Red Sox searching for the best fit for Shaw

Youngster pushing Sandoval, Castillo for playing time

Red Sox searching for the best fit for Shaw

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With two weeks left before Opening Day, Travis Shaw is making it clear that he deserves more playing time. The question is how much that will impact third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who had a tough first season in Boston and has four years left on his $95-million contract.

"[Shaw] could be competing for regular at-bats," Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Saturday's game.

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Sandoval did his part to keep his job in Saturday's 3-1, rain-shortened win over the Cardinals, belting a two-run homer to center and ripping a single to left.

Sandoval's two-run homer

After the game, Farrell was asked if Sandoval knows he needs to prove he should be the starting third baseman.

"I think he's very well aware of it," said Farrell. "There is no denying his work, the amount of work he's putting in, the intensity in which that work is being carried [out]. And as he's aware, the work has to translate to performance, for any and all of us. He understands this is about putting the best team on the field from Day 1. And games in April are equally important to every other time of the year, and it's our job to get out of the gate with the best team on the field."

Shaw has raised the stakes by following up a strong finish to his rookie season (13 homers in his final 226 at-bats) by hitting .419 (13-for-31) with two doubles, two homers and nine RBIs thus far in Grapefruit League action.

The left-handed hitter is a first baseman by trade, but Hanley Ramirez seems to have that position locked down.

Shaw has played a lot of third base in camp, which at least opens the possibility he could unseat Sandoval.

The Red Sox are playing on Florida's East Coast for three straight days, beginning on Sunday -- and Shaw is on the travel roster for each game. He will likely play left field in at least one of the games. Rusney Castillo, the player perceived as the front-runner for that position, also still needs to prove himself.

If Sandoval and Castillo do enough to hold down their positions, Shaw could play a hybrid role and get at-bats at a variety of spots in the lineup.

"The outline to it is becoming a little bit clearer," said Farrell. "But I want to be clear also that I don't want to limit him, either. I don't want to limit him in the sense that, is he just a corner/utility player? There could be the potential for more here. We're not in a place in Spring Training where we're going to shut that down."

Shaw's two-run homer

Farrell was asked directly if Shaw could be competing for a regular spot at just one position, rather than bouncing around.

"Well, I'm not going to say that it's only one -- but we've got 2 1/2 weeks to go here," said Farrell. "He's done a very good job to date and he's played, I think, a solid third base. We do want to see him in left field to get a bigger feel for that in some of the bigger ballparks that we're going to be over in Jupiter with, as well as in Port St. Lucie, so we need to get a feel for [his] range in left field, as well.

"I don't want to pin him into a corner. I understand and respect the questions, but we want his bat [to] contribute [more] than maybe ... a regular utility or backup bench player."

Shaw has said numerous times during camp that his goal is to make it hard for the team's decision-makers to keep him out of the lineup.

He has already accomplished that goal.

Ian Browne is a reporter for 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.