Coming out of spring training, Red Sox manager Alex Cora saw signs of the defensive strides Rafael Devers was making at third base. But since the start of the season, the 22-year-old has continued to deal with the fielding issues that have tripped him up early in his career.
In the second inning of a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday at Fenway Park, Devers booted a potential double-play ball that would have ended the inning. Instead, the error wound up being costly when Yandy Diaz ripped a two-run triple and hung a pair of unearned runs on Sox starter Chris Sale.
“He knows he has to make those plays,” Cora said. “For us to give our pitchers breathing room and a chance to go deeper into games, we’ve got to make the routine plays and we didn’t today.”
Three of the Rays runs were unearned. They took advantage of a throwing error by second baseman Michael Chavis to tack on an insurance run in the ninth. The Sox have made 22 errors as a team this season. Devers is on the hook for eight of them.
“Inconsistency, you know?” Cora said. “We see the great plays and then that happens. Honestly, as a manager, as a defensive player, I’d rather him make the routine plays than the five-star plays. That’s a mark of consistency. We’re going to keep working on it. He was solid until that one. He had a good week, defensively, and then that happened.”
Before his permanent move to shortstop, Xander Bogaerts dealt with growing pains at third base early in his career, so he could empathize with Devers’ hiccups now.
“I talk to him a lot,” Bogaerts said. “I was his age and I made a good amount of errors at that age, so I know what he’s going through. The way it goes like that, whenever you make an error, those runs seem to score. That makes you feel even much worse.
“So I know what he’s going through and whenever I see him hang his head, all I can say [to him] is keep his head up and try to catch the next one.”
Pedroia to start rehab
Dustin Pedroia will travel to Double A Portland on Wednesday and begin a rehab assignment with the Sea Dogs on Thursday.
Pedroia has been on the injured list since April 18 with left knee irritation. After missing all but three games last season, Pedroia played six games this year before knee pain put him on the IL.
“He hasn’t played in a while,” Cora said. “He needs at-bats, he needs to play, so we’ll go over the program and see where we’re at.”
Cora said Pedroia’s input is an important factor in determining how much time he’ll need on his rehab assignment.
“It’s a little bit different than back in the day when I played,” Cora said. “The player has input on this. So I know sometimes it feels like we’re cutting them short or whatever, but it’s just the way it goes nowadays. But we do our best to let them know how we feel about it, what we’d like to do. It’s not that they go over the program or the team, but if they feel like they’re fine, that’s within the rules so that’s how it works.”
Eduardo Nunez, who went on the injured list at the same time as Pedroia with a back strain, left Sunday to begin a rehab assignment with Triple A Pawtucket on Monday. He’ll play second and third, but the emphasis will be on getting at-bats. Cora said the target number over Nunez’s rehab assignment will be 20 plate appearances.
Brock Holt, still working his way back from a scratched right cornea that landed him on the IL on April 6, was scratched late from his third rehab game Sunday night due to right shoulder soreness.
Johnson throws bullpen
Lefthanded reliever Brian Johnson, who strained his elbow pitching against Arizona on April 5, threw 25 fastballs in the bullpen before the game and said he felt fine. “I feel like I can get into a throwing program and get back in a game at some point,” said Johnson, who feared he had suffered a season-ending injury. Johnson is tentatively scheduled to throw again on Wednesday . . . Michael Chavis hit his third career homer, a solo shot in the seventh inning. As PawSox announcer Mike Monaco pointed out via Twitter, Chavis has hit seven this season between the PawSox and Red Sox. The distances on the last six? 441 feet, 374 feet, 441 feet, 434 feet, 467 feet, 470 feet . . . Christian Vazquez caught Sale for the fourth time this season after working with Sale just 11 times over his first two seasons with the Sox. “We need offense and Christian has been swinging the bat well,” Cora said of Vazquez, who went 1 for 3 to extend his hitting streak to four games.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.