Cora's advice to 19-year-old Bleis: 'Be patient'

No. 4 prospect records two RBIs and an outfield assist in second spring game

March 13th, 2023

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It hasn’t even been two weeks since his 19th birthday. If he eventually makes it to the Major Leagues -- because we’re still deep in the speculation stage -- 2025 or '26 might be the realistic time of his arrival.

But Monday afternoon at TD Ballpark provided some electric glances into what’s ahead for Red Sox outfielder Miguel Bleis, who earned his second Grapefruit League appearance and his first start of the spring. It also revealed a reminder that Bleis, while very talented, remains rough around the edges.

“You have very good emotions and that motivates you to keep working hard,’’ Bleis said through team interpreter Carlos Villoria. “I was very happy to get an opportunity to play here. They want to see me play and I just want to keep working hard.’’

Bleis, Boston’s No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, turned heads with a two-out, two-run single off Blue Jays All-Star right-hander Alek Manoah, taking a two-strike fastball in on his hands and punching it the other way in the top of the second. The hit came after Bleis expertly turned a potential Toronto run into an out with a throw to the plate from right field.

In the bottom of the first, the Red Sox right fielder charged an Addison Barger RBI single and rifled a one-hopper to catcher . The throw was so accurate, baserunner Brandon Belt tip-toed to a stop before being tagged out. Bleis also had a running, lunging catch on Whit Merrifield’s second-inning sinking liner.

But it wasn’t all roses. In the third frame, Bleis again charged a two-run single by Barger, but this time he played it carelessly. It skipped over his glove and allowed a third run to score, while Barger reached third. In the fourth, again facing Manoah, Bleis struck out swinging.

“That's why I don't get too excited, especially in the market where we play,’’ Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about Bleis. “He has a lot of great tools, no doubt. It seems like everybody knows everybody … and there’s a passion about the kids. But at the same time, I played with guys who were the second coming of whoever -- and they never panned out.

“In my mind, I have to be the one who stays calm and keeps it neutral instead of getting too excited. When they become big leaguers, they’re big leaguers. But there’s a process. … Just be patient. You’re going to go through ups and downs. When you’re up high, how will you act? When you’re down [low], how will you act? Be patient.’’

Bleis’ presence was a reprieve from the Red Sox’s 16-3 defeat, which featured two wind-aided home runs by Toronto’s Bo Bichette, one off No. 15 prospect Chris Murphy (who issued six walks in 15 batters faced) and another off fellow left-hander and No. 8 prospect Brandon Walter (who gave up four hits, three for extra bases, to his first four batters).

It was a day to forget for the pair.

“I think it comes down to me getting too fine,’’ Murphy said. “I think I fall victim to that when facing some good hitters. Definitely a learning experience.’’

“Just because it’s Spring Training, I still want to have success,’’ Walter said. “I have pride and want to do good every time I’m out there.’’

As Cora said to sum it up, “Murphy couldn’t throw strikes and Walter got hit hard. Bottom line: We want to throw strikes.’’

Murphy and Walter remain in the hunt for spots with the Red Sox or in Triple-A Worcester.

Meanwhile, that level is still in the distance for Bleis, who is ultimately viewed as an everyday center fielder with five-tool potential. He’s already 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds with above-average running ability and bat speed. In 2021, at 16, Bleis was signed as an international free agent out of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic to a $1.5 million bonus.

Last season, Bleis tore up the Florida Complex League, batting .301 and slugging .543 with an .896 OPS. He had 14 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 27 RBIs, 28 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 10 walks and 45 strikeouts in 40 games and 167 plate appearances for the Red Sox’s Rookie League affiliate. He also had five outfield assists.