'Super exciting' as Devers cousins reunite

May 28th, 2021

Like many first cousins in the baseball-crazed Dominican Republic, and bonded through their favorite sport as kids and dreamt that they would one day reach the highest level of competition.

This is why Friday was surreal for both of them, as it was the night they shared a big league diamond (Fenway Park) for the first time.

Raffy, who has continued his ascension as a slugging star in his age-24 season, batted fifth and started at third base for the Red Sox.

José, who made his Major League debut on April 24 at the age of 21 and is ranked the Marlins' No. 8 prospect by MLB Pipeline, batted ninth and started at shortstop.

Though the cousins keep in touch over the phone, it was special for them to actually see each other during the pregame hours on Friday.

"Obviously, super exciting," said Rafael. "I've known my cousin my entire life, so it's really exciting to have him up here in the big leagues. And I actually have another cousin that plays for the Cleveland organization as well. So hopefully when he makes it, it'll be all of us up in the big leagues at the same time, but it's very exciting."

In the world of the Red Sox, even as long as he's been around and as much as he has done, Devers still likes to absorb knowledge from the veterans.

But to his cousin, Rafael is the veteran who can pass on his expertise.

José came to the organization as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Yankees in December 2017. Since signing as an international free agent in '16, he has leaned on his older cousin for advice.

"We've developed a good relationship, and had good conversations," José said. "Mostly he knew the road of the Minor League system -- how hard it is, the good times, the bad times, and he gave me several pieces of advice about how to go about my business in the Minor League system, and he really helped me through that path."

The circumstances in which every big prospect gets called up to the Major Leagues is unique. For Rafael, it was in the middle of the 2017 pennant race when the Red Sox needed more production at third base. He delivered instantly.

In the case of José, he is up a bit earlier than planned. While José stood out at big league camp this spring, an unexpected IL stint for Brian Anderson led to his callup from Triple-A Jacksonville. After a rough debut (3 K's), he has more than held his own, going 4-for-13 with four runs, two RBIs, one walk, one hit-by-pitch and two strikeouts in 10 games.

José was in the middle of the Marlins' late rally on Wednesday against the Phillies, recording his first multihit contest in the process.

Rafael was buzzing when he found out José got the callup last month.

"As soon as I found out, I sent him a note, because at the end of day, family is family and I'm super excited for him and hopefully he has a successful career up here," said the elder cousin.

While Rafael is known for his ability to mash the baseball, José relies more on his athleticism.

"Raffy said he flies, so we have to be ready for that. Hopefully if he hits a ground ball to third, he'll be the first one to know and gets rid of it," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "But he's very proud of him. I remember when [José] got called up, I think we were in Texas. It was an off-day and he stayed up late so he could watch him. He said he was so nervous. I think he saw nine pitches and swung at nine. I told Raffy, 'Very similar to you, right?' He started laughing."

When the cousins were kids, Raffy was impressed the way José would play up.

"You know he's really fast, but he can hit," said Rafael Devers. "He's always been able to hit since he was young. He actually has three brothers, and they're all pretty good at baseball. But like all those guys, and when we were in tournaments, he would play with us, even against the older kids because he was that good of a hitter. So he's always been good."

Miami catcher Sandy León, who was teammates with Rafael from 2017-19 in Boston, remembers his first question to José when they met at Spring Training: Do you know Devers from the Red Sox?

"He's young," León, a 10-year veteran, said of José. "I think he's going to get a lot better, and we know he can run, and I know he can swing the bat, so I think the more he's going to play the better he's going to be. I think he can be really good."

If José comes roaring into third at some point this weekend, Rafael hopes to be ready and waiting to slap the tag on him.

"Yeah, of course," said Rafael Devers. "If he gets to third, that means he did something good, so I'll be happy for him. But at the end of the day, that's my family and I'm overjoyed that he's actually up in the big leagues."