There are nearly as many reasons for the Boston Red Sox to not send him back to the minors later this week.
Devers got called up three days ago from Triple-A. He joined the Red Sox in Seattle on Monday and made his debut one night later. He’s the youngest player in the big leagues, three months shy of turning 21, and acts like it, walking around with wide eyes and a perma-grin on his face.
Oh, and Devers can play, too. He worked two walks Tuesday night and made a smart read on a wild pitch in the dirt to help fuel a three-run rally. On Wednesday, he crushed a fastball from Mariners starter Andrew Moore to straightaway center field, becoming the youngest Red Sox player to homer since Tony Conigliaro in 1965, and later singled off tough lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski.
But let’s go back to that smile. For a Red Sox team that has been characterized by David Price‘s scowl, Devers’ baby face was as refreshing as the breeze off Puget Sound. It’s worth keeping around, too, even when veteran infielder Eduardo Nunez joins the team Friday after being acquired from the San Francisco Giants late Tuesday night.
“[Devers] is fun to watch,” said ace Chris Sale, who stretched his post-All-Star break scoreless streak to 20⅔ innings by shutting out the Mariners for seven innings in a sweep-averting victory. “He’s a new face in the clubhouse. Everybody had their first day, second day in the big leagues. You go back to that time and think about what it was like. To see him here and doing what he’s doing, he’s the youngest guy in the big leagues by a pretty good margin. Just the way he handles himself, it’s fun to watch.”
Imagine that? These Red Sox haven’t been much fun lately. They’re still in first place in the American League East, but 12 losses in 19 games since the Fourth of July have trimmed their lead from four games to one. When Price isn’t sniping at members of the media, including Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley on the team plane, manager John Farrell catches heat for not apologizing on Price’s behalf and legitimate questions arise about a leadership void in the clubhouse.
Fun? Not quite.
But maybe Devers’ arrival can help change all that. Perhaps the infusion of a 20-year-old kid who wore braces as recently as last year can remind the Red Sox that things could be a lot worse than being 56-47 and leading your division.
“I think that as long as I’m playing the game I’m going to be happy because that’s just my style of baseball,” Devers said through an interpreter. “If I’m not having fun while I’m out there, there’s really no reason for me to be out there.”
The only reason Devers wouldn’t be out there in Fenway Park on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals is if the Red Sox determine that he won’t get enough at-bats in a third-base platoon with Nunez. The Sox acquired Nunez because they believe he can boost their struggling offense, and both Farrell and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski have said they expect him to play regularly.
But there are ways for that to happen while still giving Devers regular at-bats. Nunez also plays shortstop and second base, where he could spell both banged-up Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, respectively, once a week. And with Hanley Ramirez playing first base more often lately, Nunez and Devers could rotate through the designated-hitter spot.
Here’s the bottom line: Are the Red Sox better with Devers on the roster?
Even after only two games, the answer is obvious.
“He’s got something special in that bat,” Farrell said of Devers. “This is not an easy ballpark to hit a ball out of to center field. Then he gets the left-hander and stays in the middle of the field for the line drive. He’s been impressive in the two days he’s been on the field.
“We’ve talked quite a bit recently about the need to get offense, and today is a display of what he’s capable of doing. He hasn’t hurt his cause by any means with what he’s done in a very short look. He’s taking care of what he can on his end.”
Devers admits he was nervous in the first inning Tuesday night. After that, though, he was cool as could be, from drawing a five-pitch walk against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez to handling every ball that was hit to him at third base.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Devers became the first Red Sox player since Daniel Nava in 2010 to homer for his first hit when he took Moore deep. He circled the bases quickly, and thanks to a few phone calls and a reliable clubhouse attendant, the ball was retrieved and sitting in Devers’ locker after the game.
“It was surreal,” Devers said. “When I got back to the dugout I could barely walk, to be honest with you. I was just so happy about it.”
It was only too bad Devers’ family wasn’t here. He said his father was all set to book a plane ticket from the Dominican Republic, but Devers suggested his family meet him in Boston rather than trekking all the way to the West Coast.
“I don’t know how, but I can guarantee my dad found a way to watch the game today,” Devers said. “And I’m sure that my whole family was watching it there with him.”
As he spoke, Devers smiled, of course. If he sticks around long enough, maybe the rest of the Red Sox will start smiling more, too.