Red Sox Notebook: Errors piling up for Rafael Devers, but Alex Cora ‘proud of him’ for overall contributions

Defense hasn’t been the Red Sox’ strong suit early on this season.

They entered Saturday with 32 errors, second-most in the majors, while their third baseman, Rafael Devers, has made seven of them, tied for fifth-most among all big leaguers.

“There’s going to be moments where obviously I’ve made some errors here and there, but I never let it get to me,” Devers said before Saturday night’s game in Philadelphia. “The following day or the following moment, I just try to put it in the back of my mind and continue to get better. But I feel I feel good out there and my confidence has never wavered.”

Early in Devers’ career, manager Alex Cora compared him to Adrian Beltre, who made 20-plus errors in three of his first four seasons, but later in his career won five Gold Glove Awards at third base.

But Devers has consistently ranked near the top of the league in errors in all five seasons thus far. He made a key error on Thursday against the Blue Jays that nearly cost the Red Sox the game before J.D. Martinez bailed him out with a go-ahead homer with two outs in the ninth.

“I think it’s fine,” Devers said. “Obviously there are plays that I could have made but I didn’t make them. I just turned the page and tried to get better, and that’s something that I take pride in is my defense. And I’m doing the best that I can and I know that the results will show.”

Cora said “we’re very proud of him” for the way he’s played defense this year. The manager pointed to the defensive runs-saved metric. Devers has saved one run above average, according to FanGraphs. Baseball executives advise not to pay attention to advanced defensive metrics until at least midway through the season.

Still, Devers has been a monster at the plate. April has typically been his worst month, but Devers started hot and hasn’t cooled off.

He’s tied with Martinez for the team lead with 12 home runs and has been an RBI machine with 37 of them, tied for second in the AL, while hitting fifth behind Xander Bogaerts.

“Probably his best start in professional baseball,” Cora said. “In the minor leagues he struggled the first part of the season and finished great. He always finishes.

“He did an outstanding job in the offseason, physically. I think last year wasn’t fair for him. Going into spring training I heard and saw he was in great shape, then he went to the Dominican Republic and for how tough things were in the United States (with the pandemic), it was tougher down there. He didn’t have the facilities to take care of himself. Actually we spoke a few times during the shutdown and he was afraid of just leaving the house. He’s just a kid. We were all afraid. For him not to be able to do the things he normally does to prepare for a season it’s not an excuse, but it’s a reality.”

Gonzalez struggling

With a .199 average and .572 OPS, Marwin Gonzalez could find himself on the bench more often in the coming days.

Kiké Hernandez made his return from the injured list and Danny Santana made a sizzling debut on Friday night. Hernandez was at second and Santana in center for Saturday’s affair.

“One thing that (Gonzalez) has been fighting is catching up with the fastball,” Cora said. “He has a game plan. But he’s conscious that he’s not catching up with it. … So, this is the toughest stretch for him with the strikeouts. It’s been tough. One thing for sure, he’s such an asset in every other aspect of the game that we’ll play him. Most likely he’ll play second tomorrow.”

Ups and downs

Franchy Cordero got a rare start on Saturday. He had made just two appearances in the previous nine days. Cora said “it’s hard” to find ways to get the struggling outfielder into the game.

Meanwhile, in Triple-A Worcester, center field prospect Jarren Duran was 5-for-5 with two homers Saturday in a 7-4 win over Buffalo. He has seven homers in 17 games.

Alex Verdugo is likely to miss the remainder of the series with a sore hamstring. Cora is hoping he’ll be back on Tuesday.

Chris Sale threw off the mound Saturday as he continues his progression from Tommy John surgery. Ryan Brasier also threw a bullpen session, but remains far away from a rehab assignment.

Depth reliever Eduard Bazardo “is going to be shut down for a while,” Cora said. The extent of his arm injury is currently unknown.

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