Sox second baseman Mark Belhorn, who inured his thumb in a game against the Yankees on Sunday, was subsequently placed on the DL. At the time, Belhorn was batting a paltry .216 - the lowest batting average of any everyday second baseman in the league. That lowly average can largely be attributed to the fact that Belhorn has a whopping 109 strike outs in just 85 games. Amazingly, Belhorn has managed to whif a phenomenal 38% of the time he's come to the plate. With only 61 hits to his credit, Belhorn was well on his way easily shattering his own club record of 177 strike outs in a single season. That is certainly not the kind of team record that any player wants to be remembered for. Being in both first and second place on that ignominious list would be quite a dishonor. A free agent at season's end, it's hard to imagine him returning to the team next year.
To replace Belhorn at second base, it's been reported that the Sox have acquired Kansas City infielder, Tony Graffanino. Graffanino, who played all four infield positions for the Royals this year while batting .298, will likely split time with recently acquired utility man, Alex Cora. Unfortunately, Cora, a lifetime .242 hitter, has an even lower average than Belhorn this season, hitting only .205. Clearly, he is not the longterm solution.
That begs the question; who will be the Sox starting second baseman in 2006? In late June, the organization promoted young second base prospect Dustin Pedroia to Pawtucket, and it's believed they may promote him once again in September. Management would like to assess his skills at the major league level. Pedroia, who was just drafted last year, is widely admired within the organization and is heralded as the second baseman of the future. Many believe he could be ready for a full time role as soon as next season.
The Sox sure could use some stability at the position. Belhorn is in his second season at the sack, and before him Todd Walker had the reigns for just one year. Jose Offerman was the last player to hold the position for at least three consecutive seasons ('99-'01), and prior to that you have to go all the way back to Jody Reed to find a player who held the position longer ('89-'92). Pedrioia has the potential to anchor the middle infield spot for years to come, and so this may be the last we'll see of Mark Belhorn in a Sox uniform. Most will say good riddance.
After struggling mightily throughout last year's playoff run, Belhorn's bat finally came alive against the Yankees, contributing to the team's historic comeback against the Bombers. Prior to that, fans had been calling for his head, or least his benching. And after struggling so much again this year, most fans turned against him once more. It's too bad it's worked out this way. Belhorn, known for his quiet and steady demeanor, was born in Boston and could have been a local favorite - if he'd been more consistent. Actually, he has been consistent, but it's just been the wrong kind of consistency.
Just wait until September, Sox fans. We may get a peak of what's in store for the future at second base. Dustin Pedroia could make us all forget about Mark Belhorn, and Todd Walker, Rey Sanchez, Jose Offerman, Mike Benjamin, Jeff Frye, Luis Alicea and on, and on, and on.
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