The third baseman was chasing too many pitches out of the zone, until the Red Sox manager solved the problem with food.
How does a rookie manager for the Boston Red Sox stop a young hitter from chasing pitches out of the zone?
Bribes him with a meal.
Third baseman Rafael Devers, 21, has been swinging wildly at pitches outside the zone and needed to improve his plate discipline.
Manager Alex Cora saw Devers’ struggles and found a creative way to motivate Devers to lay off bad pitches. While this strategy may not work for someone like Pablo Sandoval, Devers has responded well to the bribe.
According to NESN’s Darren Hartwell, Cora approached Devers with a proposal.
"“Rafi, he’s been chasing a lot of pitches lately in the last month,” Cora told Olney. “This week, I asked him, ‘Rafi, what’s your favorite restaurant?’ And he told me. … And I go, ‘OK, let’s make a deal: You give me X amount of money every time you chase a pitch out of the zone, and then I’ll give you a gift certificate from your favorite restaurant if you walk or hit an opposite-field home run.’ ”"
Cora noticed an immediate difference after his proposal to Devers.
"“Surely enough, that day that we made the deal, he walked for the first time in like three weeks, then he hit an opposite-field home run the next day,” Cora said. “And then he walked the next day, so I found something that motivates him.”"
Cora’s strategy has paid off. Devers earned his first walk last Thursday against the Orioles since May 1. After drawing another walk on Friday, he belted an opposite field home run into the Green Monster seats on Saturday. Devers then finished the series finale with another walk.
The momentum carried into Tampa Bay last night, when Devers drew a walk to earn his fifth free dinner from Cora. Devers also hit a rocket into the right field fence, but for those keeping score, it doesn’t count toward a free dinner since it wasn’t an opposite field homer.
This strategy has proven to be effective for the young hitter, and is a testimony to Cora’s relationship with the players. He’s able to reach players and influence the way they approach the game — something former Red Sox manager John Farrell couldn’t do.
Is there a cause for concern for Devers’ weight with all these free meals from the Red Sox skipper?
"“Hopefully I keep his weight down because I don’t want to get in trouble,” Cora added."
While Devers’ weight shouldn’t be a huge concern for the Red Sox, it’s important to keep the young third baseman’s weight in check for a position that requires a quick-twitched athlete. Sandoval came to Boston as a highly paid free agent only to bust belts until he was ran out of town for being overweight and ineffective. The last thing the Red Sox need is another weight management issue at third base.
One could argue he’ll outgrow the position regardless, leading to a transfer to first base. Regardless of his weight, it’ll be interesting to see Devers grow as a young power hitter. If he keeps hitting like this, Cora’s wallet will take a beating the rest of the season.