PAWTUCKET ‚ÄĒ There have been three editions to Paul Dickson‚Äôs handy and comprehensive ‚ÄúThe Dickson Baseball Dictionary,‚ÄĚ though no revised version has graced bookstore shelves in the past five years.
If and when Dickson gets around to updating the game‚Äôs vernacular ‚Äď 952 pages of words and phrases suggests that the author has covered all the bases (no pun intended) ‚Äď he should make it a point to insert the full name of the Red Sox‚Äô current version of a Swiss Army knife: Brock Holt.
Here‚Äôs 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, Holt‚Äôs 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 don‚Äôt 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 baseball‚Äôs pyramid.
‚ÄúI think what (Red Sox manager) John Farrell has done in being able to have the guts to do that with Brock Holt, whether it‚Äôs playing first base or all three outfield positions, all bets are off down here,‚ÄĚ stated PawSox manager Kevin Boles. ‚ÄúIf the front office wants us to move some pieces around to try and fill a need at the major-league level, there‚Äôs no reason why we can‚Äôt do that down here. What John did with Brock, it‚Äôs just amazing. He kept that bat in the lineup and Brock‚Äôs done terrific. That takes some guts to do that.‚ÄĚ
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 ‚Äúone day at first base, the next in center field,‚ÄĚ it‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúBrock‚Äôs a special person. I think it‚Äôs amazing he‚Äôs played every position except catcher. I think that‚Äôs really good to be that versatile,‚ÄĚ said Betts.
Keep in mind that Betts has not strapped on shin guards as of this writing, or taken the mound.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm not exactly sure if I could do it. I think I can, but I don‚Äôt know,‚ÄĚ Betts said. ‚ÄúI think it‚Äôs different for (Holt) because he‚Äôs up there and knows about all those little things that I don‚Äôt really know much about.‚ÄĚ
In Cecchini‚Äôs case, the third baseman has set out to ‚Äúplace an additional tool in the tool box‚ÄĚ 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 Park‚Äôs Green Monster, Cecchini can most certainly live with that.
‚ÄúI feel like it‚Äôs been natural,‚ÄĚ said Cecchini about his left-field experience. ‚ÄúI made some plays that were pretty tough ‚Äď I robbed a ball in foul territory and caught a ball where I had to change my angle ‚Äď but it‚Äôs been good.‚ÄĚ
Wednesday saw Cecchini start his third game in left field.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm glad they‚Äôre using me that way because that‚Äôs the way they think of me, as a versatile athlete,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs going to be a process, but it‚Äôs good.‚ÄĚ
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 ‚Äďin the most flattering way possible ‚Äď a Brock Holt.
‚ÄúYou move them around and give them a little work and they usually take to it,‚ÄĚ Boles noted. ‚ÄúFrom what we‚Äôve seen from the early impressions, there‚Äôs a chance that this could increase their versatility.‚ÄĚ
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
View more articles in: