BOSTON – The sight of Josh Reddick sporting a green and gold Oakland A’s uniform inside Fenway Park Monday night only further augments the idea that not every drafted-and-developed Red Sox type has a seat waiting for him at the parent club’s table.
As Pawtucket Red Sox pitching coach Rich Sauveur noted the day after Michael Bowden, who like Reddick was one time viewed as a promising cornerstone, was traded to the Chicago Cubs, “I don’t want to knock the other major league teams because they are major league teams, but with the Boston Red Sox, it’s a tough spot to get to the big leagues because of all the talent up there.”
To take Sauveur’s dead-on quote a step further, the idea of being a labeled a promising sort in Boston’s system is almost like arriving to a fork in the road. In one direction, there’s the road that Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Bard have taken – three players who have found permanent jobs with the Red Sox upon completing their minor league exercise.
Then there’s the other direction, one set aside for the Reddicks and Bowdens of the landscape. For this particular brand of Red Sox prospect, the GPS doesn’t point towards Fenway Park’s address, rather at the one for some other big league stadium.
Like Bowden, Reddick was able to climb all the way to the top of the farm system. Like Bowden, Reddick found out that taking that final, most important step was an exercise coded in frustration.
Whether it was his due to his inability to work the count and draw enough walks, Reddick was never able to completely earn the trust to become Boston’s everyday right fielder.
Instead, the 25-year-old morphed into a trade chip, a player that the Red Sox were more than willing to dangle to see if they could land something worthwhile in return. This past offseason saw Boston find a suitable dance partner as Oakland accepted Reddick in exchange for oft-injured closer Andrew Bailey.
Reddick spoke about the opportunity he has with the A’s, one that would have never materialized had he remained property of the Red Sox.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin continues to stick with Reddick as the team’s No. 3 hitter despite the player compiling numbers – six RBI in 22 games entering Monday – that would open the door to a possible demotion in the lineup or even worse, a trip to Triple-A.
“Last year there were times, even during the middle of the games, that if I was struggling, I would think that I’m on my way [to Pawtucket],” he said. “It’s a lot easier to come to [Oakland] knowing that every day when I look in the lineup, my name will be there. That feeling is huge.”
Naturally, Reddick envisioned himself as a Boston mainstay. Back in 2009, Baseball America, the unofficial Bible of minor league baseball, took the opportunity to peer into the future at what the 2012 Boston lineup might look like. Sure enough, Reddick was listed at club’s starting right fielder, with Bowden entrenched as the No. 5 starter.
To take it a step further, Baseball America saw fit to name Luis Exposito as Boston’s 2012 catcher with Jed Lowrie at shortstop. Like Reddick and Bowden, Exposito and Lowrie are plying their trade elsewhere.
As time wore on and regular playing time with Boston was anything but a given,
Reddick says he warmed up to the idea that a fresh start was something he needed in order to obtain some sort of stability in his career.
“Even coming up through [the minors], you would hear a lot of talk, especially when you look at the guys you played against and know you have much better numbers than them,” Reddick said. “That’s how it is with the Red Sox. In some instances, they’re going to make some people have this place serve as home for their careers.”
In the same token, being a prospect in a high-profile organization can open a lot of doors – providing the player-in-question is able to showcase his talents during the window of playing time that’s presented.
“If you can at least make it to the big leagues with the Red Sox or say the Yankees, you can pretty much guarantee yourself a starting job somewhere,” Reddick noted.
“You come up here with one club, you’re just not playing for that one club, you’re playing for the rest of them.
“When the Red Sox traded me, [Red Sox general manager] Ben Cherington told me that [Oakland counterpart] Billy [Beane] has been asking about me for the last few years.
It’s that when Theo [Esptein] was here, he wasn’t willing to give me up,” Reddick continued. “In this game sometimes things work out for the better, sometimes they work out for the worse. I’m happy to say that everything worked toward my benefit.”
Monday saw Reddick walk into the weight room at Fenway Park only to discover that Lars Anderson, one of his former Red Sox minor league brother-in-arms, was already hard at work. Seeing Reddick in a different uniform serves as a sterling reminder of what awaits Anderson upon receiving his liberation from Boston, which remains to be seen.
“He told me he’s made that adjustment,” said Reddick about Anderson coming to terms with his Red Sox tenure. “Whether he gets an opportunity some place else as a first baseman or a left fielder, as long as he can turn the bat on the ball, he’s going to be just fine.”
Reddick admitted he felt some butterflies prior to his first appearance as a visiting player at Fenway Park. A polite applause greeted him in the top of the first inning, yet another reminder that it may have not worked out for Reddick in Boston, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.