Sox Week: A friendly offer for Benintendi, possible Moncada call-up and a statistical look at Pedroia

  • Boston Red Sox' Yoan Moncada practices during spring training, Friday, March 13, 2015, in Fort Myers Fla. The Red Sox have finalized a minor league contract with 19-year-old Cuban infielder that includes a 31.5 million signing bonus, easily a record for an international amateur free agent under 23 years old. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) Brynn Anderson

  • Yoan Moncada (11) of the Portland Sea Dogs warms up with the team during Tuesday’s game against the Fisher Cats at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on Tuesday, July 5, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi looks around Safeco Field as he warms up before batting practice prior to the team's baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren

  • Boston Red Sox's Andrew Benintendi (40) is helped from the field after getting injured while being involved in a double play during the seventh inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Benintendi left the game. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) Chris O'Meara

  • Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, center, is doused by first baseman Hanley Ramirez, right, after a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Sunday, July 31, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang) Ryan Kang

Monitor staff
Published: 8/28/2016 12:40:30 AM

Peter Vasaturo doesn’t know Andrew Benintendi personally. The 23-year-old Medfield, Mass., native has never met Boston’s rookie outfielder. But that didn’t stop him from taking to Twitter earlier this week to offer Benintendi his left leg, which Vasaturo says is “perfectly good.”

“@asben16 tell us about the knee if needed my left leg is all yours,” Vasaturo tweeted at the young star, who was called up Aug. 2 but suffered a left knee sprain in a loss to Tampa Bay earlier this week.

As Benintendi underwent tests, scans and MRIs on Thursday and Friday, Red Sox Nation held its breath, hoping for good news.

If there was any major damage, though, Vasaturo was there to help.

“I mean, I am half kidding,” Vasaturo admitted in an interview with the Monitor, thinking to himself for a second before he added, “but if that can get us a World Series ring, then absolutely.”

Lucky for Vasaturo, it didn’t look like Benintendi would need to take him up on his very kind offer. Manager John Farrell announced before Friday’s game against Kansas City that the team dodged a bullet and that the season might not be over for Benintendi after all.

“When you think back and look at the video, this could’ve been much, much worse,” Farrell told reporters. “Lucky that the ACL is not involved. He’ll be back as soon as first available, and optimistically, we’re thinking that could still be the regular season.”

Phew.

Someone give the good news to Vasaturo, who said he became a full-fledge Red Sox fan when he watched the 2004 World Series with his grandfather as a young boy.

“My grandfather’s been a massive fan his whole life. Then 2004 happened, and I watched him cry (when the Sox won). I remember he said, ‘They finally did it.’ That’s when I really became attached,” Vasaturo said.

So maybe, at some point, he would’ve reconsidered legitimately giving his left leg to one of Boston’s top prospects. But Vasaturo certainly likes what he’s seen in the 21 games Benintendi played in since jumping straight from Double-A Portland to the big leagues.

“He came up that first day, and ever since, he hasn’t looked back,” Vasaturo said. “He gave that boost. Just every hit he got was exciting. Every game he played in was exciting to watch. You could see even the dugout was excited. And they were rolling. Then the knee injury happened.”

Benintendi hit .324 in 74 plate appearances with six doubles, a triple and he clocked his first career home run in Detroit on Aug. 21. The Red Sox were 12-9 in games he played in and turned in a 10-3 mark once Bryce Brentz was optioned back to Triple-A on Aug. 11, giving way to Benintendi as the everyday left fielder.

In Vasaturo’s opinion, Benintendi’s success justified his slightly outlandish offer. Just before the end of the interview, I asked Vasaturo again if he was serious.

“Yes, of course. Whatever I can do to get this team to another ring,” he said.

September call-ups

Major league rosters expand from 25 to 40 players on Thursday and many expect that day will mark the start of the Yoan Moncada era in Boston.

Moncada, who is ranked No. 3 on Baseball America’s MLB prospect list, is with Double-A Portland, and could still be feeling effects of an ankle sprain that sidelined him for more than a week earlier this month.

On Aug. 1, Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski spoke about the possibility of calling up some of Boston’s top prospects before the season ended.

“They’re close enough that they could be” called up, Dombrowski told reporters in Seattle, referring to Moncada and Benintendi. “I’m not making that prediction, but they could be.”

Hours later, Dombrowski phoned Benintendi to tell him he’d be joining the big league club. So even if he’s not making any predictions, it’s clear that Dombrowski has no problem promoting guys straight from Double-A. Especially when that guy is Yoan Moncada.

Even if he does get called up, the infielder likely wouldn’t play every day. Moncada, who has been splitting time at second and third base in Portland, has 44 stolen bases in 2016. His role with the Red Sox this season would likely be as a designated pinch runner.

“I’m not saying (he’ll be called up) one way or the other,” Dombrowski said earlier this month. “But I don’t think anybody coming up in September, if you’re a young guy, you would require him to play every day.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Moncada, here’s an idea of how he’s viewed throughout baseball:

MLBTopProspects.com said earlier this year: “Yoan Moncada is the next Cuban sensation (seemingly) destined for stardom. … He is the definition of a five-tool player.”

Before Moncada signed with the Red Sox, Baseball America’s Ben Badler said in April 2014: “If Moncada were eligible for the 2015 draft, he would be in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick.”

David Lee of BaseballProspectus.com evaluated Moncada in June of 2015. His scouting report: “Most physically advanced 19/20-year-old I’ve ever seen; absolutely ripped; defined upper body; strong lower half; close to maxed; natural athlete. … confident; walks and plays with swagger.”

A scout reportedly told Yahoo! Sports’s Jeff Passan in April: “He’s going to be a freaking superstar.” In September 2015, a scout also told Passan that Moncada is “the closest thing to (Mike) Trout I’ve seen.”

Stat line

Dustin Pedroia has been cooking in the leadoff spot. Since replacing Mookie Betts there Aug. 10, he’s hitting .458, collecting 33 hits in 72 at-bats with only four strikeouts. Eight of those 19 games batting leadoff were multi-hit efforts with just two hitless games mixed in. During the 19 games before the move, hitting in his signature No. 2 spot, Pedroia had 10 strikeouts and hit just .296 with five multi-hit games and five hitless games.

There’s been rumblings in the past that the 33-year-old doesn’t like hitting in the leadoff spot. But it’s hard to find supporting evidence for that claim.

“I like leadoff,” Pedroia told reporters Aug. 15. “We’re at the point in the season where you have to find a way to win ball games.”

He’s always been one to do whatever he could to help the team win and that’s likely why John Farrell called him “the heartbeat of the team” in July.

Pedroia hasn’t always seen success batting leadoff, though. In 25 games at the top of the lineup in 2015, Pedroia hit .346 with 15 strikeouts. But from 2010-14, he hit just .256 in the same spot and went 81-for-343 for a .236 batting average over 79 games from 2006-09.

The second baseman collected four more hits in five at-bats Saturday against Kansas City but saw his streak of 11 straight at-bats with a hit come to an end. He was one hit shy of the MLB record.

No matter where he is in the lineup, Farrell is lucky to have him on the field and that is not lost on the Red Sox manager.

“We don’t lose sight of what he means to us,” Farrell said earlier this season. “You could say he’s the heartbeat of this team with the way he goes out and plays every night. I think he embodies everything that we value in a Red Sox player.”

(Michelle Berthiaume can be reached at 369-3338, mberthiaume@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @MonitorMichelle.)




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