Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bates makes most of big-league stint

Aaron Bates will spend the next couple of days in Kennebunkport, Maine, taking a breather with his girlfriend and getting a chance to reflect on his whirlwind week in the major leagues -- a week he couldn't have capped any better than he did on Sunday.

Bates singled and doubled twice against Kansas City on Sunday, collecting as many hits as the Royals' entire offense did against Josh Beckett. It helped that Bates had hit against Kansas City starting pitcher Bruce Chen in Puerto Rico over the winter; he doubled to left field in the second inning and doubled to center field to knock Chen from the game in the fourth.

"He's got good stuff," Bates said. "You just try to get a good pitch up in the zone and put a good swing on it."

Bates' two doubles actually came on offspeed pitches -- he yanked a changeup away into the left-field corner and then squared up a curveball and launched it off the center-field fence.

"He certainly is a strong kid, and he's got some pull power," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "You could tell he felt good about himself today. He hits the ball to center, hits two balls to right, pulls a ball down the left-field line -- when you use the whole field and you hit the ball square like that, you're feeling pretty good."

The slick-fielding first baseman almost certainly will be shipped back to Triple-A Pawtucket in order to make room for Clay Buchholz on Friday -- the highly touted prospect will make a spot start in Toronto, Francona said, to keep the rotation in order coming out of the All-Star break -- before third baseman Mike Lowell is activated from the disabled list on Saturday.

He'd gone hitless in his first six at-bats in the major leagues, striking out four times. He then collected his first major-league hit on Saturday and followed that up with three hits Sunday -- and he'll leave with a .364 batting average to his credit.

But his four hits aren't going to be what he remembers most about his cup of coffee in the major leagues.

"I've been fortunate to be around some of the best players in the game," he said. "You've got six All-Stars on this team. You just try and learn as much as you can, be a sponge. These guys know what it takes to get ready to play every day. They know their bodies, and they know what they have to do. That's what you've got to look at as far as that goes -- the routines they do every day to get ready to play. I tried to pick some guys' brains about at the plate, what they're thinking, and (Dave Magadan), our hitting coach, has been great with me. Sometimes I think I'm asking too many questions because I'm just trying to learn as much as I can while I'm here."

Said Magadan, "He asks all the right questions, gets all his work done and wasn't intimidated at all."

Red Sox owner John Henry stuck his head into the Red Sox locker room to offer his congratulations while Bates was chatting with reporters. He wasn't the only one impressed.

"Especially as a young guy, it's nice to see him get going," All-Star left fielder Jason Bay said. "He came up here for a reason. He can hit."

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