Andrew Benintendi made his left field debut Friday night. (Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
For the first time in his professional career Andrew Benintendi started in left field Friday night. While this may seem like just a minor thing, it’s setting the stage for something bigger.
Benintendi, the Red Sox’ No. 7 overall pick in last year’s draft, had been a center fielder his whole life, but with Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field with the Red Sox, that position was blocked. The Red Sox clearly believe in him and want to put him in the best position to succeed, thus the need for the move.
It should be noted, Benintendi likely won’t be playing left field every day, but will be getting early work done there and taking fly balls during batting practice as well.
“Aware of position changes, aware of the potential estimated timeline of arrival,” manager John Farrell said. “Again, the player is going to determine when he is most ready. As we’ve seen with a number of guys, we haven’t been hesitant to move them around on the field, change positions. With Andrew going to left, we are looking down the road a little ways. When that day comes that he’s a left fielder here in Boston, remains to be seen, but the way he’s swung the bat, the way he’s advanced this year, you start to prepare for that eventual day.”
Benintendi is batting .277 in 54 games with the Sea Dogs, which comes after hitting .341 in 34 games with High-A Salem to start the year.
It certainly isn’t out of the question for him to play in Boston this year, as two current prominent members of the team — Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts — played in Double-A the same year they made their professional debuts.
Betts’ case is particularly worth examining as he too changed positions — second base to outfield — while in Double-A. Betts played center field for the first time 37 games into his Double-A career, while it took Benintendi 54 games to play left field for the first time. Then, 15 games later Betts was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket and then after 23 games there, he was promoted to the big league club.
Bogaerts played 56 games in Portland during the 2013 season before 60 games in Pawtucket prior to his eventual big league debut.
With the way Benintendi has been playing, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him follow Betts’ path. This would have him being promoted to Pawtucket in a few weeks and then on the major league roster when rosters expand in September.
It’s worth noting, if Benintendi plays in the majors this season he would be the first player since at least 2009 (when the Salem affiliate started) to appear in the big leagues after starting the season with High-A Salem.
Given the Red Sox’ situation in left field and the number of injuries — Blake Swhiart and Chris Young — depending on their returns, Benintendi could potentially be needed. Brock Holt has assumed the every day position there for now, which drew the praise of Farrell.
“I’m more than happy to have Brock in left field,” said Farrell. “We don’t miss out on his versatility with Michael Martinez [who can play infield and outfield], so we’re covered in terms of versatility and being able to make in-game decisions or moves, depending on what’s needed.
“The way Brock has adapted to left field, the way he plays it in here in Fenway in particular, in addition to the quality at-bats … it speaks volumes about the record (29-11) we have [when he’s in the starting lineup]. That’s not just because of him, but there’s something to it.”
But with that being said, ideally the Red Sox would have Holt in the super utility role they envisioned at the beginning of the year, especially with the tough travel schedule coming up and the chance to give certain players days off, so this could set the stage for Benintendi to be the Red Sox’ left fielder.
It now seems even more clear that the Red Sox would like a Benintendi-Bradley-Betts outfield for the future and that future could be as soon as this year.