On Thursday night, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t start rookie left-fielder Andrew Benintendi. This is not a common occurrence for the Sox this year, as this was only the second time Benintendi wasn’t in the starting lineup. The night off comes after a long, 13-inning win in St. Louis, but also in the midst of the first real slump of Benintendi’s career.
Many believe that Benintendi is the front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year, and he has shown why thus far. His approach at the plate is mature beyond his years. He has learned to play left-field in Fenway Park at a high level very quickly. We have seen outfielders struggle to figure out how to play balls off the Green Monster, but Benintendi seems to have turned it into an advantage. He has also played a very solid center field when called upon.
But after a hot start, Benintendi has gone ice-cold over the last seven games. On May 9, Benintendi had three hits against the Milwaukee Brewers, but he is hitless since then, going 0 for 26 leading up to the night off. The slump has dropped his incredible batting average of .339 to a still respectable .280. In the month of April, Benintendi had a batting average of .333, but in April it is only .200. His slugging also went from .478 last month, to .35o so far in May.
Farrell is quick to point out that Benintendi is still having solid at bats, and still helping the team win. On Wednesday, he had a sacrifice fly to tie the game in the 8th inning. Although encouraging, Benintendi needs to break out of the slump, and it needs to happen soon.
This is the first time Benintendi has faced any adversity in his young career. We are now at the forty game mark, which means pitchers are starting to make adjustments to Benintendi. He needs to find a way to adjust his own game to continue to succeed. We have seen rookies hit a wall or find themselves in a slump that they can’t get out of time and time again at the big league level. But as shown by Farrell inserting Benintendi into the cleanup spot earlier this year, Benintendi is needed now.
We will learn a lot about Andrew Benintendi in the next few weeks. We will see if he has the patience necessary at the plate to hit a few liners the other way and stand on first base again. We will see if he has the confidence to keep stepping into the box and putting together quality at bats, knowing things will eventually turn back his way. The Sox aren’t in ‘must-win’ territory yet, and no one is freaking out over Benintendi’s cold streak, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts in the upcoming games.
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