Still a rookie, Benintendi not seen as one by Sox

Outfielder, 22, could win AL award after impressing teammates in brief 2016 stint

Still a rookie, Benintendi not seen as one by Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- He is here from the beginning this season, and Andrew Benintendi could make it one to remember.

No Red Sox player has won the American League Rookie of the Year Award since Dustin Pedroia 10 years ago. And perhaps no Boston player was as well-positioned to win the award in the last decade as Benintendi is now.

"I don't think about it at all," Benintendi said. "I think that's all for other people to look at. That's all talk. I've just got to go out and play well. That's what it comes down to. I don't pay attention to that and don't let it get to me."

Benintendi named No. 1 prospect

That's exactly the kind of attitude that can lead to a Rookie of the Year season, as Pedroia knows full well.

"He acts 32," Pedroia of the 22-year-old outfielder, who's ranked as baseball's No. 1 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com. "Just the presence he has, he's always under control. He controls his at-bats. He's going to be good for a long time."

The left-handed-hitting outfielder, who went 0-for-2 with a walk while batting second in Friday's 3-2 loss to the Mets, doesn't have much of a young feel to him.

"He carries himself extremely well," said Red Sox lefty David Price. "He doesn't ever look overwhelmed. Not once did he ever have the deer in the headlights look last year, whether it was in the field, in the box, in the clubhouse, in the dugout. He knows he belongs here. It's going to be fun to watch."

Benintendi had many big hits after his callup straight from Double-A last August, including a homer in his first career postseason at-bat in Game 1 of the AL Division Series at Cleveland.

Benintendi's solo homer to right

The reason Benintendi is still considered a rookie is because he had 105 at-bats, 25 lower than the threshold.

In truth, Price stopped thinking of Benintendi as a rookie during the prospect's first at-bat in his first Major League start on Aug. 3 at Seattle. Facing Hisashi Iwakuma, Benintendi stayed back and laced a single to left in the third inning.

"Junkball righty pitching, and the pitch is probably more in than it is away, and he shoots it to left," said Price. "That right there tells you something, doing that in your first big league action, when everybody wants to get the head out in their first couple of at-bats and do something special that way.

"To see him do that on a pitch that he could have got the head out on to take that single to left, that tells you he's not 22 in that box. He's well beyond his years."

Though he is a natural center fielder, Benintendi will again guard the Green Monster this season in Boston's talented outfield that also includes Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts.

Left field has been a position of legends for the Red Sox, from Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski to Jim Rice to Manny Ramirez.

"Jim Rice told me last year, 'Left fielders are people who hit home runs, so you have some shoes to fill,'" said Benintendi. "I'll just try to go in and do as best I can."

In truth, Benintendi appears more on the track of left-handed hitters who used an inside-out swing to put up big batting average and doubles while playing at Fenway Park. Fred Lynn and Wade Boggs are two that come to mind.

"I love hitting in Fenway," said Benintendi. "You hit a popup and sometimes it's off the wall where it would be an out somewhere else."

The No. 7 pick in the 2015 Draft out of Arkansas, Benintendi could emerge into a 15-20-homer type of guy, or perhaps even a few more.

"Still working," Benintendi said. "I'm still getting bigger and stronger. Definitely looking forward to putting on some muscle and hitting balls farther."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.