SEATTLE – He may only be a baby-faced 20-year-old, a few weeks removed from Double A and less than a year after graduating from Single A. But, no, Rafael Devers is not satisfied with simply making it to the big leagues.
He’s got bigger things on his mind.
‘’I just want to learn how to be a superstar third baseman,’’ said Devers before Monday’s game at Safeco Field.
That wasn’t said with any cockiness or presumption. It was said matter-of-factly, almost casually. Devers had been asked about his own expectations, and while touting the value of hard work and repetition at the craft.
It’s the kind of self-assuredness you see in players who expect more of themselves than anyone else does and are determined to put in the necessary time and effort.
Which isn’t to suggest that Sunday’s news was merely shrugged off. But Devers hinted that it wasn’t entirely unexpected.
“You can imagine how I felt when I heard the news,’’ he said. “It’s something I’ve dreamed about for a long time and I’m happy that it happened. You work hard to make your dream come true and when you see that the hard work pays off and you get the call, it doesn’t surprise you.’’
Nor did he seem overwhelmed by his surroundings. It helped that he had met many of his teammates in spring training, giving him a frame of reference and some familiarity. But as he sat in the visitor’s dugout, not even the prospect of drawing Felix Hernandez as his first opposing starter appeared to rattle him.
“It’s the same baseball,’’ he said. ‘’I don’t doubt that the first inning, I’m going to be a little nervous. But at the end of the day, it’s the same (game).’’
From the Red Sox’ perspective, they’ve been through this drill before. In 2013, they welcomed 20-year-old Xander Bogaerts to the middle of the pennant race. Last year, Andrew Benintendi joined them at almost exactly the same time of year.
The hope is that Devers – like his teammates before him – can not only impact the team, but also provide it with a spark of energy.
“And when Tzu-Wei Lin was up here (recently),’’ said John Farrell, “there’s a certain intangible that is brought along with (young players new to the big leagues), particularly when they’re guys who’ve been brought up through your (development) system. You can go back to 2007, 2013, probably even 2004…it was the young players in the system that might have pushed those teams over the hump.
“That’s part of the energy that they bring, the newness that they bring. But the (common) thread is they were original (to the system) players to the system. To me, that goes a long way. Raffy’s full a life and we know that we’re going to have to protect him a little bit. But at the same time, here’s a guy who’s 20 years old, in the big leagues, and he’s playing a position where you can’t hide. And we’re going to put him out there and hopefully he continues to what he did at Portland and Pawtucket – and that is, make an impact with the bat.’’
For now, Devers will be mostly limited to playing time against right-handed pitchers. But Farrell pointed out that Devers could earn some at-bats against lefties if he shows himself capable.
There are still questions about his glove and his susceptibility to breaking pitches. But if Monday demonstrated anything, it was that Devers doesn’t lack for confidence or ambition.