Red Sox prospect displays multiple tools in All-Star Futures Game
NEW YORK -- Once again on Sunday, Xander Bogaerts represented why the Red Sox have such great hopes that he will be the next big thing to come through Fenway Park.
Playing in the 2013 All-Star Futures Game for the second straight season was an honor that Bogaerts didn't take lightly, especially with his mother Sandra, who doesn't enjoy flying, making the trip from Aruba.
But the real exciting thing for Bogaerts, Boston's No. 1 prospect and No. 17 overall prospect, is that his days of merely representing the optimistic future will soon be over, as he figures to be a core member of the Red Sox, perhaps as early as next season.
It was a month ago that Bogaerts was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. It is pretty obvious where he will go for his next promotion.
"One phone call away [from the Majors]," said Bogaerts. "It's amazing how life is and fast the year has passed. It's a blessing."
Bogaerts, a shortstop who can do it all, certainly looked like a soon-to-be Major Leaguer on Sunday, belting singles up the middle in his first two at-bats. He completed his 2-for-3 afternoon by grinding out a five-pitch walk in the top of the ninth. Bogaerts batted third for the World squad in a 4-2 loss to Team USA at Citi Field.
He also had a chance to show off his baserunning in the top of the fourth. On a fly ball to left that could be described between medium depth and shallow, Bogaerts tagged from third and roared home, thanks to a nice hook slide.
"Yeah, I saw him [the catcher] go [inside], but I didn't know how far, so once I saw him catch the ball, I just tried to go inside corner and made a beautiful slide," Bogaerts said.
The Red Sox had two other Futures Games participants on Sunday, both of whom played for Team USA. Double-A Portland right-hander Anthony Ranuado (No. 6/100) went two-thirds of an inning, giving up two hits, two runs and two walks. Garin Cecchini (No. 8), who plays with Ranuado at Double-A, went 1-for-2 with a double.
"He just does such a great job of keeping his swing balanced and making solid contact," Ranaudo said of Bogaerts.
The beauty of the 20-year-old Bogaerts is that he refuses to let his dream -- no matter how close it might be to coming a reality -- sidetrack the methods in which he pursues it.
"No, no, no," said Bogaerts. "You start playing bad if you start thinking about that stuff. Leave that to those guys."
By those guys, Bogaerts refers to the people who make decisions for the Red Sox.
There sure seems to be a strong chance that Sunday's Futures Game will mark the last time Bogaerts represents a Minor League team while playing in a Major League stadium.
Though Bogaerts enjoyed his inaugural Futures Game experience last year in Kansas City, he stood out there this time almost feeling like a man who is close to graduating in the world of baseball.
"I'd definitely say I've gotten better, especially better with strike-zone judgment," Bogaerts said. "That's a huge part of the game of baseball. Once you can control that strike zone, you can make better swings and hit the ball better every time. I would say I'm really happy with the way things have gone in the last year."
The second hit Bogaerts had on Sunday was against his former teammate at Portland, Ranaudo.
"I saw him on deck, or when I was warming up, he kind of smiled at me and everything," Ranaudo said. "That was cool. It was fun to pitch against him. He's such a great hitter. He made that obvious. I had him in a 1-2 count and I threw a fastball and kind of ran it back middle in and he did a great job just hitting it back up the middle. You can't do that to such a great hitter like that."
Though it wasn't the type of day Ranaudo was hoping for, just the fact that he was invited to the showcase event was evidence of how far he has come from his struggles of a year ago.
Pitching in nine games for Portland after battling injuries in 2012, Ranaudo went 1-3 with a 6.69 ERA.
This year, still with the Sea Dogs, Ranaudo has been nothing short of dominant, going 8-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 16 starts.
"Last year was pretty much as low as it could get for me," Ranaudo said. "To be able to bounce back and be able to have success this year and then to be named to the Futures Game and the Eastern League All-Star Game was pretty unbelievable for me and pretty satisfying. It's great. Now, I just have to keep it going forward and just keep that momentum going."
While some prospects have a meteoric rise through the farm system, Ranaudo is stronger now that he knows what it's like trying to overcome adversity.
"It's not going to be handed to you," Ranaudo said. "It's a long season, a long career. You just have to learn things about yourself and about your body and what routines work for you and everything like that. I think I developed some good routines and everything and it's rolled right into this year."
Ranaudo had company with him for the drive to New York as Cecchini was a late addition to the Futures Game roster.
The hit machine -- Cecchini is hitting .361 in the 19 games since his promotion to Pawtucket -- did it again Sunday, raking an RBI double to right in the bottom of the eighth, giving Team USA an insurance run.
"No matter what the game is, if it's an exhibition game, Futures Game, GCL [Gulf Coast League] game, you want to win all the games," Cecchini said. "It was good to get a little breathing room right there and I was happy that my teammates got on base for me to get a good pitch to hit."
Perhaps Cecchini was inspired by watching Bogaerts.
"I told [Bogaerts] in the ninth inning, I said: 'I'm trying to keep up with you, man. It's kind of tough.'" said Cecchini. "He smiled and said, 'No man, you're a machine.'"