Want to change the energy of a listing club that just wheezed through a 9-6 loss that concluded its third straight series loss -- just the second time all year that the team has dropped multiple series in a row? A team that now is 3-7 in its last 10 games and just 15-16 since the final weekend prior to the All-Star break appears in need of a boost at a time when its lead in the AL East has dwindled once again to just one game.
Here's an idea. Change the roster.
Backup catcher David Ross up and off the 60-day DL, with Ryan Lavarnway going back down to Triple-A Pawtucket. Sure. But think bigger.
Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa down after giving up a run on two hits in the ninth inning, to be replaced by another reliever on the 40-man roster? Sure. Still, think bigger.
So, perhaps sending down utility man Brock Holt?
Yes, but there's not another utility man on the Red Sox roster. So who would the counter-move for the … Oh. Wait.
Yup. It's time. The X-Man cometh.
The Red Sox, according to an industry source, will call up Xander Bogaerts from Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday. The shortstop will become the first 20-year-old to make his big league debut with the Red Sox since right-hander Jeff Suppan got his summons in 1995, and the first Red Sox position player age 20 or younger to arrive in the big leagues since outfielder Dwight Evans made his big league debut as a 20-year-old in 1972.
In 60 games with Triple-A Pawtucket, Bogaerts was hitting .284 with a .369 OBP, .453 slugging percentage and nine homers. He's spent most of his time at his natural position of shortstop, but he's also seen action in nine games at third base. On a team that has struggled against lefties, Bogaerts offers the possibility of a notable boost, given that he was hitting .298 with a .452 OBP, a .474 slugging mark, 16 walks and just seven strikeouts in 73 plate appearances against southpaws.
As recently as Saturday, multiple team sources said that there had not been a decision to call up the highly regarded prospect, a consensus top-five prospect in the game. Indeed, the organization had been engaged in a lively debate not just about the question of when to call up Bogaerts, but whether to do so at all in 2013.
The conversation was similar to the one that prevailed with outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the start of the year. Given the possibility of transitional challenges in introducing Bogaerts to the big leagues, something that would measure expectations for productivity, the idea was explored that the team might be best served going forward this year with its current roster composition. Moreover, given that Bogaerts has little experience at third and none at second, there was some thought that he could benefit from more of a defensive apprenticeship in the minors.
There were also, as with Bradley, long-term implications for keeping the 20-year-old in the minors. If Bogaerts was kept down for the rest of the year, of course, it would make it feasible to gain an extra year of service time from him before he reaches free agency. If Bogaerts is never sent down, then in theory, he'd be a free agent after the 2019 season -- at a time when he will have finished his age 26 season, with the entirety of the age band that typically designates a player's prime in front of him.
If the Sox did not add Bogaerts to the big league roster this year and then sent him to the minors for at least 20 days next year (he'd have to be added to the 40-man roster this winter to prevent him from getting taken in the Rule 5 draft), the team would guarantee control over his services through at least his age 27 season.
However, given the fact that the Sox have experienced a recent downturn, the feeling was that the club could benefit from an injection of life right now. Bogaerts represents that, in a way that no other addition can at this time. The team feels like his addition to the roster will put it in the best position to finish strong down the stretch, with an eye toward winning the AL East and making a postseason run.
He offers more than just a stirring of the pot and change for its own sake. Bogaerts also addresses some areas of roster redundancy. He offers the team a chance to give some kind of respite to shortstop Stephen Drew, who has started 25 straight games and who would benefit from both a day off (in his last six games, he's 3-for-24 with a .125 average, .154 OBP and .208 slugging mark) and a platoon complement who would give the Sox a better chance in games started by left-handers.
Holt wasn't that. He hit .203 with a .275 OBP and .237 slugging mark in 23 games while serving as the utility infielder. Though he offered the team protection at three infield positions (shortstop, second base and third), the fact that he -- like starting shortstop Drew -- is left-handed suggested an imperfect complement given that Drew does exhibit notable platoon splits.
As for the possibility that the phenom might confront his first taste of professional failure at the game's highest level, the Sox feel that Bogaerts has the makeup to either succeed or, if he struggles, to use such an experience to his benefit, much as Dustin Pedroia did in 2006.
There is at least a chance, the team recognizes, that he could be their Jacoby Ellsbury or Manny Machado of 2013, a player who, like the Red Sox center fielder and the Orioles shortstop-turned-third baseman, could bring a boost down the stretch. There is also a possibility that he isn't ready for the big leagues at this time, as was the case with Pedroia in 2006 or Mike Trout in 2011.
But all of the evidence that Bogaerts has amassed during his relatively brief career suggests that, if he struggles, it will only be briefly, and that his ability to adapt to higher levels of competition is exceptional. That's not a guarantee that the native of Aruba can hit the ground running, but he's nonetheless done everything in his power in the minors to suggest that it's time to find out.
After all, there was a decent chance that the Red Sox were going to call up Bogaerts at some point on the West Coast trip, particularly given that they are slated to face a pair of left-handed Dodgers starters later in the week. But the Sox have elected to make the move now, having the dazzling 20-year-old join the team on the cross-country flight on Monday morning and then experience the full six-game California swing with his new teammates.
An event greeted with breathless anticipation for much of the summer is now ready to take shape. It is time for the unveiling of Xander Bogaerts under the spotlight of the last three dozen games of the pennant race push.
Note: In an earlier version of this article, Dwight Evans was erroneously overlooked as the last Red Sox 20-year-old position player to make his big league debut. The prior version of the article featured Luis Alvarado, as a 19-year-old in 1968, as the last such player.