PAWTUCKET – For Travis Shaw, the process of getting out of Double-A Portland began in earnest at last year’s Arizona Fall League.
“Last year was a fluke, that wasn’t me. I got so far away from my approach,” stated the 23-year-old Shaw prior to making his Triple-A debut with the PawSox Monday night.
The first baseman was referencing his 2013 numbers with the Sea Dogs, ones that consisted of a high strikeout total (117 whiffs in 444 at-bats), low batting average (.221 in 127 games) and a career low on-base percentage (.342).
Luckily for Shaw, who went 1-for-3 for Pawtucket in Monday’s 3-2 win over Gwinnett, the chance for atonement was at hand. Generally, players are running mainly on fumes when they dock in Arizona come early October, hence why front office types tend not to put stock in an individual’s performance. Given the rough season Shaw endured, he saw his stint in the desert as a prime chance to wash away past sins, which is what exactly took place.
In 17 AFL games, Shaw batted .361 with a .452 OBP, .705 slugging mark, five homers and 19 RBI. It was a stellar performance that restored his confidence, not to mention offer first-hand evidence of what can happen when he’s not pull happy, which he admits was the case with Portland last season.
“I got back to my approach, which is up the middle and the other way,” said Shaw, a lefty when he steps in the batter’s box but a right-handed thrower. “To go out and have success against some of the top guys in minor-league baseball was huge for me.
“Last I became completely one-dimensional and tried to hit home runs. That’s not me,” Shaw continued. “That was the first time that I had struggled for an extended period of time. Honestly looking back at it now, it made me a better player.”
PawSox manager Kevin Boles had Shaw in Portland last season.
“When guys have struggles like they did last year, they forget about who they are and start to have doubts or insecurities,” Boles said. “Every player has that, but knowing the ability Travis has, his performance in the Arizona Fall League let him know that he fit in. He is a quality talent and has a chance to be a major-league quality ballplayer. ”
The good times that started in Arizona continued in his second go-around against Eastern League pitching. Shaw left Portland among the league leaders in home runs (11), RBI (37), walks (29) and total bases (97). His .305 average in 47 Double-A games speaks volumes about a player who was determined not to spend a second consecutive season on the outside looking in at the Triple-A ranks.
“I was definitely on a mission to show that I could handle Double A because there have been questions that I couldn’t hit consistently at that level for the past year-and-a-half,” Shaw said. “I feel that I’m in a good place mentally and physically. It’s also nice to be out of Portland. I wanted to prove myself and get out of there as soon as possible.”
Shaw said he learned of his promotion on Monday morning in New Hampshire.
“They had my name on the bench, so I thought I was getting a random day off,” he said. “I was called in the office and told to come here.”
With Ryan Lavarnway providing the Red Sox with insurance at first base after Mike Napoli was placed on the disabled list over the weekend, Shaw’s promotion to Pawtucket raises the question regarding the organization’s depth at the position. The Red Sox have not had a legit first-base prospect since Lars Anderson and Anthony Rizzo, so we’re going back roughly five years.
Shaw was seen as a fringe prospect before suffering slippage last season. Now that he’s rebounded and now one level away from the majors, it seems the luster has officially returned.
“We’ve always liked his bat. He’s always been a guy who manages the strike zone, works counts and impacts the baseball to all fields,” said Boles. “It’s good to see him get this promotion because he’s earned it. He’s going to be in the lineup every day.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03