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With the Red Sox needing upgrades behind the plate, Reese McGuire is putting on a strong audition for the job

The Boston Globe 9/28/2022 Peter Abraham
Reese McGuire launched a three-run homer against the Yankees last week. © Elsa Reese McGuire launched a three-run homer against the Yankees last week.

Reese McGuire has hit .353 with a .927 OPS in 31 games since the Red Sox acquired him from the White Sox on Aug. 1.

It’s a small sample size, one strongly influenced by a wholly unsustainable .422 batting average on balls in play. McGuire was a .241 hitter with a .645 OPS before he joined the Red Sox.

So while he’s not suddenly morphing into Mike Piazza, McGuire is showing the franchise that perhaps he’s a better hitter than anybody thought.

“I feel like consistent playing time has helped,” McGuire said Tuesday. “I got off to a good start and stayed in rhythm. I feel good coming to the ballpark every day and getting into my routine.”

The Red Sox have a long list of roster improvements to make this offseason, including at catcher. But a combination of the lefthanded-hitting McGuire and righthanded-hitting Connor Wong would work at least defensively and not cost much.

“We feel very comfortable with [McGuire] behind the plate,” manager Alex Cora said. “The way he moves and his arm is really good … we’ll see how it goes.”

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At 27, McGuire feels he’s ready to be more than a backup. A first-round pick of the Pirates in 2013, he has been traded three times since. His 84 games played this season mark a career high.

“It’s always been a goal to be a starter and finishing the season strong will help boost my confidence going into the offseason,” McGuire said. “I want to get stronger and better. I’m looking forward to spring training.”

McGuire said catching coach Jason Varitek helped make his transition to a new team easier.

“It’s been awesome since Day One,” McGuire said. “We’re always talking baseball in the dugout, whether I’m playing or Wong is catching. He’s in your ear talking ball and teaching us little things.

“His preparation is so detailed. I’m looking forward to learning more from him.”

The Sox prefer their catchers to use a stance with their right knee down, believing that aids in pitch framing. McGuire has committed to it and is working on being quicker with his throws.

“When you’re a catcher everything is a work in progress,” he said. “But it’s getting there.”

Out of harm’s way

With Hurricane Ian bearing down on the west coast of Florida, the Red Sox closed their facility at Fort Myers.

The team’s Fall Performance Program workouts are scheduled to start on Monday, which may still be the case. But minor league players invited to camp were asked not to arrive early, assistant general manager Eddie Romero said.

Several of the Sox major league players — Christian Arroyo, Kutter Crawford, and Tyler Danish among them — have homes in the storm’s path.

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Chris Sale, who lives in the Fort Myers area, remains scheduled to join the team on Monday for the final series of the season. But those plans could change if he is dealing with storm damage.

Sale is out for the season with broken bones in his left hand and right wrist and hasn’t been around the team in two months.

Still trying

Eric Hosmer, who last played on Aug. 20, is scheduled to take live batting practice on Wednesday.

“We’ll go from there,” Cora said. “The goal is for him to be activated before the season is over.”

Hosmer played in 12 games for the Sox after being acquired from the Padres on Aug. 2, then went on the injured list with a strained lower back.

There is seemingly little to be gained by playing Hosmer in the final days of the season other than to demonstrate to other teams that he is healthy should his name arise in trade talks.

Trevor Story, out since Sept. 19 with a bruised left heel, also will hit.

He is not running well but the Sox are hopeful Story will play a game or two in the final series of the season.

Story looks fine in batting practice but has not been able to play defense or run the bases.

Hosmer and Story will face Crawford, who is on the IL with a right shoulder impingement. Crawford will not be activated before the end of the season, but he has made good progress and the team wants to see him face hitters before going into the offseason.

“That will be it for him,” Cora said.

Eovaldi’s return looms

The Sox are being oddly evasive about when Nate Eovaldi will return, but it is likely to be Thursday afternoon. That would allow him to make two starts before the season ends … The pre-game ceremonies included first pitches being thrown out by Harvard president Lawrence Bacow and Crimson football coach Tim Murphy, who is in his 29th season. The Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones followed with a lovely a cappella version of the national anthem … David Ortiz will be at Fenway on Wednesday night to join pregame ceremonies recognizing members of Boston’s Hispanic community. Spanish-language broadcaster Junior Pepén will announce the lineups in Spanish.

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