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Devers Has Blast in Lowell

August 7, 2018

Rafael Devers mans third base for the Lowell Spinners on Monday night against Vermont. He went 1-for-4 with a solo homer during a rehab stint from the Red Sox. JOHN CORNEAU/LOWELL SPINNERS Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- Rafael Devers’ Road to the Show did not include a stop in Lowell.

Devers first caught the eye of Boston Red Sox scouts as a 14-year-old while playing in his homeland, the Dominican Republic. He broke into professional baseball at age 17 and made a rapid rise through Boston’s farm system. Devers was 20 during his big league debut last July against the Seattle Mariners.

Young and almost instantly successful, Devers quickly established himself as a fixture at third base in Boston’s infield, batting .284 with 10 home runs, 14 doubles and 30 RBI in 58 games. Devers then hit .364 with two home runs and five RBI in the American League Division series loss to the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros.

Devers hasn’t exactly suffered through a sophomore slump, but thus far his production at the plate in 2018 isn’t at the same level as last year. In 96 games, Devers is batting .245 with 15 home runs, 21 doubles and 52 RBI.

It’s been hard for him to get into a consistent groove at the plate of late due to a couple of recent stints on the disabled list. First, Devers missed time with shoulder inflammation. He returned to the Red Sox lineup only to suffer a hamstring injury and return to the disabled list.

He hasn’t been part of the Red Sox playoff push over the past week, but on Monday night Devers he joined the Lowell Spinners’ pennant chase at LeLacheur Park.

Devers played a rehab game and quickly got into the swing of things with the Spinners, belting a solo home run and finishing with two RBI in four at-bats in an 11-3 victory over the Vermont Lake Monsters.

The Spinners improved their record 26-24 while pushing toward the top spot in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division.

Devers, meanwhile, is eligible to return from the disabled list on Wednesday, and hopes to return to the lineup against the Blue Jays in Toronto.

“I feel great,” Devers said through interpreter, Denisse Torres. “I feel grateful to be here. I gave 100 percent out there. (Injuries) are just part of the game. It’s something that happens. I try my best to prevent injuries. But it’s part of the game. I’m excited to come back and give it my all.”

Devers, 21, has been in the majors since last July and he was still younger than four of the players in Lowell’s starting lineup Monday. He treated the LeLacheur Park faithful to a big fly in the sixth inning, drilling a ball over the fence in deep right center. Devers grounded out in his first three at-bats, knocking in a run in the first inning. He didn’t run all out on the basepaths as a precaution, but his home run trot certainly looked good.

“Thank God (my hamstring) felt much better,” said Devers. “I just didn’t want to go full force on it during this game. I didn’t want to cause any further injury. Once I’m back in Toronto, I will give my all.”

Devers played six innings at third base before leaving the game and made one fielding error. His all-around play received the stamp of approval from Tony La Russa, the vice president and special assistant to Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski. La Russa watched the game from the stands.

“You mostly look at the way he’s moving,” said La Russa, a three-time World Series winning manager. “He’s being careful running to first base. It’s tough. The guys are a little wild (pitching). But he’s getting his work in. As long as he’s healthy everything else falls into place. We want to make sure he’s moving well. If he’s healthy, he’ll probably be back playing in Toronto later this week.

“What you do is you trust the coaches and the trainers. They’ve been watching him. Our guys have said he’s been ready for a while. But it’s nice to see him in action.”

The four-game sweep of the New York Yankees this weekend had plenty of healing power for Devers, who is eager to get back to contributing to the Red Sox winning ways.

“It was kind of tough (sitting out) because it was against the Yankees and it was very exciting,” said Devers. “But I needed time to heal. Now I look forward to coming back.”

His first game at LeLacheur Park was a memorable one.

“It’s beautiful here,” said Devers. “The field is great. It was fun to play here.”

Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi

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