Is Brennan Boesch the ‘big bat off the bench’ the Reds have been searching for?
GOODYEAR, AZ. — So many times when somebody walks past a couple of baseball players at there clubhouse locker they are talking about the lobster tail they ate the night before, the new Porsche 918 Spyder they ordered or the seven-iron they stuck stiff on the pin.
That isn’t the case for Brennan Boesch, who has stuck his foot in the door toward grabbing a spot on the Cincinnati Reds bench by hitting two home runs in his first three spring exhibition games.
Manager Bryan Price says every time he walks past Boesch he is talking about a batting stance, a nasty slider or a pickoff move.
"Whenever I walk past him he seems to be talking about baseball," said Price. "He is talking about the pitcher or talking about hitting situations. He sesm to be very invested in the game."
When Boesch talks to the media he speaks softly. When he goes to the batter’s box he carries a big stick. Well, at least the Reds hope he carries a big stick with ‘Louisville Slugger’ stenciled on it.
There are certain guys already stenciled for bench duty for the 2015 Reds — Brayan Pena, Skip Schumaker and Kristopher Negron. But none have power-laden strokes, not like Boesch, who has already shown it this spring. And he showed it last by hitting 25 home runs for Triple-A Salt Lake City.
"In an optimum situation on your bench you have players who are table-setters and you have guys who, when needed, can provide the threat of a three-run homer," said Price. "We are happy with the players we think have secure spots on the bench, but there are some open places where we could use some thump."
And to add to his versatility, the Reds asked him to find a first baseman’s mitt.
Boesch is an outfielder by trade, but there is no room for him in the Reds outfield. There is, though, room in the dugout, on the bench, and if he can master first base his value increases, especially because he swings his powerful bat from the left side
That’s Price told him to grab a first baseman’s mitt and take some grounders, even though Boesch has not played any first base since a few cameo stops there at Cal-Berkeley.
That’s the same school attended by Price but it doesn’t give the 29-year-old Boesch any extra consideration. He has to earn his way and he knows it.
Boesch mostly plays the corner spots in the outfield, but actually prefers center field and he told Price he played a lot of center field last year in Salt Lake City. So Price put him in center field Saturday against the Kansas City Royals and he hit his second home run.
Due to injuries, Boesch has played only 50 major league games the last two years, 27 last year for the Los Angeles Angels and 23 the year before with the New York Yankees.
Where he caught Cincinnati’s notice was last year in Salt Lake City. Boesch led the Pacific Coast League with a .332 average and he drove in 85 runs to go with those 25 homers. He also was the PCL’s top slugger (.636) and top OPS guys (1.017).
Boesch, a 6-4, 225-pound native of Santa Monica, Calif., became a minor-league free agent after last season and he was a quick sign by the Reds — November 19. Despite being a west coaster, Boesch is thrilled to be wearing a Cincinnati uniform.
"This is a great group of guys to be around," said Boesch. "It is just getting underway and the fun has start. I’ve had conversations with the Reds in the past and it is a place I’ve always had interest in playing.
"I like the environment of the stadium and of the Central Division, even though it was in the American League," he said. He was in Detroit from 2010 through 2012), a third-round draft pick by the Tigers in 2006. He played 133, 115 and 132 games in those three years in Motown.
"It is a place I’ve wanted to play in for a while," he said, meaning Cincinnati.
His bounceback season in Salt Lake City last year was after debilitating injuries that limited him to 23 games with the Yankees in 2013,
"It was good to be back playing consistently after an injury or two in prior years," he said of his Salt Lake City experience and referring to a shoulder injury and a thumb injury.
"To get back on the field healthy and get run out on the field on a consistent basis led to some big numbers and restored the joy I had for the game," he said. "Being healthy is a huge part of our game and I’ve learned to take a few more measures to prevent injuries. When you are hit like I was it makes you have injury prevention as a lifestyle."
Hopefully he won’t encounter bad hops on the hard Arizona fields as he acclimates himself to first base and convinces Price to let him roam center field when Billy Hamilton needs a day of rest.
"I don’t have a lot of experience there, just a few times as an emergency first baseman," he said. "I’ve worked out there a lot but not a lot of game action. I played some in college, but not consistently. I’m excited about the challenge and I know I can get the job done."
Price didn’t inject Boesch into the first base spot on Day Two of the exhibition season, even though Joey Votto was not in the lineup. Boesch was in the lineup as the Designated Hitter.
"I’d like Boesch to be able to play first base because it increases his value," said Price. "I think if you’re left handed you have played some first base along the way. He’ll be working with (coaches) Jay Bell and Freddie Benavides to re-initiate him to the position."