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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rafael Devers, despite a disappointing performance in the World Baseball Classic from an individual and a team standpoint, was all smiles upon returning to Red Sox camp on Friday.
Representing the Dominican Republic on an international stage for the first time is something Devers will never forget.
“It was a great experience, a really good experience for me,” Devers said. “I’m very happy that I had the opportunity to represent my country. The games were very, very intense, very motivational for me, and I felt happy to be able to represent my country.”
The Dominican Republic was favored by many to win the Classic but instead got knocked out of Pool D with a 2-2 record, losing to Venezuela and Puerto Rico. Devers, who served as the cleanup hitter and DH for a squad that had Manny Machado at third base, went 2-for-16 with two walks and no RBIs.
“Those things happen. I can go 0-for-20 or 0-for-30,” Devers said. “That’s baseball. For me, I’m confident about my ability and what I can do, the things that I can do on the field. I’m really calm. I’m not really thinking too much into it. It’s not like I went 2-for-16 and I forgot how to hit or anything like that. It just happened in that tournament. I still have the same confidence as before I left the camp.”
If the performance by Devers was forgettable, there were parts of the experience that the left-handed-hitting slugger will remember for a long time. What stood out the most was the electric crowd in Miami.
“There was a moment where I couldn’t hear anybody beside me,” Devers said. “That’s a really beautiful moment for us as players, when you have so many people cheering for you and be as loud as they were.”
Watching Machado — an elite defender at third base — go about his business was certainly a bonus for Devers.
“Of course I learned a lot from Manny Machado. He’s one of the best third basemen, if not the best third baseman, right now in the game,” Devers said. “Just watching him going about his business and playing, you learn a lot. It was a very good moment for me.”
The moments he got to bond with other stars from his country was another perk of the experience.
“It was a great experience to be able to share a clubhouse with those guys, with [Juan] Soto, with Machado, with Jeremy Peña. Those are guys that you would like to share your clubhouse with or your team with at any moment, and it was a really great experience for me,” Devers said.
Now that he is back in camp, the Red Sox need him to get the reps at third base that he missed while backing up Machado. Devers will start Saturday’s home game at the hot corner against the Orioles. After a day off Sunday when the Red Sox go to Clearwater to play the Phillies, Devers will play the next three days.
“Just for him to get his repetitions at third base is important for us. It’s very important,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “Today he took ground balls with [infield instructor] Carlos [Febles] on the back fields. As far as the at-bats, he’s probably readier than anyone else here. Repetitions at third base — just standing up over there for five or six innings, seven innings — is important for his conditioning too. Obviously we’ve got him here now, and we’ll make sure he’s ready for the season.”
While Devers already proved in the 2018 and ‘21 postseasons that he embraces playing on the big stage, the Classic was a different kind of special for the 26-year-old.
“It wasn’t the best one for him obviously, but to be around those guys and talk to them and the way he talks about those games, the intensity from pitch one all the way to the end, it’s a good learning experience,” Cora said. “It’s a fun one, and [he] checked that box. We’ll see what happens [next World Baseball Classic], but at least he can say he represented his country and now he’s with us.”