Versatile Ceddanne Rafaela is the Red Sox’ secret weapon

Rafaela, Tyler Freeman (Guardians) and Garrett Hampson (Royals) are the only players in the majors playing shortstop and center field this season.

Freeman is a center fielder who played one inning at shortstop. Hampson is a utility player with five innings at shortstop.

Rafaela is more in the mold of Kiké Hernández, a player who can handle both positions adequately. He started 62 games at shortstop for the Sox and Dodgers last season and 19 in center field.

Hall of Famer Robin Yount, you ask? He began his career as a shortstop and moved to center field, but never played both positions in the same season.

For Sox manager Alex Cora, the value of Rafaela is knowing he can play two important positions well. This makes building the programming much easier.

Monday was all about facing Tampa Bay right-hander Zach Eflin and giving Tyler O’Neill a chance at DH. Rafaela therefore played in the center with Jaren Duran on the left.

Versatility also helps during play. Rafaela has already played two positions in the same game 12 times this season.

“We can play different guys and we can be aggressive with our bench from the start, understanding that the defense is (always) going to be good,” Cora said.

“He can play third; he can play short, second or center. He will play most of the time. As you have seen, we are here to win and we are here to develop. It’s a lot easier this way and understanding that when you have the lead we can have a good defensive formation.

Rafaela was an infielder when he was signed as an amateur in 2017. He began playing the outfield in 2021 and has progressed since then.

For him, moving does not cause any stress.

“Go play,” he said Monday. “Usually they tell me the day before and I prepare myself. But whatever they want to do, I’m fine with it.

Ceddanne Rafaela disappears over the fence trying to catch up as Tyler O’Neill looks on.Winslow Townson/Getty

Rafaela nearly made one of the greatest catches of all time Sunday when he dove over the bullpen wall to chase down a home run by Washington’s Eddie Rosario. It ripped off his glove.

Then Rafaela moved to shortstop and finished the game with a smooth play, collecting a leaping throw from catcher Connor Wong and striking out Jacob Young trying to steal second.

This happened again on Monday. Amed Rosario lined a pitch to the gap in the first inning, an extra base hit. Rafaela caught the ball, but it escaped her glove for a triple.

Rafaela remained in the center of the field the entire match. When he changes position in the middle of a round, Cora will get his attention and twirl a finger as a signal.

“He doesn’t complain,” Cora said. “He understands that most of the time he’s going to end up at shortstop. Its been good.”

The next step is for Rafaela to improve at the plate. It’s been tough with 40 strikeouts in his first 139 at-bats compared to just five walks. Rafaela takes big swings even at times when putting the ball in play and using her speed would make more sense.

“I’m working on it,” said Rafaela, who agreed to an eight-year, $50 million extension earlier this season. “The coaches have been great.”

For now, Rafaela is helping the Sox better than expected with this glove. With Trevor Story out for the season following shoulder surgery, he made the lineup work.

“He’s legit, honestly,” Cora said. “We knew that at the start of the season. He’s going to make mistakes but we forget that he hasn’t played shortstop in so long. But he understood it immediately. »

This makes Cora’s job easier and the Sox more competitive. Imagine if he starts hitting?

Peter Abraham can be contacted at [email protected]. follow him @PeteAbe.