Papi touts ‘fearless’ Devers: BoSox must keep 3B

  • Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
  • Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
  • Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
  • Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association

David Ortiz has touted the talents of Rafael Devers for a few years now, and if it’s up to the new Hall of Famer, the star third baseman will remain with the Boston Red Sox for a very long time.

“As a fan, watching the game, you always expect him to come through,” Ortiz said Thursday in advance of next week’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York. “I hope the Red Sox make sense about the decision they have to make about him.

“We’ve got to keep Devers around. It’s the face of that organization, as of right now. Nobody can argue that.”

Devers has one year of arbitration eligibility left after this season before becoming eligible for free agency. If Devers and his representatives are unable to agree to a long-term contract with the Red Sox, the two-time All-Star could become a trade candidate, following in the footsteps of former Red Sox MVP Mookie Betts.

Ortiz would not like to see the Red Sox part with Devers.

“When I first saw him a couple of years ago in the big leagues, I right away told the Red Sox, ‘You’ve got to let this guy in,'” Ortiz said. “Devers might be one of the top three pure hitters right now. Not ‘might,’ because I’m 100% sure right now.”

Like Ortiz, Devers was born in the Dominican Republic, which has become a hotbed of talent in recent baseball history. Ortiz was a big part of that, as he ranks fourth on the all-time leaderboard among Dominican-born players with 541 career homers, according to baseball-reference.com, behind Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa.

Devers has a long way to go to catch Ortiz on that list, but he’s off to a great start. His 131 career homers through age 25 rank fourth on the list of Dominican-born sluggers, and he has a half-season left to add to his total.

Devers, who will start for the American League at third base in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles, is batting .325 with 19 homers and 51 RBIs over 82 games so far this season.

“When I see Devers, it’s like I never left,” Ortiz said. “He’s fearless, and at such an early age he looks invincible out there. Everything is going really good for him.”

The praise means something coming from Ortiz, who bemoaned what he called a lack of “searching” among current players, saying they don’t seek out advice from the greats of the game, including himself.

“Guys like myself, we have the ‘Mamba’ type of mentality about the game,” Ortiz said. “We played the game in the toughest way, none of this babysitting B.S. that is going on with the game these days.

“I think baseball has the best talent of all time right now, but baseball is not just about talent.”

On the other hand, Devers very much reminds Ortiz of that old-school mentality, which mixes nicely with his considerable talent.

“When I watch him, I’m expecting something,” Ortiz said. “Once you have that kind of player, there is no other way [but] to compare him to myself, because he doesn’t waste any at-bats. Every time he steps to the plate, he expects to do something.”

As often happens with players on the cusp of their induction into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, Ortiz expressed a mix of excitement and fatigue.

“No B.S., I know this is a once-in-life-type of thing but, man, so much stress, you know,” Ortiz said. “All the things that come along with family traveling, friends, the whole country chasing you. It’s a lot of work, but I’m excited to be a part of it.”

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