Wong begins extended look by mashing first career HR

September 3rd, 2022

BOSTON -- On the strength of the best power tear of his Minor League career,  was summoned to the Red Sox on Thursday as a September callup with the hope that his recent swing adjustments would play at the highest level.

As Wong watched his first Major League home run soar over the Green Monster on Friday night, he had living, breathing proof that he is headed in the right direction.

The right-handed hitter belted a majestic, Statcast-projected 439-foot rocket that soared over everything in left and onto Lansdowne Street for a two-run shot that helped propel the Red Sox to a 9-1 rout over the Rangers.

“It was nice, really exciting and something I’ll never forget,” said Wong.

A young couple from out of town retrieved the baseball as they were enjoying a beautiful summer night behind Fenway Park, and they gave it to Wong in exchange for some autographed baseballs.

Speaking of baseballs, Wong has been beating up on them with his bat of late. In 68 at-bats for Triple-A Worcester in August, Wong hammered nine home runs.

Any reason for the recent surge in power for a player who hit 15 homers in the Minors this season?

“Just been trying to keep my eyes on it for a long time,” said Wong. “Try and see it as deep as I can. Tracking is a better word.”

This is the fourth time Wong has been called up this season, but the first three were just on a temporary basis. This time, Wong is expected to spend all of September with the big club, and perhaps prove he can be part of the team’s catching equation in 2023.

Wong joined Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs as the players who came to Boston from the Dodgers in that February 2020 deal for the great Mookie Betts.

While Verdugo has been an everyday player for the Red Sox for the last three seasons and Downs has struggled to reach his potential as a one-time top prospect, Wong has quietly stayed in the background working on his craft.

His time could be coming.

“He’ll play [this month],” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We’ll find ways to get him at-bats and keep rolling, but he’s swinging the bat really, really well.”

Christian Vázquez, Boston’s longtime catcher, was traded in August. Kevin Plawecki is a free agent at the end of the season.

That leaves a possible path for Wong.

“I think he’s a strong kid and a good athlete,” said Cora. “If you see his batting practice, it’s loud. Obviously, the swing and miss is part of it. We’ll keep working with that. We’ll take it in certain situations, but as you know, we’ve got to do better with men in scoring position, men at third with less than two outs. But he knows that.

“He’s a good baseball player. Right away, he squared to bunt. He’s done that a few times in Triple-A. He’s an all-around athlete. He can steal bases, and we can move him [on defense] in an emergency. But I’m happy that he’s here.”

Though Nick Pivetta only got to throw to Wong for three innings before he hobbled off with a left calf contusion on Friday, he was impressed by his batterymate.

“I think he’s fundamentally really, really sound,” Pivetta said. “He has a good understanding of the game. He sets up the zone really well. And he’s able to adapt and move kind of as the game progresses. We saw tonight the bat came alive, too. Good home run for him. That’s a positive moment as well. I think all in all it’s a good night for him, and I look forward to working more and more with him in the future.”