BOSTON -- Coming off a promising rookie season and strong showing in the playoffs, Rafael Devers came into 2018 as the unquestioned starting third baseman for the Red Sox.
However, things have changed in a season in which Devers has alternated between nagging injuries and inconsistency.
The 21-year-old now finds himself in a fight for playing time with Eduardo Nunez, Brandon Phillips (who got the start Sunday night) and Brock Holt.
In 106 games this season, Devers is slashing .239/.296/.416 with 16 homers and 55 RBIs. The defense has been equally inconsistent, as Devers leads MLB with 22 errors and has a .926 fielding percentage.
"He's going to get at-bats," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "I don't know how we're going to do it, but he'll get at-bats. I can't say if it's once every three games or every day, but he'll get at-bats."
Cora has a strong relationship with Devers and will keep him in the loop as the situation evolves.
"We'll talk a little bit. He understands. He understands that he didn't have too many at-bats in August either, then he went to Triple-A and Holt and Nuney are playing well," said Cora. "It's not that we gave up on him. He means a lot and we know what he can do with a bat. Just a matter of wait for your turn now. His turn is going to come. We have a feeling that he's going to start swinging the bat better and he'll put me in that 'good problem to have' thing that everybody loves."
Cora switches plan behind plate
On Saturday, Cora said he expected Blake Swihart to catch Rick Porcello on Sunday night. This was noteworthy because Sandy Leon just about always catches Porcello.
But when Sunday's lineup was posted, Leon was listed at catcher.
"It's not that I didn't communicate that but I made my decision right after the game," Cora said. "And for Rick to pitch to Swihart, I would have loved to tell him before the game, 'This is going to happen' so they could talk during the game so they could see what was going on with the Astros and how to attack hitters. I know those conversations happen, but it's not that I didn't feel comfortable, but I was like, 'No, you know what, I'm going to stay with Sandy' and during the week we'll see how we handle that."
Much like third base, Cora is evaluating the catching situation on a near daily basis. Leon is the best overall defender behind the plate but he's been in a brutal hitting slump of late.
"Today, I was watching the video and talking about the offense and we have to put him in a better position, I think," said Cora. "He's open; there's no load right now. He's just chasing pitches up in the zone, down in the zone, fastballs up, breaking balls down. We have to slow him down. We have to make sure he understands that although they care about results, we just care about competitive at-bats.
"There's certain situations you have to put the ball in play and certain situations you have to work the count and you have to be able to slow down the game. We have to make sure he stays in the middle of the field. If that happens, we're in good shape. There's other guys, they're struggling, too, and we need to get them going, but with Sandy specifically, if he keeps up competitive at-bats like he was doing in the middle of the season, we're fine with it."