Prospect Benintendi debuts in place of Bradley

With center fielder a late scratch, touted hitter gets taste of bigs, collects two knocks

Prospect Benintendi debuts in place of Bradley

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Andrew Benintendi admits he didn't know quite what to say or how to act when he had the opportunity to share a dugout and a clubhouse with the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts for a one-day stint on Friday.

But when it got time to get in the batter's box, Benintendi did what has made him such a fast-rising Red Sox prospect: He squared up the baseball.

Making his first appearance in Major League camp for the team that took him seventh overall in the Draft just nine short months ago, Benintendi lined a single to left in his first at-bat of an 8-6 loss to the Twins. He also roped a hard single to right and scored a run in the seventh inning.

The diminutive center fielder went 2-for-3 in his first taste of life with a Major League team.

"In my first one, I hit a changeup to left field," said Benintendi. "I thought I stayed on it pretty well. Hit a single my third at-bat. So overall I think I felt pretty comfortable. It was a pretty good day."

Playing for Arkansas last season, Benintendi won just about every major award he was eligible for, including the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser Trophy. He is ranked 25th by MLBPipeline.com among all prospects, and No. 3 in the Red Sox's farm system.

Top Prospects: Benintendi, BOS

Friday gave Benintendi the type of joy that exceeds trophies and accolades.

"It was a dream come true," Benintendi said. "All the guys were really nice. They brought me in. They said just to go out there and play hard and have fun and let it out. That's what I did."

Benintendi had found out he would be coming over as a Minor League extra on Thursday, and he was excited about the fact his parents were already in town and would be able to watch the game.

But the story got better on Friday, when Jackie Bradley Jr. was scratched an hour before game with a minor injury (right forearm soreness), and Benintendi was able to start in center field while batting eighth.

"I didn't know I was going to start, but when I walked into the dugout, I knew for sure, so it was a pleasant surprise," Benintendi said.

As excited as he was to be starting for the Red Sox, Benintendi wasn't bold enough to start striking up conversations with players he's been watching on television for years.

"I was kind of keeping to myself, just trying to get a feel for what I should be doing," Benintendi said. "They came up and talked to me, and I think that made me more comfortable on the field, which is always a plus."

Just three Spring Trainings ago, Betts was the hot prospect who was called over a few times as an "extra." So perhaps it wasn't surprising that he was the player who made Benintendi feel the most comfortable.

"He came up to me and was talking to me about college," Benintendi said. "He told me he was going to go to Tennessee in the SEC. He's a great guy."

"For the three at-bats [we saw], obviously he has a good looking swing," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Even if he doesn't get a couple of base hits, which, that was the case today, it's still a compact swing. You see the bat path. He is a good-looking hitter."

Listed perhaps generously at 5-foot-10, Benintendi belted 11 homers in 198 at-bats in the Minor Leagues after signing last June. It remains to be seen how much more he will grow into his slight frame, or how much he needs to.

"I put on about five pounds," Benintendi said. "I just focused on what I was eating, trying to get my lower body stronger. I did, and I'm happy with that."

Kyle Schwarber was drafted by the Cubs in 2014 and was contributing at the big league level in '15. But given the depth the Red Sox have in the outfield, it might be bold to think Benintendi will make his debut this season.

"We'll see," Benintendi said. "My job is just to go out there and play hard every day. It's a process. I'm going to trust in the process and the people who make those decisions. All I can do is control what I can control and go out there and play hard every day."

And after getting to first base on that first hit, Benintendi got to share the bag with Twins first baseman Joe Mauer.

"You put a good swing on it," Mauer told Benintendi.

Benintendi has heard that often throughout his baseball life.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.