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Friday, July 3, 2015

Who in the world is Alejandro De Aza, and what's he doing saving the Red Sox season?

Hand it to Ben: De Aza is a find.

Fans shrugged their shoulders and scratched their heads when the Red Sox responded to their worst start in a half-century by trading for a .214-hitting outfielder on June 3, but nobody is questioning the pickup of Alejandro De Aza for minor league pitcher Joe Gunkel now.

The failure of Rusney Castillo in his first extended MLB trial and an injury to Hanley Ramirez opened up left- and right-field spots for De Aza in the starting lineup, and the 31-year-old Orioles castaway has become one of the hottest hitters in baseball. 

In 23 games with Boston, during which the Sox offense has sprung to life, De Aza is batting .338 with a 1.034 OPS. On the recently completed roadtrip to Florida and Toronto, he went an insane 12-for-26 with 12 runs scored, 3 triples, 2 homers, and 8 RBI.

Boston was 24-30 when De Aza was acquired, and has gone 13-10 with him in the lineup. There is no denying he has provided a spark.

Thursday's 12-6 victory over Toronto, which gave the Red Sox a season-reviving 5-2 record on the trip, marked another big night for De Aza -- 4 RBI on a single, double, and triple while bating eighth. Throw in great defense and experience at all three outfield spots, and you have a guy who it will be tough to remove from the lineup even if Shane Victorino is about to come off the disabled list and Ramirez is healthy.

Should Victorino start over De Aza? 

De Aza has been a solid player for the last five-plus years, producing a  .749 OPS with his dependable glove and speed on the bases while usually starting for the White Sox and Orioles. He's also shown flashes of power, with 17 homers for Chicago in 2013. 

The lefty-swinging Dominican doesn't have the peak numbers of a Victorino or Ramirez, but if the latter's defense and attitude stay shaky and the former can't stay healthy, De Aza may be a difference maker as Boston seeks to stay in a tight AL East race.

"I'm not saying De Aza is going to come in here and platoon in left with Hanley," manager John Farrell told reporters after the trade. "But at the same time we've got a veteran, a guy who can run, a guy that can play all three outfield positions. We were able to acquire a veteran guy who has some success and track record."

It is unlikely De Aza can continue his torrid production, but he deserves to stay in the lineup while he's white-hot and the Red Sox are winning.   

A familiar sight in June: Alejandro is on again.

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