Is Red Sox rookie getting to point where he needs to start every game?


BOSTON — As a rookie last year, Triston Casas platooned at first base for the first couple of months. Casas, a left-handed hitter, started games against right-handed pitchers and mostly sat vs. lefties. Justin Turner would start at first base on those days.

Casas eventually began playing every day, even against left-handed starters.

“Where we were in the season and the approach, I think we let him play,” manager Alex Cora said. “We let him play. It’s a process, man. It’s not that easy, the lefties that we face. … It’s just the process and the quality of the at-bat.”

Red Sox rookie Wilyer Abreu, a left-handed hitter, is in the same spot as Casas was last year. He usually sits when the Red Sox face a left-handed starter. He has received just 20 plate appearances (three starts) vs. southpaws.

But is it reaching the point where Abreu needs to play every day, no matter if there’s a righty or lefty on the mound? After all, he ranks fourth among all Red Sox players in WAR (1.3).

Abreu — who has the third best AL Rookie of the Year odds — has been one of Boston’s top hitters, batting .283 with a .369 on-base percentage, .496 slugging percentage, .865 OPS, four homers, 10 doubles, one triple, 15 RBIs, 20 runs, 16 walks, 36 strikeouts and five stolen bases in 37 games (137 plate appearances).

Like Casas, he has above-average plate discipline. He ranks in the 84th percentile among major league hitters in walk percentage (12.3%).

His defense also is extremely valuable on a daily basis. He has four defensive runs saved in 235 ⅓ innings in right field.

For now though, the plan remains for him to platoon.

“Throughout my career as a manager, if you look at my track record, all these lefties I platoon because I know how tough it is,” Cora said. “So we’ll keep it like that. We’ve got Ref (Rob Refsnyder). We’ve got Romy (Gonzalez). So most of his at-bats are going to be against righties. We will pinch hit for him against lefties. And with time, I bet he will start hitting lefties. We did it with Casas. It worked out. We did it with Raffy. People forget that we pinch hit for Raffy in Game 1 of the World Series. And it worked out.”

Cora used Eduardo Núñez as a pinch hitter for Devers in the seventh inning of Game 1 against lefty Alex Wood. Núñez hit a three-run homer.

“That’s how I manage it,” Cora said. “That’s how I like it. And we’re going to stay with the program.”

Abreu is 3-for-18 with two walks in his limited time vs. lefties this season.

“I do believe his process, he will hit lefties,” Cora said. “He will. It’s just a matter of right now, I do believe the three at-bats by Ref against the lefties — that’s why Ref is here, too. We have to create a balance. But right now, that’s the way we see him. He’s a good player who we’re going to platoon. But as soon as they pivot to the righties in that start, we go to him.”

Abreu has just eight hits in his last 37 at-bats (.216) but he continues to reach base at a much higher clip. He has a .326 on-base percentage during the stretch.

“Because he controls the strike zone,” Cora said. “It’s just a good, compact swing. He understands where to hunt pitches and it’s close to him. … At this level, the good ones, when they’re not hitting, they’re taking their walks.”

Cora said Abreu’s OBP being 110 points above his batting average the past 13 games (10 starts) shows “he’s still swinging at the right” pitches.

“It’s just running into some bad luck or swinging and missing at certain pitches,” Cora said.

Cora said Abreu didn’t need to make too many adjustments when Boston promoted him late last season.

“Because he knows the strike zone,” he said. “If he was a swinger, then you go through the growing pains: chasing pitches. They’re going to attack you out of the zone and you’re going to swing at that. That’s when you struggle. But with him — we talk about how hard it is, the adjustments — it seems like it’s been easier because of what he can do in the batter’s box.”



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