SAN DIEGO — In all of the ways the Red Sox collectively regressed last season, not enough attention is paid to the defense.
A year after ranking fifth in the American League in defensive efficiency and featuring three Gold Glovers and two other finalists, the Red Sox sank to 11th in an across-the-board slump.
"Inconsistent. Yeah, we were inconsistent not only in the infield, but I think in the outfield," said manager Alex Cora. "We saw that early in the season. For how great they are, I do believe that there's more there, and we'll address it. We'll address it. I think Benny (Andrew Benintendi) can become a complete player. I know he's been in the final vote of the Gold Glove the last two years, but I think he can make some strides.
"I think early in the season we were a step slower than the other teams, and we paid the price because of that, as far as like communication and the way we were moving in the outfield. We can do better."
How can they improve? Cora basically went around the diamond. He believes third baseman Rafael Devers will benefit from more experience, as well as conversations with five-time Gold Glover Adrian Beltre.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts ranked dead last among regular shortstops in defensive runs saved last year (minus-21), a function of decreased range. A revolving door at second base didn't help in the double play department, either, where the Red Sox ranked last in the American League.
"I think the next step for Xander is to become a better defensive player," Cora said. "For how sure-handed he is, I think his first step can be better. He's that good of an athlete, so that's the next challenge. If we do that, we'll be better. Turning the double play, we have to do that. It's funny because I mentioned that in Orlando a few years ago. Double plays are game changers. You don't turn over the play, you pay the price. You turn over the play, you go and hit and score runs. So we have to do better than that."
Cora also noted that Gold Glove finalist catcher Christian Vazquez experienced his own struggles, particularly when it came to passed balls.
"Defensively behind the plate, for how great he was, blocking wasn't great for Christian. He's working on that. There's a few things that I have learned over the last two months that we didn't do right, and we can do better. If we do that, we're going to have a good season."
Cora suggested that defense is a renewed emphasis under new boss Chaim Bloom.
"One thing we're going to talk about with Chaim coming from an organization that's very aggressive as far as defense, is why they do it, how they do it, and if that aggressiveness is going to — he can help us out," Cora said. "And that's something that I'm looking forward to sitting with Chaim and see where it takes us. If that aggressiveness can help Xander and Raffy defensively, so be it. So we'll talk about it."
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