Casas dazzles with oppo pop, 2 slides on 1 play

September 28th, 2022

BOSTON -- The latest opposite-field rocket by -- which was seared off his bat at 110.5 mph, reached a height of 75 feet and traveled a projected distance of 421 feet per Statcast -- was a sight to see for those who gathered at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.

That was a signature moment for sure, as the Red Sox pulled out a 13-9 win over the Orioles to snap a six-game losing streak.

But don’t sleep on the two-slide defensive gem that Casas made to take a hit away from Austin Hays in the top of the fifth inning.

Two slides on one play?

Hays slapped one to the left of Boston’s rookie first baseman, who slid to make a sweet stop. With lefty reliever Matt Strahm a little tardy getting to the base, Casas aggressively slid into the bag just before Hays could get there.

It was an all-out play for the 6-foot-4, 252-pound No. 2 Red Sox prospect whose defense has been overshadowed by his big bat and disciplined eye.

“That was a huge spot right there,” Casas said. “I know Hays has good speed so I knew we weren’t going to be able to turn two and I just wanted to get one out, so I felt like that was my best chance as opposed to turning around and trying to make the throw.”

To use an expression from another sport, Casas has good court awareness, particularly for a 22-year-old.

“The way he moves, he’s smooth,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He really is. He knows the game. He’s always looking around, [thinking ahead to] what the next play is. I knew he was good defensively but not this aware.”

Clearly, Casas has worked hard coming through the ranks to be a strong two-way player.

“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” Casas said. “I work on it every day really heavily, and hitting home runs is great, driving in runs is great, but making a great play on defense picks everybody up. I think picking everyone up on defense is a huge part of the game, and making sure that everyone stays confident in me making the plays is where my focus is at.”

While the Red Sox would prefer to be in a pennant race, the playing time Casas is getting to become acclimated to life in the Majors this month should be a big help for the club and the player in 2023.

In his first 20 career games, Casas has five homers -- including three to the opposite field. He has drawn 14 walks. 

It has really clicked for Casas in his past six games, in which he hit .389 while scoring seven times, belting three homers and drawing eight walks.

“I know a lot of people say it all evens out and this and that, but I like to take every at-bat individually,” Casas said. “I felt like early on, my at-bats were pretty lengthy but I still wasn’t making good contact. I wasn’t finding the middle of the barrel. Lately I have been. Yeah, I've been grinding out the pitches the same and grinding out at-bats the same, but I’ve been having a little more results, and I’m happy about that.”

One thing the Red Sox aren’t evaluating Casas by much in his first month in the Majors? His statistics. The sample size is too small. Instead, they look at how he is handling the game within the game. 

Cora noted Casas putting the ball in play against two lefty relievers in Tuesday’s win, even though one resulted in a double play.

“It was a 3-2 count,” Cora said. “He controls the strike zone. It’s not that the strike zone controls him. The numbers will get there. We like the approach. We like the process.”