they think of me, as a versatile athlete,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s going to be a process, but itâ€™s good.â€ť
Middlebrooks has been limited to shagging flyballs and taking grounders in left field. Once his right thumb is able to handle more strenuous assignments, he will then become the latest player to undergo a position shift.
Like Middlebrooks and Betts and Cecchini before him, none of them are pulling what could be the newest catch phase in baseball, that of pulling â€“in the most flattering way possible â€“ a Brock Holt.
â€śYou move them around and give them a little work and they usually take to it,â€ť Boles noted. â€śFrom what weâ€™ve seen from the early impressions, thereâ€™s a chance that this could increase their versatility.â€ť
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