La Stella learns from miscues, remains in lineup
MIAMI -- Those who have had an opportunity to watch Tommy La Stella advance through the Minor Leagues over the past few years were certainly not surprised to see him commit a pair of costly miscues while playing his second game of his Major League career in front of a raucous crowd at Fenway Park on Thursday night.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was certainly aware of the defensive limitations La Stella brought when he got his first call to the Majors this week. But at the same time, the manager hopes that Thursday's mistakes prove to be just part of the learning process the young second baseman will experience over the next few weeks.
Thus, La Stella was back in the lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Marlins.
"All of the sudden you ask the kid to come up from Triple-A to play second base in Boston, and there is a couple plays and then you sit him on the bench the next day?" Gonzalez said. "I think it could ruin him. It's something that happens. He'll keep working at it and get better."
La Stella displayed his offensive potential by recording a pair of hits in Wednesday night's Major League debut. But while going hitless in Thursday night's 4-3 loss, he erred on a couple plays that helped the Red Sox stage their third comeback win of the week over the Braves.
"The guys were great about it," La Stella said. "A few of the guys came over and said, 'Don't worry about it, you're going to help us win a lot of games, keep your head up. I definitely appreciated that."
La Stella's first miscue was a product of the limited time he has spent sharing the middle infield with shortstop Andrelton Simmons. With two on and none out, the rookie hesitantly moved toward second base, thinking Simmons might field Dustin Pedroia's chopper at the bag and then throw to first base in attempt to turn a double play. But the ball was out of the rangy shortstop's reach and fell to the ground when a flat-footed La Stella fumbled it.
"I need to make the aggressive mistake there. I've got to attack," La Stella said. "I've got to get the ball. If he cuts me off, he cuts me off and steps on the bag himself. There's really no excuse. ... [Simmons] is the best defender on the planet. If he doesn't get to a ball, it's either my ball or it's a base hit up the middle."
Pedroia's chopper was generously ruled an infield single in the game-tying eighth. The Red Sox drew a pair of walks against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth and then won the game when La Stella was unable to secure third baseman Chris Johnson's throw after it hit his glove. Jackie Bradley Jr. raced home with the winning run as the ball rolled toward the outfield.
"I just need to catch that ball or do whatever I have to do to keep it in the infield," La Stella said. "I got a glove on it. I've got to make that play."