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Cora: Playing deep may help Devers' defense

Special to MLB.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The life of a 21-year-old Major League baseball player is full of valuable lessons, learning experiences and identifying areas to improve. For Rafael Devers, in his first full season with the Red Sox, defense is one of those areas of improvement. During the team's 6-4 win over the Blue Jays on Monday, the young third baseman's weakness was exposed.

After a Justin Smoak first-inning double gave Toronto a 2-1 lead, Devers couldn't handle a bouncing ball to his left off the bat of catcher Russell Martin. The play looked to be routine before bouncing off Devers' glove and into shallow left field, allowing Smoak to advance to third.

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The life of a 21-year-old Major League baseball player is full of valuable lessons, learning experiences and identifying areas to improve. For Rafael Devers, in his first full season with the Red Sox, defense is one of those areas of improvement. During the team's 6-4 win over the Blue Jays on Monday, the young third baseman's weakness was exposed.

After a Justin Smoak first-inning double gave Toronto a 2-1 lead, Devers couldn't handle a bouncing ball to his left off the bat of catcher Russell Martin. The play looked to be routine before bouncing off Devers' glove and into shallow left field, allowing Smoak to advance to third.

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Last season, Devers committed 14 errors in 56 starts and 507 2/3 innings. By comparison, Orioles third-baseman-turned-shortstop Manny Machado committed the same number of errors in 100 more games played.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora is aware of Devers' defensive shortcomings but says that he has not given any thought to the idea of a defensive substitution.

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"It's too early for that, but we need to get better," Cora said. "These four days, the schedule didn't help us out as far as working on fundamentals."

With the Red Sox's next four games all being played in Fort Myers, Fla. -- one at Hammond Stadium versus the Twins and three at JetBlue Park -- there will be an increased focus on defense later this week.

"Were actually going back to the back fields," Cora said. "And do things that I feel we still needed to work on a few weeks ago, but now because we have four or five days at home we can actually concentrate on that. It's kind of like I told them yesterday, we hit the fundamentals hard for a few days. Then, obviously, because the schedule, we had to back off. But now that we have four days [not on the road], we have to go hard at it."

Make no mistake: Devers is in the lineup for his bat, not his glove. Some things you just have to deal with, and Cora knows that. However, there is one thing that he wants his third baseman to focus on.

"I feel like he's a third baseman that can play deep," Cora said. "As deep as possible, because he likes to charge the ball and he has a good arm. So we are trying to push him as far as possible, especially with average or slow runners. He's able to read the hop and go through it and throw to first base. The other ones, then we have to make sure where we want him. Do we want him all the way in or do we want him halfway?"

Video: BOS@TOR: Devers ropes an RBI triple down the line

This and that

• According to his manager, Brock Holt is "OK" after being hit by a pitch above his elbow in Sunday's contest against the Orioles. He did not make the trip to Dunedin and with the scheduled off-day on Tuesday, he could be available for the next game.

Andrew Benintendi, who went 1-for-3 with a run scored on Monday, has hit safely in all nine of his Grapefruit League games this year. Dating back to 2017, he's now reached base safely in 17 consecutive spring games.

• There are ways for closer Craig Kimbrel to face quality hitting, despite being up in Boston. Cora joked that given the fact that the team just drove 2 1/2 hours, it wouldn't be much different if they flew a few guys up to face him.

Video: BOS@TOR: Leon launches a pair of solo home runs

• It's not often you see a lineup that consists of three catchers, but that's what the Red Sox had on Monday. Blake Swihart (first base), Christian Vazquez (catcher) and Sandy Leon (designated hitter) were all in the starting lineup. The trio combined to go 5-for-10, led by Leon's two home runs and Swihart's solo shot.

Up next: Tuesday is an off-day for the Red Sox. Chris Sale gets the ball on Wednesday at Hammond Stadium against the Twins at 1:05 p.m. ET on Gameday Audio. Sale will be making his second spring start after allowing one run with five strikeouts over four innings in his debut.

Kris Dunn is a contributor to MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, Rafael Devers