Healthy Season Critical For Cecchini





BOSTON—With 49 steals in just 53 attempts entering the final day of the season, Garin Cecchini's mission was clear.

"I was saying, 'I'm going to get to 50. I'm going to get hit by a pitch, stand on the plate—I don't care how I'm going to get on base, but I'm going to get on base more than two times and I'm going to get to 50. I may get thrown out one time but I won't get thrown out two times,'" he said. "I got thrown out two times."

However, he walked three times and went 2-for-4 on stolen base attempts to finish with 51 steals. Still, that wasn't the third baseman's biggest accomplishment of 2012. Nor was his .305/.394/.433 line (with four homers and 38 doubles) with low Class A Greenville.

Instead, the defining stat was the 118 games he played, a considerable departure from a high school senior year that was lost to a torn ACL and a 2011 pro debut at short-season Lowell that ended after a month due to a broken wrist.

"It's the toughest thing to do but the most important thing to do, to stay on the field, get in as much development as possible to try to become a big leaguer," Cecchini said.

In so doing, Cecchini demonstrated the advanced plate approach that led the Sox to sign him as a 2010 fourth-rounder to a slot-busting bonus of $1.31 million. He controlled the strike zone and showed a terrific understanding of his swing, along with excellent instincts on the bases and in the field.

"His approach is unbelievable. He stays up the middle, keeps his hands inside the baseball and drives the ball the other way," Greenville manager Carlos Febles said. "And he drives the pitch in. Last year he had an issue with fastballs in. This year, that hasn't been the case.

"I see him more as a gap hitter, but I tell you what—(Kevin) Youkilis never hit more than eight homers in the minor leagues. He's only 21. He has a great swing. I wouldn't be surprised if he became a guy who could hit 15, 20 homers."

SOX YARNS

• Sox minor league catcher Jayson Hernandez, a Jersey Shore native, set up a charity to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy at grandslamforsandy.org.

• General manager Ben Cherington said Xander Bogaerts will attend big league spring training.