Xander Bogaerts was hit by a pitch in the hand in a spot that is dangerously close to where he was hit last year. This might be a reason to worry.
Last night, with a runner on first and the Boston Red Sox down by two in the bottom of the ninth, Xander Bogaerts was hit in the hand. It was very close to where he was hit last July, and that injury left him worse off for the rest of the season.
Bogaerts stayed in the game and took first base, but he went for X-rays postgame. He has a contusion on his right hand, but the X-rays were negative.
Even with this encouraging news, there is still plenty to be worried about. He was also diagnosed with a contusion last season.
At the time of his injury in 2017, he was hitting .308 with a .818 OPS, six homers, 20 doubles and 41 RBI through 80 games. He didn’t miss any significant time due to the injury, but it obviously affected his play. In his final 68 games, he hit just .232 with a .661 OPS, four home runs, 12 doubles and 21 RBI. It was a tale of two different players.
This season, Bogaerts has been one of the Red Sox’ more steady performers. He is in the midst of his second best season in the Majors (first being his All-Star 2016 campaign).
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Bogaerts is second among AL shortstops in RBI. He’s third in doubles, triples (tied), home runs, slugging, OPS and extra-base hits while ranking fourth in fWAR. And he is among the team leaders in all of the same categories. He has brought himself back into the conversation of great athletic shortstops.
It doesn’t seem like he will have to miss any extended time, but decreased production would hinder the team’s scoring ability. Bogaerts is usually protection in the lineup for either J.D. Martinez or Mitch Moreland, and those are both guys the Red Sox would like to see pitches and put the ball in play.
In fact, Bogaerts’ presence has become so formidable that teams are starting to intentionally walk him, like the Twins did Saturday night to get to Rafael Devers (before the plan backfired). But if Bogaerts’ production takes a nosedive the way it did last season, teams won’t be afraid to pitch around the other guys to get to him.
If he is forced to miss any time, it would damage the team’s plans they had in place when acquiring Ian Kinsler. The point was to make Kinsler the regular second baseman so that Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt would be able to play elsewhere and the overall defense would be improved. Now, one of those two – or Tzu-Wei Lin – would see more time at shortstop.
But if this is a repeat of a little over a year ago, hopefully, Bogaerts learned something or has a way of combatting the effects of this injury. The importance of his presence in the middle of this Red Sox lineup cannot be overstated.