New Boston Red Sox outfielder makes an impressive first-impression.
Boston Red Sox newcomer Kevin Pillar’s performance was one of the few positives to come from an otherwise discouraging past weekend of baseball.
In the first series of the 2020 season, the Red Sox dropped two out of the three games against the Baltimore Orioles primarily because of poor pitching performances by starters Martin Perez and Ryan Weber. Despite the rough start to the season, fans should be excited about the future of one of the team’s new outfielders as they attempt to –at least somewhat– replace Mookie Betts.
Pillar earned his first highlight play as a member of the Red Sox on just the second pitch of this season. In the first game of the series, he made an impressive leaping catch near the right-center wall to rob Orioles leadoff batter Austin Hays of a potential extra-base hit.
Later in the third, PIllar launched a double to deep left field while picking up two RBIs. He finished his debut going 3-for-5 with a double, three RBIs, and scored one run.
After not playing in the second game, Pillar got the start in the series finale this past Sunday. Although it was a tough loss, Pillar finished the game 1-for-3 while picking up his first home run of the season — A deep shot well over the Green Monster.
In a NESN interview with Tom Caron following his debut, Pillar discussed his role for this season and shared what he hopes to accomplish.
“The one thing that I promised myself, watching this team from afar is they all give really competitive at-bats…Being here for a couple months now, getting a chance to talk to these guys, our hitting coaches they work their butts off putting together a plan. And for me it was (less) about my individual results but making sure I bought into the team plan…”
On a one-year, $4.25 million contract with the Sox, Boston is hoping that Pillar can continue his hot defensive and offensive start into this short season. Manager Ron Roenicke will likely alternate between starting Pillar and Alex Verdugo out in right field, complementing usual outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Pillar has always been known for his fielding ability. So far, the 31-year-old has an impressive 60 defensive runs saved during his career, with most coming at center field. However, that metric fell to -5 last season when he played for both the Blue Jays and Giants. Nevertheless, he finished the 2019 campaign with a fielding percentage of .989 at center field, ranking him 3rd in the National League.
With the Giants, Pillar also led (or tied for the lead) in practically all their offensive categories, including doubles (37), triples (3), home runs (21), and RBIs (87), just to name a few.
Although only through two games so far, it seems that Pillar has quickly adapted and is comfortable with Fenway Park’s unique right field layout. I am expecting Pillar to deliver more impressive fielding plays in the coming months, hopefully helping out the team’s shaky pitching performance.
Pillar is the only right-handed batter out of the Red Sox’s four core outfielders. Roenicke expressed in the past that he hopes to start Pillar whenever they are facing left-handed pitchers. However, given the lack of rest days in the season, there will likely be games where Pillar replaces Beinetindi or Bradley, especially soon if Beintenindi continues his ice-cold start to the season. The left fielder finished the series against Orioles going 0-for-10 and striking out five times.
Along with the team’s questionable pitching, one of this season’s lingering questions will be how the Red Sox handle losing Betts. Pillar’s performance in his one-year deal will be a key factor when analyzing the effects of last February’s monumental trade. Currently however, thanks to Pillar and Verdugo, the Sox’s outfield remains solid coming out of the gate. Let’s all hope that this continues and allows time for management to figure out how to get their pitching problems solved.