Danny Mendick and Andrew Vaughn have played more outfield this season than anyone saw coming. (AP) | AP Photos
Daryl Boston looked on the field Saturday and did a double take. “We got seven infielders on the field right now!” Boston said. “Seven infielders.”
Daryl Boston looked on the field Saturday and did a double take.
“We got seven infielders on the field right now!” Boston said. “Seven infielders.”
Three of them were in the outfield from left field to right: Andrew Vaughn, Danny Mendick and Jake Lamb, all of them infielders by trade pressed into outfield duty this season because of injuries to Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Adam Engel.
When Billy Hamilton left Saturday’s game against the Tigers with an oblique injury, Mendick played center for the first time. He had played a total of eight in right field and two in left in his career.
Vaughn, a first baseman who was expected to be the Sox’ designated hitter, has made the conversion without incident, which is all the Sox could hope for.
“I would call him an average outfielder,” Boston, the Sox first base coach who oversees the outfielders.
For which Boston wants no credit.
“I didn’t do anything,” Boston said. “That’s all Vaughn and his work ethic. Comes out every day – well we kind of backed off a little since the beginning of the season because he doesn’t need as much work – but he gets his early work. Him and Jake Lamb have been relentless in getting their work done.”
A corner infielder, Lamb had never played in the outfield before this season. He has played in 16 games in the outfield this year.
“The biggest thing is they get live balls off the bat in batting practice, and you just can’t teach the experience you get from actual live balls,” Boston said. “They take it really seriously.”
Boston could see Vaughn’s athleticism when he started doing drills in spring training. But he had to learn where to throw, when to throw home or keep the double play in order and how to create angles on throws.
“It’s not easy,” Boston said. “They may break back on a ball now and then, but for the most part I have been very pleased.
“Vaughnie is learning on the job but it’s coming fast for him. And he is not afraid to make a mistake. Sometimes an infielder wants to play everything safe but he’ll lay out for a ball.”
The outfield for the series opener against the Jays Tuesday was Vaughn in left, Engel in center and Leury Garcia in right. Meanwhile, Jimenez and Robert continue rehabbing their torn pectoral muscle and hip flexor strain, respectively. Their returns are to be determined, but they will be back late in the season, if at all.
“Yeah, I miss seeing Robert and Eloy,” Boston said. “I can’t wait to see the band back together again.”
Right-hander Michael Kopech (left hamstring strain) was eligible to come off the injured list for the Jays but is not ready.
“I still think he’s got a little pinch in there that’s holding him back some but he’s making progress,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Jose Abreu returned to the lineup after getting a day off before an off day “for physical and mental rest,” La Russa said.
“He plays at such a high level, puts so much responsibility on himself, you just wear the grey matter out. A day off was great, two in a row. He’s going to be himself. It’s just fair to refresh.”