The Red Sox do not want third baseman Rafael Devers playing out of position at the World Baseball Classic.
As was first reported by Enrique Rojas of ESPN, the Dominican Republic recently reached out to the Red Sox about using Devers at first base in the upcoming tournament.
With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. dropping out of the WBC due to a right knee injury and Juan Soto dealing with left calf tightness, the Dominican Republic had a plan to slide Devers over to first and slot Soto in at designated hitter in an effort to keep him off his feet.
Before that plan was put into place, though, the Red Sox dumped cold water on it. According to Rojas, manager Alex Cora reached out to his Dominican counterpart, Rodney Linares, on Wednesday to explain why Boston rejected the national team’s proposal. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was also involved in the conversation.
“We made a big investment with Raffy and for us in the organization, it doesn’t make sense for him to play first base,” Cora said (in Spanish). “Raffy called me to talk about it and he understands our position.”
The Red Sox, of course, signed Devers to a 10-year, $313.5 million contract extension back in January that runs through the 2033 season. In terms of number of years and total value, it is the largest contract the club has ever given out in its storied history.
Since first signing with Boston as an international free agent coming out the Dominican in August 2013, Devers has never played first base at any level professionally. The Red Sox do not want the 26-year-old learning a new position on the fly while he is away from the team.
“It’s something that doesn’t make sense to us,” Cora told reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham) on Thursday. “I know [some Dominican players] got hurt, but there’s a reason the people who got hurt aren’t playing, right? We have to protect our guy and they understand that.”
Because Manny Machado is penciled in as the Dominican Republic’s starting third baseman, Devers could find himself starting games on the bench if Soto is the primary designated hitter.
“When you have good players, you have to make tough decisions. Raffy’s on board,” said Cora. “He’s just happy to be part of the team and ready to contribute whenever they put his name in the lineup. But it’s not going to be at first base.”
Devers, who is playing in his first WBC, came off the bench as a defensive replacement in Thursday’s exhibition game against the Twins in Fort Myers. The left-handed hitter went 0-for-1 with a groundout in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss.
The Dominican Republic will open pool play against Venezuela at loanDepot Park in Miami on Saturday night. They will also take on Nicaragua, Israel, and Puerto Rico and will need to finish first or second in their group in order to advance to the quarterfinal.
(Picture of Rafael Devers: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)