Young Reddick more comfortable with Sox
Prospect gained valuable experience from big league stint
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox have some serious outfield talent in their farm system. Just in Major League camp alone, prospect fans can feast their eyes on Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish and Che-Hsuan Lin. Over on the Minor League side, there will be names such as Ryan Westmoreland and Reymond Fuentes.
There is one thing, however, that the 22-year-old Reddick has over the rest of this talented group: big league service time.
That certainly doesn't mean Reddick feels like he has it all figured out, although sometimes his Spring Training performances make it seem like he does. After tripling in a run in the fifth inning, doubling in the tying run in the ninth and scoring the winning run in Monday's 7-6 victory over the Cardinals, Reddick is now hitting .385 (5-for-13) with three extra-base hits this spring. He's no stranger to strong Grapefruit League performances. Last year, he hit .423 over 26 at-bats.
But it's more than feeling good at the plate. Reddick realizes that spring stats aren't meaningful, and that he's got plenty of work to do in order to be fully ready for Boston. What stands out more this spring is that he feels more at ease in the clubhouse now that he's gotten some time with Major Leaguers under his belt.
"I feel like I'm more comfortable here just from knowing everybody," said Reddick. "Being up there for that amount of time brought me more of a comfort zone. Last year, I was more that guy who sat in the corner, kept my mouth shut and learned. I'm still doing that here, but I feel I can talk a little more with these guys and interact with them a lot more than I could last year."
Reddick was a bit of a surprise callup last summer, coming straight from Double-A Portland to help plug a hole in the outfield. He certainly seemed like he belonged right away, going 5-for-16 over his first few games and picking up his first Major League homer along the way. Not surprisingly, it didn't turn out to be that easy for him the rest of the way. He was sent down after two weeks up in August, then came back up when rosters expanded in September. After that quick start, Reddick went just 5-for-43 in his remaining at-bats.
"He had a pretty good learning experience last year," manager Terry Francona said. "He pretty much hit it all. He had some good days in the big leagues, he had some tough days in the big leagues, he had some tough days in Triple-A. He pretty much had the whole thing down last year."
An extremely aggressive hitter, Reddick walked just twice and struck out 17 times during his big league stint. The Red Sox have worked with him on this, trying to get him to be a little more selective without taking away the aggressiveness that makes him dangerous at the plate.
The Red Sox do not want to turn Reddick into a walk machine, knowing that's not who he is. Being selective means more than just taking a lot of pitches. For a hitter like Reddick, it's more about picking the right pitches to hit than simply taking more of them.
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"I think the biggest thing we noticed last year is he's such a free swinger and aggressive kid, and he started swinging at more strikes," Francona said. "That's what was noticeable. If he swings at strikes, he's got so much good natural ability and some strength in that swing, he's going to be pretty successful. Now that's easier said than done.
"We don't want clones, but we want guys to swing at strikes. If you swing at strikes, and you take nice, healthy swings at strikes, it leads to guys getting on base, hitting for extra-base hits. I think they all tie together. I don't think you go up looking for a walk. You do that, you're going to be just hitting down in the count a lot."
For Reddick, the adjustments are every bit as mental as they are physical. He's worked hard in the weight room this offseason to add some pounds and some strength. He also used the time away to evaluate everything that transpired during what turned out to be an up-and-down 2009 season. He came away with two things: He doesn't have to be the hero when he comes up, especially in late-inning situations; he also knows he needs to understand what it's like to not play every day so he can contribute in that role if and when he gets another shot in Boston.
"If I come in there in the eighth or ninth inning and we're down by one run, I feel like I've got to get out there and do it early and hit the ball out of the park, which I really don't need to do," Reddick said. "I need to get on base and utilize my speed and let the guys behind me do the job. It's another part of learning the game.
"I found it hard to not be that everyday guy, which I'm not going to be for a while, so I have to learn to adapt to that and be ready to play, whether it be once a week, twice a week or three times a week. I have to stay ready for that and for getting in there late in the game, kind of changing my role as a player to benefit the team while I'm there."
This offseason, there was a brief moment where it perhaps looked like Reddick could get a shot at winning the kind of everyday job most feel he'll eventually have. When it became clear that Jason Bay would not be back, the first thing to examine was what internal options existed. Reddick appeared, briefly, to possibly be in the mix.
Showing an understanding of how such things tend to work, Reddick didn't spend his offseason getting fired up about a potential spot in the starting lineup. He also didn't get despondent when outfielders Bill Hall and Mike Cameron were added. He worked then, just as he is now in camp, to manage his expectations, confident that his time will come.
"I didn't see J-Bay leaving as an opportunity for me to be a starter. Who's going to start a guy who's only played 27 games in the big leagues the next year?" Reddick asked. "I figured we'd go out and get somebody new. I try not to let that stuff get to me and get into my head. You set your expectations too high, you're going to be led to an even greater disappointment when it doesn't go your way.
"I've tried to come in here without setting my standards too high to try to make the team, and if I didn't make the team, I'd be all upset about it. My mindset was to come in here and try to do what I did last year. Just hit the ball. If it does work out that I do start the year with these guys, great. If not, there's still so much I have to learn about this game, I'll go back to Triple-A and keep learning."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.