BOSTON -- In the midst of the playoff hunt, Andrew Benintendi has taken Boston by storm.
The 22-year-old outfielder, with hair that rivals the best in the bigs, hasn’t skipped a beat at the plate since getting the call -- batting .379 (11-for-29) in his first 10 games.
And aside from the fielding miscue, when he lost a ball in the lights against the Yankees on Thursday night, he’s been a solid glove, too.
There’s no question why Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski thought Benintendi could make the big jump from Double A to the majors.
“The kid's got a great swing. He’s got a great eye,” hitting coach Chili Davis said. “You know, you don’t have to play with that swing. Let that swing happen. Keep it natural don’t manipulate it. Don’t try to do things you can’t do with it.”
So, that answers the first question with Benintendi. Is he really that good? Yes.
Now, the next question, how will he adjust to everyone else adjusting to him?
Because as much as there are reports out on the left-handed hitter, they’re obviously limited compared to the books out on hitters who’ve been in the league longer.
Benintendi’s hit well at every level. The stats -- and his quick track to Boston -- make it seem like he’s never dealt with adversity.
Still, that’s not entirely the case.
“I think the biggest adjustment I’ve made before coming here was going from High A to Double A,” Benintendi said Sunday, after getting ready for batting practice. “I was going in facing pitchers who had more experience and knew how to throw all their stuff for strikes and in hitter’s counts, things like that. I’m sure I’ll see it here, too.
“I had to change my approach a little bit, but stuck to my routine pretty much throughout the whole time. Had to maybe sit on a few more pitches, but that was a good learning experience for me and hopefully adjust to this.”
Because of that jump, the University of Arkansas-alum thinks he’ll make the necessary adjustments when he needs to.
“I think once I see everybody and go through every team and their pitchers, I’ll get an idea of what they like to do,” he said. “And they’ll see what I like to do and swing at. I think there’s always something you’ve got to adjust to.”
While Benintendi said all his teammates and coaches have been helpful, he specifically noted that Davis “talks to me a lot about having a plan going out there, sticking to that plan and not going away from it.”
And the two can been seen sitting in the dugout talking everything hitting.
Well, more of Davis talking hitting, Benintendi just soaks it all in.
“[I’m] just trying to get him to understand how guys think and pitchers pitch up here," Davis said. "Just little things to help him not be so mechanical conscious, but to be able to play the game sooner. The mental game -- the cat and mouse game with these guys.
Because while the skill level changes as players climb through farm systems to the major league teams, the detail of the mental approach does with it.
“Keep it simple -- but be ready for certain stuff,” Davis tells Benintendi. “Understand when guys make pitches, what are they trying to do. If they make a pitch and they’re trying to bait you, you have to ask yourself ‘Do I really want to hit that pitch right now?’ And if you make that pitch, what are you trying to do next. What are you trying to set up?”
And it’s clear when the two are together that Benintendi is locked in on every word Davis says -- much like the hitting coach preaches him to be on each pitch. Because the pupil knows his hitting coach has been involved in Major League Baseball longer than he’s been alive.
“At 21 years old I had quick hands,” Davis reminisced after talking to Benintendi. “I could look for a fastball and hit a curveball -- look for whatever and hit it. At 31, it was like, ‘You know what, I don’t hit that very well early.’ But if it you miss over here, I’m swinging.
“And when I hit it, it’s gonna be noisy.”