Arozarena awes with diving catch at Fenway

April 6th, 2021

Last October, the baseball world saw what is capable of at the plate. But let it be known that he can play a little defense, too.

Arozarena, the Rays’ breakout star in the postseason, put forth an early candidate for catch of the year with his diving effort during Monday night's 11-2 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Moved from left to right field in the third inning, Arozarena robbed Hunter Renfroe of a clear extra-base hit and saved another run in the fourth on a running, leaping grab that can take its place in his personal highlight reel.

“It was a tough read off the bat right away, but I knew if I just ran hard, I’d be able to make the catch,” Arozarena said through interpreter Manny Navarro.

With runners on second and third and nobody out, Renfroe hit a 101.1-mph line drive into right field. The ball looked like it’d find a gap and roll around for a double, perhaps even a triple, but Arozarena turned it into a sacrifice fly. Arozarena left his feet, flung himself toward the ball and made a huge stretch to snag it before coming down hard on the outfield grass and rolling over to get the ball back into the infield.

“It was a hard-hit ball by the guy batting, and it was between me and the center fielder,” Arozarena said. “And I was able to lay out and just make a nice play.”

Christian Vázquez tagged up and scored on the play, but Marwin Gonzalez could only advance from second to third. Gonzalez came around to score on Franchy Cordero's groundout, giving the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.

The play was an athletic enough feat on its own, with no additional context necessary. But it might be even more impressive considering Arozarena prepared to play left field on Monday night and spent the first two innings of the series opener in front of the Green Monster. The change in the Rays’ outfield alignment, brought on by center fielder Kevin Kiermaier’s left quad injury, hadn’t even really registered with starter Michael Wacha until he saw Arozarena flying through the air.

“I thought it was going to be over his head,” Wacha said. “I thought he was in left field at the time, but then I look up and he’s in right field and he’s laying out in the gap and making a huge play for us. That was awesome to see.”

Arozarena said he made a similar play at Triple-A Memphis while he was in the Cardinals' system, noting he thought that one was “a pretty spectacular catch.” He made a pretty nice one in the eighth inning on Monday, diving forward to snag a fly ball hit to shallow right by Enrique Hernández for the second out of the inning.

Arozarena hasn’t quite tapped into his postseason form at the plate yet -- he’s 4-for-11 with a walk in three games -- but he offered a reminder Monday night that he’s worth watching no matter what.

“He came out of nowhere on the one in the gap, and then there at the end of the game, another -- just a great play,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Showed a lot of coverage in the outfield.”