PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The hype machine that follows so many Red Sox prospects from the ground up never found Travis Shaw.And perhaps that was a good thing. The lack of advance praise helped drive Shaw to where he is now -- on the cusp of becoming an important
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The hype machine that follows so many Red Sox prospects from the ground up never found Travis Shaw.
And perhaps that was a good thing. The lack of advance praise helped drive Shaw to where he is now -- on the cusp of becoming an important part of the 2016 Red Sox.
"It's something that's driven me my whole career, that chip on your shoulder type of thing, being overlooked and kind of being pushed aside a lot," said Shaw. "I like it. I like that drive it gives me. I like to prove people wrong. It's kind of a blessing, the underdog mentality. I'm kind of relishing that."
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In an age where power bats are hard to find, you wonder this: Why did Shaw get overlooked until last August, when he caught fire down the stretch for the Red Sox?
"Ninth-round [draft pick]," said Shaw, who was drafted by the Red Sox in 2011. "They don't get much hype. There's not a lot of money invested in ninth rounders. For obvious reasons, the hype that follows guys, they deserve it. They're in a good position. But for me, I just tried to be as consistent as I could in the Minor Leagues. Power numbers, I was. There was a year or so that I didn't really, average-wise, hit very well, but I felt like my power numbers were consistent."
Last year, Shaw smashed 13 homers in his first 226 Major League at-bats.
The fact that Shaw had to put himself on the radar with his results has earned him a huge fan within his clubhouse.
"It seems like he's always been an underdog," said David Ortiz. "I know how it feels when you're an underdog, you know what I'm saying? People barely pay attention to you. I was an underdog and here I am today. What happened to me can happen to anyone."
Ortiz was released by the Twins and came to the Red Sox as an unproven 27-year-old in 2003. Once he got his chance with Boston, Ortiz raked and the rest is history.
This is why Ortiz drove the point home to Shaw to make sure he didn't let his opportunity pass him by.
"Last season at the end of the year, he told me to treat the offseason like it was the biggest offseason I would ever have," said Shaw. "He told me to make sure I was ready to go by Week One. I told him I'd be ready to go. I kind of took that to heart and tried to do it."
And when Ortiz arrived at camp this year, he beamed when he saw the type of shape Shaw was in and the fact his swing already looked like it was fine-tuned.
"I did a little bit more running," said Shaw. "I tried to trim down a little bit. I lost probably about eight or nine pounds, so that's good. I ramped up a little bit more, BP-wise, the last three weeks of the winter and tried to see a little more velo and come in with an idea of how my swing was looking. Normally I don't do a ton of high-velo BP, but this year I stepped that up a little."
Where it sometimes takes hitters a week or two to catch up to the pitchers during Grapefruit League action, Shaw came out of the gate and sustained it. The left-handed hitter continued his momentum on Sunday by belting two hits, including an opposite-field single to left against impressive Mets righty Noah Syndergaard. Shaw is hitting .441 this spring.
Shaw has made an impression on the evaluators who matter most. Manager John Farrell said on Saturday that Shaw, who came into camp projected as a reserve, is "competing for regular at-bats."
It remains to be seen if Shaw will unseat Pablo Sandoval as the starting third baseman or Rusney Castillo as the primary left fielder. It could be that Shaw gets his "regular at-bats" at third, left and first.
Ortiz faced similar uncertainty in his first year with the Red Sox when he competed with Jeremy Giambi, Shea Hillenbrand and Kevin Millar for at-bats.
"Hey, listen, he can play," said Ortiz. "He can hit. He's ready. He showed last year what's up and he's continued to show it."
Shaw appreciates having the backing of his most prominent teammate.
"He's been huge for me," Shaw said of Ortiz. "Obviously he's been a big supporter of me and I appreciate that. To have that guy behind you in your corner is pretty special."
With less than two weeks left in camp, Shaw isn't about to let up. And he isn't going to get distracted by worrying about his role.
"Whatever I can do to help this team in whatever role that's going to be, I'm more than willing to do it and I'm excited about it," said Shaw. "I think that will play itself out. There's two weeks left. I'm just going to continue what I've been doing the first four weeks of camp. That will all work out in the end. I just need to continue to work on what I need to for April 4. Wherever that's going to be, I'll be ready."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.