Originally created 04/28/01

Red Sox's top prospect takes over at third base



The news hit GreenJackets third baseman Justin Sherrod like a freight train.

With the arrival of the Red Sox's top prospect, Tony Blanco, on Thursday, Sherrod went from everyday player to backup utility man, literally overnight.

The 23-year-old Sherrod started in 20 of the Jackets' first 22 games this season. But now that Blanco has taken up residence at third base, Sherrod suddenly finds himself as the odd-man out.

"It kind of caught me off guard because they never said anything about what was going to happen," said Sherrod, Boston's 19th-round pick last year out of Rollins College. "I was in the gym working out (Thursday) when (trainer Curt Wilson) told me Blanco was here. It was like a dagger, man. I didn't know he was coming."

Rated the third-best prospect in the Red Sox farm system by Baseball America, Blanco won't see many days off. The Red Sox want the 19-year-old Dominican to play every day, as long as he's healthy.

For Sherrod, that means only an occasional start at third base. He also can play all three outfield positions, first base and could even fill in at either second base or shortstop. But several other players are in the same boat, stuck behind prospects and seeing limited playing time.

He understands Boston's mandate but said it doesn't make it any easier.

Sherrod is considered one of the hardest-working players on the club. He spends countless hours in the gym and puts in an inordinate amount of time taking extra swings in the batting cage and off the tee with hitting instructor Ino Guerrero.

"It's not up to me, no matter how well I hit," Sherrod said. "We've got all these prospects on this club who are going to be in there every day, and until you prove yourself as a prospect, you're going to be the guy not getting any playing time."

Jackets manager Mike Boulanger certainly feels for Sherrod.

"He's a great kid; I can't say a bad thing about him," Boulanger said. "It's just that the organization wants Tony to play, and that's understandable."

Sherrod also knows he hasn't helped his cause with his slow start at the plate this season. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is batting .194 with two home runs and seven RBI in 67 at-bats.

But with Blanco in the mix, it probably wouldn't have mattered if he was hitting .394.

"What it boils down to is what the Red Sox want," Sherrod said. "I've just got to come out and work hard every day and be ready to go when I do get in there. That's all I can do."

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or robm99@hotmail.com.