Bobby Dalbec obviously hasn’t got off to the start he wanted to this season.
The Red Sox first baseman entered Saturday with numbers that were brutal to look at – a slash line of .146/.228/.220, an OPS of .448.
After a hot second half to his rookie season that culminated with 21 doubles and 25 homers, Dalbec had just one of each through his first 29 games this season.
Something had to change. Dalbec knew it, and so he’s starting to mix it up. And one change had nothing to do with his hitting approach or baseball whatsoever.
He’s trying to grow a mustache.
Five days after Red Sox manager Alex Cora shaved his beard, a superstitious act to try to get his team going, Dalbec was seemingly inspired. After the Red Sox routed the Rangers with an 11-3 victory, Dalbec confirmed the mustache experiment, which is certainly in its infant stages.
“Absolutely, it is,” Dalbec told NESN. “I know it doesn’t come in very thick but it’ll come in a couple months if I keep it rolling.”
Dalbec will hope Saturday is the beginning of something great. The first baseman recorded his first multi-hit game since April 25 with two hits as he reached base three times in the win. He hit a go-ahead RBI single in the second – giving the Sox a lead they would never relent – before hitting a leadoff double in the fourth on the first pitch. Even his fly out in the ninth – which traveled 406 feet – was well-hit and another encouraging sign.
Dalbec’s struggles compounded in the weeks since that last multi-hit game, as he went 2-for-26 with 13 strikes over that stretch entering Saturday.
Dalbec got some time this week to work some things out. In addition to off days on Monday and Thursday, he didn’t start either game this week in Atlanta – he pinch-hit on Tuesday, didn’t play Wednesday – and pinch-hit again late in Friday’s win. The work didn’t stop behind the scenes and it translated with a big night when he returned to the starting lineup Saturday.
“It feels good,” Dalbec told NESN. “I haven’t been playing much recently, so I’m taking a lot of swings, a lot of early work, so it feels good. I’m just trying to swing through it, figure it out, so I feel like I made some good strides the last few days. I felt pretty good.”
He also got some valuable advice from a player who used to occupy his position. Kevin Millar, who played three seasons in Boston and was a fixture of the 2004 World Series team, is making his NESN broadcast debut this weekend in Texas and had a conversation with Dalbec before one of the games.
The 26-year-old Dalbec – still young in his career and learning not only how to be an everyday big leaguer but dealing with the pressures of playing in Boston – took it to heart as he continues his own ongoing development.
“He just told me, it’s early,” Dalbec told NESN. “Even though it feels like it’s not and all the pressure that comes with playing in Boston and kind of how to handle that and just take it one day at a time and one pitch at a time. I think that’s what he was really good at and something I’m striving to be better at.”