FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Now unburdened of the right hand injury he played the entire second half with last season, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts expects a significant uptick in his performance in 2018.
In a healthy 2016 season, Bogaerts had 21 home runs, compared to just 10 in '17.
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"Yeah, I definitely do think so," Bogaerts said, when asked if he expected to regain his power. "I'm not saying I'm going out and hitting 60 like [Giancarlo] Stanton or something, but I can definitely go out there and put up the same numbers as '16, maybe a little bit better. That's the kind of stuff I'm looking forward to this year."
After stacking up with two other young star American League shortstops, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa in recent years, Bogaerts couldn't do so in '17.
"You always want to be the best," said Bogaerts. "It doesn't matter how young or how old you are. I think you always want to strive to be the best in the pack, to be on top of that leaderboard. Hopefully this year I go right up there again. Last year, I learned a lot, but this year is a new year, a fresh start. I'm looking forward to it big time."
Bogaerts now admits he perhaps did himself, and the team, a disservice by coming back so soon from a right hand contusion he sustained after getting hit by a pitch from Tampa Bay's Jake Faria last July 6. He was back in the lineup two days later and continued to play, even though his hand throbbed at times.
Prior to the injury, the shortstop slashed .308/.363/.455 and was a Final Vote candidate for the All-Star Game. After it, he had a .232/.321/.340 line and looked nothing like the player who won a Silver Slugger Award at his position in 2015-16.
Bogaerts doesn't apologize for playing through pain. That's what competitors do. However, he now realizes that taking some time off -- perhaps a couple of weeks -- would have helped.
"Honestly, a little bit," Bogaerts said. "But that's just who I am. I enjoy playing baseball. If I have something broken, that's probably the only way I won't be in the lineup. To a point, I do regret it, but it's over with. You live and you learn. It's a new year, so now you can deal with stuff better.
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"We were in the heat of things, we were pushing for the playoffs. You don't want to be the guy on the bench not being able to help your team to win. You learn, and I definitely did."
New Red Sox manager Alex Cora is a big believer than Bogaerts can have a bounce-back season not just because of better health, but also some improved technique.
"This is a guy that's an elite shortstop," said Cora. "Either he got into bad habits, or nagging injuries, or had a bad season. It happens. But you look at his numbers, and the one that pops to me is his on-base percentage. Very consistent to where he was a few years ago when he won the Silver Slugger. [Hitting coaches] Timmy [Hyers] and Andy [Barkett], they're working on a few things to put him in a better position with his swing, his posture."
Hanley cleared for defense
Hanley Ramirez wasn't able to play defense in Spring Training last season due to discomfort in both of his shoulders. However, Cora expects Ramirez will be able to take part in defensive drills as soon as he arrives at camp in the next few days.
Ramirez being able to play first base at times gives the lineup more flexibility, and it will be particularly beneficial if president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is able to acquire another bat. J.D. Martinez could be the primary DH if the Red Sox were able to sign him.
"Everything I know, from his workouts in Miami, Hanley is throwing the ball well. He was taking ground balls," said Cora. "He'll be part of the drills right away. The volume is very important for him. We have to keep this guy healthy throughout. He was good two years ago defensively. I don't have a problem with him playing first base. Just a matter of seeing what we can do as far as volume. But he'll be fine."
Thornburg on mend
Reliever Tyler Thornburg, who missed all of last season, is behind the other pitchers as he recovers from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in his right shoulder. However, Cora sees signs that Thornburg can be an impactful member of the bullpen this season.
"I saw him playing catch two days ago, and actually I was impressed with the conviction," said Cora. "I talked to him the next day and he was feeling great. So we'll keep building and see where he's at."