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Devers, Dalbec forming dynamic duo for Sox

@IanMBrowne
September 10, 2020

The forecast for the Red Sox at the corner-infield positions for the next many years? Power, and lots of it. Rafael Devers and Bobby Dalbec did on Thursday night what they’ve been doing a lot lately, and that is belt the baseball. Third baseman Devers, in particular, has been on

The forecast for the Red Sox at the corner-infield positions for the next many years? Power, and lots of it.

Rafael Devers and Bobby Dalbec did on Thursday night what they’ve been doing a lot lately, and that is belt the baseball.

Third baseman Devers, in particular, has been on fire. The left-handed-hitting slugger belted a towering two-run homer in the top of the third that appeared to go over the right-field foul pole. It was part of a 3-for-4 night in which Devers had three RBIs, including a go-ahead single to right in the seventh inning that lifted the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Box score

Then there was first baseman Dalbec, whose main game right now is hitting the ball over the wall. Boston’s No. 3 prospect, as rated by MLB Pipeline, went deep for the sixth time in 10 games, becoming the first Red Sox player to start his career in that fashion. It was the fifth straight game in which Dalbec homered. No Red Sox rookie had hit a home run in four straight contests.

“Yeah, pretty cool seeing Bobby coming up his first year and doing this. It’s pretty amazing, actually,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. “Raffy, for me, he’s back now where he was last year. And just hitting everything. Hitting fastballs up, offspeed down -- he covers a big portion of that plate. This is what we saw from him a long time last year. We need both guys doing this to be able to win games.”

Ideally, these two exciting young hitters would be doing their work in the middle of a pennant race. That isn’t possible this season, but they are creating excitement for the future.

Though Devers has been around much longer than Dalbec, he is just 23 years old and is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. Dalbec is 25, and the Red Sox have him under their control for another six seasons after this one.

“It’s great, obviously, to have someone like Bobby here, being so young, and for him to be contributing as much as he is has been great,” said Devers. “Obviously, he’s been hitting those home runs in Philadelphia [in both ends of the doubleheader], he hit a home run today to tie the game. It’s good to have that youth being infused into this team. He’s always had that power, so it’s good to see him being able to translate it now in the big leagues.”

Devers knows what it’s like to have a sudden impact, having done so when the Red Sox called him up at the end of July 2017, when his team was in the middle of a pennant race.

He was fearless, much like Dalbec looks these days.

Of course, there will also inevitably come a time when Dalbec starts a season like Devers started this one -- unable to find his swing through the first 60 at-bats.

Once that happens, Dalbec should be able to go to Devers to ask him how he got through it.

“Obviously, I just continued to have that positive mindset that I always had,” Devers said. “I came to the ballpark every day with a smile, and obviously, it was tough at first. I’d come in here every day happy, but I’d still be frustrated with the way things were going for me. But I just understood that that’s part of the game and I just continue to go after it and just improve and try to get better every single day. Now, I’m actually hitting the ball better, but I’ve never changed the way that I approach the game.”

The ability of Devers to stay unflappable is undoubtedly a significant reason for his impressive turnaround.

Over his last 107 at-bats, Devers has slashed .336/.383/.645 with eight homers and 28 RBIs.

“He’s on time better right now [with his swing],” Roenicke said. “I don’t know why that timing gets out of whack. But everything he’s swinging at, if he’s on time for the fastball, he knows he’s on time and he doesn’t have to cheat. And then he sees the breaking ball well.”

While Devers is a free-swinger who can mash pitches in or out of the strike zone when healthy, Dalbec is more of a new-age hitter who relies on plate discipline and also strikes out more than he’d like to.

But Roenicke senses similar mental toughness in his first baseman that he has from his third baseman. Take, for example, Thursday’s performance, when Dalbec hit his homer in the middle of a three-strikeout night. In his first 39 career plate appearances, Dalbec has 19 strikeouts.

“After he strikes out, he’s not down and there’s still a lot of fight in him,” Roenicke said. “When you strike out, it’s easy to get down and upset about it, and you don’t bounce back and have that same fight in you. What he’s doing is really good to be able to forget about that last at-bat -- the last two or three -- and put together a good one, and when they make a mistake, you hit it.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.