|(photo by: Matt West)|
With Spring Training kicking off in Fort Myers, you can see it in him physically and mentally.
Xander Bogaerts is not a rookie anymore.
The time for beginners mistakes, the time for lack of offense, the time for too many fielding errors and the time when those excuses will carry any weight are a thing of the past.
He is a 22-year-old major league sophomore, has been humbled by the rookie experience and is now ready to tackle a full year to bounce back with a vengeance.
He struggled a lot in 2014 when pitchers ate him up with sliders and off speed garbage.
So Bogaerts has done a lot of video study this offseason, coming to grips with how certain pitchers got him out and the adjustments he has to make to give himself the advantage again.
"I know what they have, what they throw, and how they try to set me up now," Bogaerts said in an interview with Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. "I have to get more disciplined at the plate and not get into their counts. I think I understand things a lot better now."
His physical maturity is obvious as he has 210 pounds on his 6-foot-3-inch frame.
"I added some muscle and got rid of some fat," Bogaerts said.
He bulked up to hit more for power, having only hit 12 home runs last year, feeling hes capable of a lot more.
Bogaerts is the Red Sox shortstop who can and wants to hit for both average and power to knock in runs.
He can't go really anywhere but up in the eyes of the fans with regards to offense after last season.
In 144 games, he hit .240 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs. He hit .153 with runners in scoring position. He had a .297 OBP, a .660 OPS. He hit .123 in August. He hit .182 as a third baseman and .266 as a shortstop.
Now that it is a season behind him Bogaerts acknowledges that the transition to third base did not sit well with him.
"I understand why it had to happen," Bogaerts said. "We were trying to get our infield the best it could be at the time. I understood it, and I was happy to help the team, but I always thought I was a shortstop, and that's the position I love to play. It was difficult, but I’ve got to get back there and I think I showed I could play there very well by the end of the year and started to feel comfortable again."
Infield coach Brian Butterfield worked hard with Bogaerts all season long in 2014 on his footwork and feel for the position. It was almost a daily pregame occurrence, and the spring training sessions were grueling.
Then came the switch to third base, with new footwork and a new throw. It seemed as if Bogaerts was always being taught something new rather than just playing.
So this offseason Bogaerts spent time working at the EXOS facility in Arizona to get his body ready to endure a 162-game season.
"I feel I'm better built to do that," Bogaerts said. "I wore down last year. I learned a lot about what it takes to be a major leaguer and what it takes to do it day in and day out at that level."
"The season was longer than anything I'd experienced. With all the work I did with different exercises, I think I'm better equipped to handle that now."
He focused on improving the on-field working relationship with Dustin Pedroia down in Arizona.
"His big thing was emphasizing angles and positioning," Bogaerts said. "Get yourself in the right place. Use the right angles to improve your range. Little things you can do that he makes a living at. And I’d like to be able to learn stuff like that from him."
This offseason there was interest from other teams in trading for Bogaerts, but the Red Sox have not given up hope that Bogaerts emerges as a star despite the bad rookie season. In the end, the Red Sox have committed to him as their shortstop.
"We all struggled last year," Bogaerts said. "We all know we didn't do what we were supposed to do, but we're all committed to winning a World Series again. I need to do my part and improve as a player. And that's what I focused on in the offseason. I can't wait for things to get started because there’s so much I want to prove to myself and the team."
One thing is for certain, it is time for the X-man to cometh or there could be quite a change looming for the left side of the infield in 2015.
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More by Eric D. Schabell