Jeff Bianchi Hopes to Help Red Sox

Jeff Bianchi

Defensively speaking, the Boston Red Sox might just have one of the best MLB infielders stashed away in the upper Minors.
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Lifetime, 28-year-old PawSox utility man Jeff Bianchi might be a .216 hitter in 162 big league games, but it is his defense that gives him pride.

Defense and versatility landed jeff bianchiBianchi a job with the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers, only spending time in the Minor Leagues to rehab an injury.

In the field, he plays second base, third base, shortstop and left field and plays them well. Playing in just 100 games in 2013, he posted the ninth highest defensive WAR in the National League (2.0). While he was not creating many runs, he prevented them which was good enough for the Brewers.
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“I think defense is very important,” he said. “I take pride in going out every day and getting my work in. I’m just trying to get better every day. I’ve been bouncing around from short, to second, to third and in the outfield. I got a start at first recently.”

“Yeah, guys who can do it nowadays, it’s a very valuable tool on a ballclub,” Bianchi said of versatility. “Take being in Milwaukee for example, if you can play a couple of different positions and play them well, you have a chance to stick around for a while. I’m trying to get reps at different positions and do what I can to help this team.”

Even with a strong performance this spring, Bianchi did not have much of a chance to make the Red Sox team this year because there was not a utility job up for grabs. For now, he is working a number of different positions, but is usually in the PawSox lineup—somewhere.
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“I just need to take it a day at a time.” Bianchi said. “If you start looking too far ahead, you start playing some mind games. Right now, there’s a reason why I’m here and it’s for me to get better. Everyone wants to get to the big leagues, but the fact of the matter is I’m here so I have to make the best of my opportunity.”

While Bianchi did not get much of a shot to make the team out of the gate, he is confident that he could contribute to the Red Sox at one point this season. He picked Boston as a place to contribute for one simple reason.
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“It feels great to come over to an organization like this,” he said. “It’s been a good transition so far. I mean, here we want to win and so far we’re doing it. It’s just a great organization, I’m happy to be here.”

Matt Spring has Big League Ambitions

Matt Spring

Minor Leaguers come and go, but it will take a lot more than age for PawSox catcher Matt Spring to give up on the game he loves.

At 30 years old, he enters his his 12th pro season at the highest level to date—AAA.

Spring has just 17 career games in AAA to his credit at this point in his career, but he looks tomatt spring be in the mix of PawSox catchers this year that includes big league veteran Humberto Quintero and top prospect Blake Swihart.
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As a result, he starts the year on the seven-day Disabled List and while he may not be concussed, it is a way for the PawSox to keep extra depth behind the plate.

It may be tough for him to find playing time at times given the depth the team has behind the backstop, but if anything happens at the big league level, he is sure to see more reps behind the plate in Pawtucket.
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“Whenever you can get your bat in the lineup, that’s what you want to do,” Spring told Yawkey Way Report at PawSox media day. “So whether it be first base, left field or whatever, I’ll take at-bats when they come.”

“That’s the biggest thing, taking advantage of those opportunities when you do get to play. Just lead by example for some of these younger guys who are obviously trying to do the same thing as me—trying to make it to the big leagues,” he added.

In addition to being a catcher with some pop (eight home runs in 43 games last year), Spring is a guy who the organization values as a mentor, someone who can help up-and-coming players.
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Headed into the year, Spring received an invite to big league Spring Training and capitalized on the opportunity by going six-for-14 with three doubles and a homer in 13 games.

“It’s a good opportunity to go to Major League camp and I just had to take advantage of it,” he said. “My mentality may have been a little bit different, making sure I came in ready to go and everything like that.”

Each and every year, Spring looks to get better and he took a little bit different of an approach this off season.

“I ate a lot healthier,” he said. “I tried to change my approach—instead of just getting strong I leaned out.”

Power has always been a huge part of his game, but he is not really concerned about hitting home runs, although they do come with being a strong catcher.

As a catcher, Spring plays one of the few positions where defense has more worth than offense and although this is not his first time around the rodeo, he still works to improve defensively.

“That’s the biggest thing—especially coming into Spring Training,” said Spring. “Showing the team what to do defensively—you know it’s a defensive first position so being ready to go on the defensive side is important.”
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Many guys in the high minors get a cup of coffee in the majors, not contributing much of anything at the top level before they are sent down to never make it back up again. Spring has yet to have the opportunity to play Major League Baseball yet, but surely even one game would mean a lot to him.

“Obviously you want to be doing whatever you can to make it to the big leagues and you know if playing left field or first base is what will get me there, then that’s great.”

Professionally, Spring has over 500 games catching and 33 games at first base—he occasionally takes reps at DH but would play anywhere if it came down it.

A player and mentor, perhaps there is the chance fans will see Coach Spring at some point, although he still has plenty of years ahead of him playing the game.
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“You never know, I mean obviously that’s something I have to talk about with my family,” he said. “It’s something I’ve thought about and something that’s definitely my reputation as a clubhouse guy and my success off the field would definitely help me get a job.”