BOSTON - The clock should be ticking fast on the Pablo Sandoval-as-right-handed-hitter experiment. There’s reason to think it is, too.
To some degree, manager John Farrell has to be respectful of Sandoval’s desire to bat right-handed.
But that leash should be short. Ultimately, Sandoval also owes this clubhouse and this team more than anyone owes him anything, considering how the past two years went.
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Sandoval sat on Thursday afternoon in a day game after a night game, with Marco Hernandez taking over at third base. The Pirates’ Chad Kuhl, a right-hander, was on the mound.
“Marco has been swinging the bat very well in the limited duty he’s been on the field,” Farrell said before the game. “I think for Panda, just a little bit of a breather. I think he’s shown a tendency to be a even more aggressive than he normally is where he’s expanded the strike zone a little bit maybe too regularly, and then just the rotation of guys to give a little breather along the way.”
Sandoval homered on Wednesday night, giving him two on the season. But he has four hits overall in 30 at-bats, a .133 average. That’s against righties and lefties.
Sandoval should be capable of some modicum of productivity against righty pitching. But facing lefties as a right-handed hitter sounds like an experiment that will eventually die because, well, it should.
Sandoval is 0-for-9 with one walk and one strikeout vs. lefties this year. He hit .197 against them in 2015.
“Ideally, there’s a compliment that we could go to, if the need be for a start against a left-hander or in a pinch-hit situation,” Farrell said. “But I also think through eight games, you’ve got to give a chance to grow a little bit. There’s contact, but it’s not been with much authority. I think in Pablo’s case not just from the right-handed side, there’ s more relaxation that’s got to come in overall, and I think that’s for him to be the hitter he’s capable of.”
Hernandez is a left-handed hitter, but he’s shown in the minors he could hit lefty pitching, and Farrell’s liked what he’s seen from Hernandez against southpaws in the major leagues, too.
“He took good swings against left-handers in Detroit,” Farrell said. “Last night, Hart’s a tough left-hander with that angle and I don’t think any of our lefties had good swings against him. But as far as him being a sole platoon guy, he’s shown signs to be that type of player, like an everyday type of player.
“The plate coverage is there, particularly if it’s not a low-angled lefty who’s creating a lot of [uneasiness] for a left-handed hitter.”
Lefty hitting Brock Holt also started in left field Thursday, replacing Chris Young and giving the Sox a traditional platoon advantage to begin the game. Young, however, has done better against righties to start the year, 7-for-22 (.318).
Rutledge still has test to pass before rehab assignment: Josh Rutledge was supposed to be an option at third base as a righty batter, but he began the season on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain.
“Rutledge took some ground balls today,” Farrell said. “We’re hopeful that by the end of the weekend, he’s going to go through a base running progression. That would be the last thing we need to see on a rehab standpoint internally before we send him out on a rehab assignment.”