FORT MYERS, Fla. – It was just a few weeks, but Xander Bogaerts said Wednesday morning that he had never learned so much in such a little time as he did throughout his World Baseball Classic stint.
“Yeah, that was a lot of experience,” Bogaerts said, having returned to the Red Sox clubhouse after his Netherlands team was eliminated Monday. “It was awesome.”
Bogaerts explained there were a couple of reasons the WBC participation meant so much.
To begin with, the level of pitching took the 20-year-old infielder off guard. In seven games, Bogaerts went 5-for-19 (.263) with two doubles and three walks.
“It was better than I thought,” he said of the pitching. “It’s the best of the best for all the countries, especially Japan. I saw a lot of off-speed pitches, which surprised me. I felt like late in the tournament I started recognizing them better.
“You would see all the fastballs here, and then there you would only see off-speed. You would barely see fastballs. It was crazy. Those Japanese teams weren’t throwing fastballs. You have to learn to hit.”
Another positive Bogaerts took away from the experience was being around veteran players, such as Andruw Jones and Wladimir Balentien.
Their most poignant advice given to the youngster?
“Just stay yourself,” Bogaerts said. “No matter how many ups and downs you have, just stay yourself and have confidence in yourself. I started off slow, but guys still had confidence in me. I was surprised by that. That helped me get back on track.”
Bogaerts will see a few more days in big league camp before being sent down to the minors, continuing to be exposed to life as a third baseman. Red Sox manager John Farrell did, make a point Tuesday, however, that the organization continues to view their top prospect as a shortstop.