Devers arrives to Spring Training with new role

Jansen on pitch timer rule; Story aiming for second half return

February 15th, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For the first time in his career, Rafael Devers was more than just the starting third baseman for the Red Sox as Spring Training got underway.

On Wednesday, the first day of camp, the two-time All-Star held court with the media as the face of the franchise.

David Ortiz held that title for many years. The torch was passed to Mookie Betts, albeit more briefly than anyone wanted. The past three years, it was Xander Bogaerts who carried the title.

Now that Devers is signed through 2033, he could hold “face of the franchise” status for another decade.

How does it make him feel to be considered the face of the team?

"Yeah, I'm very happy. This is the organization where I’ve always been and I’m happy to be here, and even more with a group that we have in there,” Devers said. “I think we can compete with any team and that's something I'm really looking forward to.”

Finishing last in the American League East in 2022 is something that pained the club’s star slugger.

“To be honest with you, last year was disappointing,” Devers said. “I feel embarrassed of what we did last year and that's why I don't think that's going to happen again. We're working towards that goal to be better and to fight for championships. And now we turn the page and focus on 2023.”

Here are some other nuggets gleaned from the first day of Spring Training at the Fenway South complex.

Jansen determined to beat the clock

New Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen’s biggest focus during Spring Training will be to improve his pace so he can get up to speed with the new pitch timer.

Pitchers will be required to begin their motion 15 seconds after receiving the ball with the bases empty or 20 seconds after receiving the ball with runners on base. If they don’t, they will be charged with an automatic ball.

Per Statcast, Jansen was the third slowest worker in the Major Leagues last season with the bases empty, taking 25.6 seconds between pitches. With one or more runners on base, Jansen took 31.4 seconds, making him the slowest in the game.

“I worked on it in the offseason. I’m going to be OK. We have six weeks to work on it here,” Jansen said. “It’s going to be challenging on both sides, not only on the pitchers but I think hitters will be uncomfortable too, because hitters sometimes when they fall behind 0-2 or 0-1 they take their time too. Both sides have to adapt. It’s going to feel fast and we all have to figure out how to slow the game down in a certain way, and not let the game speed up and get out of hand.”

Story expects to return in ‘second half’

At Winter Weekend in Springfield, Mass., last month, Red Sox shortstop Trevor Story spoke in vague terms about when he might be able to return from the internal bracing procedure he had on his right elbow. On Wednesday, Story got a little more specific.

“In my mind, I'm getting ready to play this year and hopefully sometime in the second half, I think, is realistic,” Story said.

Kiké Hernández is holding down shortstop until Story returns. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom hasn’t ruled out adding additional infield depth. Elvis Andrus and José Iglesias are two veterans who remain on the free-agent market. The Red Sox also acquired Adalberto Mondesi from the Royals, but he is likely to start the season on the injured list due to the torn left ACL he suffered last season.

Cora goes to bat for Yoshida’s defense

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has heard all the reports that Japanese rookie Masataka Yoshida is a below-average defender.

He doesn’t buy it.

“He'll play a lot of left field for us,” Cora said. “I know a lot of people have their reports. We got our reports but just watching him, he's a good athlete, he can move, he’s got good hands. One thing about how they play baseball [in Japan], they are very fundamentally sound. So all these stories that he's going to be a butcher out there, I don't agree with it, just watching the athlete. Maybe I'm wrong but I do believe he’ll be OK.

“He has a good arm, too. I know somewhere there was a report that he doesn't have carry on his throws. [Hernández] played catch with him yesterday and he's like, ‘I don't know about this report that they're saying he doesn’t have carry, he does.’ He’ll be fine.”