Andrew Benintendi has taken over for David Ortiz in one way: He is now the most enjoyable at-bat on the Red Sox. The must see.
Stylistically, Benintendi and Ortiz are -- obviously -- far apart. Big Papi had the size, that tremendous recoil and power.
But you never wanted to miss a pitch with Ortiz, and that’s the case with the young Sox left fielder, too -- even if what actually makes the at-bat alluring differs.
Benintendi was down in the count 0-and-2 in the top of the seventh Sunday. He served an outer-half Alex Wilson fastball into left field to tie the game at 3-3 with a huge two-out, RBI-single.
His swing was short and sweet as usual, his hands doing all the work as he perfectly went with the pitch.
Benintendi might not be showy like Ortiz. But a very high level of confidence is a shared trait.
Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis explained last season how he misjudged Benintendi at first.
Boston Red Sox
“You can tell he knows he can play, he knows he’s a good player. He’s not very arrogant about it,” Davis said. “When I first met him, I thought arrogant. I did. I’m going to tell you that. Spring training, came up for a game with us, got a hit. And I kind of in my judgmental way, thought arrogant. ‘Cause he was real quiet, didn’t say anything."
Benintendi knows people think he's off-putting sometimes.
“Being around him now? No," Davis said. "Good kid. I love him. I think he’s going to be a really good player. Offensively he’s got some power, he’s got some surprising power. But he’s got a beautiful swing. Not a whole lot you want to tamper with with that swing. But there’s still some things you can do, and I do and I mention it to him, and [assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez] does, to keep him consistent, to keep him in control.”
Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia or Xander Bogaerts might wind up the best hitter for average on the Red Sox this year. Maybe Benintendi takes the top mark. No matter, he’ll still be a more exciting at-bat.
There has always been a perception that lefties have prettier swings than righties. Logically, there’s no concrete reason that should be the case, yet, the idea passes the eye test. (Perhaps TV camera angles contribute.)
Benintendi's mechanics are classic.
“Lefty swing, when you find a nice lefty swing it’s pretty,” Davis said. “Because they pull, they go the other way. Lefty swings for some reason, it uses the whole field. Where you’ll find a lot of right-handed pull type hitters. Because, I don’t know, maybe it’s because they see more righties than left-handers, and when a lefty sees a lefty he’s more apt to try to stay in there and work the other way.”
Or, as was the case on Opening Day, drill a home run to right field, the front foot coming up on the followthrough (hey, Ortiz used to do that) as Benintendi showed off newfound strength.
Last season, before Benintendi bulked up this winter, Davis saw the potential for Benintendi’s power.
“He’s going to hit for power,” Davis said. “Who knows how many home runs might be a career high for him? But he should, with that swing, always hit for average. He should always hit for average.
“Everyone can go power happy. The biggest thing with him is, hey, let’s keep it simple as possible. Every time you go to the plate, you want to take good swings at pitches you can handle and make good contact. Leave it right there. Wherever the ball goes after you’ve done that, it goes, you know?”