Bogaerts Living The Dream

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TOLEDO, OHIO — Two days into his second week with the Pawtucket Red Sox — and a night after hitting his second International League home run — Xander Bogaerts was still shaking his head.  And at the same time, still smiling; at the same thought.

“Who would believe it, to be 20 and be in Triple-A?” Bogaerts wondered aloud, his words sweetened by the Caribbean accent of a kid born and raised on Aruba.

His own innocence aside, anyone familiar with the 6-foot-3 shortstop, whose precocious skill-set belies his baby face and tender age, understands that Bogaerts is right where he ought to be.

As Boston’s Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2012, which he finished by batting .326 in 23 games for Double-A Portland, Bogaerts commenced his spring representing the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic; continued it with five appearances for the Red Sox in spring training; and capped it by returning to Porland, where he hit .311 with 6 HR, 35 RBI and a .407 on-base percentage in 40 games.

Though he won’t turn 21 until October, Bogaerts was clearly ready for Triple-A by the start of summer.  As for autumn, he just might find himself in the big leagues.  Believe it or not.

“There’s no such thing as a prospect in Triple-A,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters last week.  “You’re either ready to help the big league team or you’re not.

“He certainly improved in strike zone management this year.  He’s played a consistent shortstop.  We know he’s a threat with the bat.”

As evidenced by his overall numbers, there’s plenty of room for improvement between Bogaert’s first nine games with the PawSox and his high talent ceiling.  He had six hits in his first 34 at-bats (.176).  Eleven of his 28 hitless at-bats ended in strikeouts.

Still, as early as his very first Triple-A plate appearance, a walk, Bogaerts has impressed Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina.

“Very cool, calm and collected out there,” DiSarcina said, noting the differences between the types of pitches Bogaerts sees in the IL, compared to the Double-A Eastern League.  “At this level, it’s a bit different, more craftier pitchers, guys who’ve pitched in the big leagues, more setting him up.  They’re not going to come after him throwing 95 (m.p.h.) at him, they’re going to come out trying to set him up in the batter’s box.”

On Saturday, Bogaerts echoed DiSarcina’s analysis, answering questions in English, one of the four languages he speaks fluently.  Following is that conversation, which aired on the PawSox Radio Network.

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