From the ashes of every tragedy, something good can arise.

It’s still too soon to call Pablo Sandoval‘s Boston Red Sox career a tragedy. But it’s past time to call Travis Shaw something good.

Since being thrust into the spotlight by Sandoval’s embarrassing benching and subsequent injury issues, Shaw has emerged from obscurity to become a budding star for Boston.

Shaw went 2-for-4 with a home run Sunday in the Red Sox’s 8-7 victory over the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. He’s now hitting .322 on the season with a .923 OPS, three homers and 17 RBI.

It’s early, to apply the obligatory caveat, but the Sox have seemingly solved their third-base quandary.

A ninth-round pick in the 2011 draft, Shaw had a nice big league debut in 2015, hitting .270 with 13 home runs in 65 games, mostly at first base.

Still, the 26-year-old entered spring training looking like a bench player at best, with Hanley Ramirez set to make the move to first and Sandoval ensconced at third.

Those two players, after all, signed with Boston for a combined $183 million prior to the 2015 season. Surely Boston was going to give them every opportunity to play and perform.

But when Sandoval arrived in camp visibly out of shape, the grumbling began. And when Shaw outperformed him in the Grapefruit Leaguehitting .469 to Sandoval’s .204 and playing superior defensethe grumbling increased to a dull roar.

In the end, manager John Farrell looked at the numbers on the stat sheet, not the figures on the players’ respective contracts, and handed the gig to Shaw.

“We’re all about evaluating and what’s best for our teamnot so much the better player, but what’s best for our team at the moment for us to begin the season,” Farrell said at the time, per’s Ian Browne.

Translation: Don’t get too comfortable, kid. You proved it in spring, now it’s time to put up for real.

So far, so good.

Yes, it helped cement Shaw’s job security when Sandoval landed on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. But he’s played well enough to keep the job regardless and to reward his skipper’s results-based faith.

In fact, Shaw found himself penciled into each of Farrell’s first 20 lineups (and has subsequently appeared in the other five), as Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe highlighted:

Shaw isn’t the only reason the Red Sox’s offense is humming. Vintage performances from Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz in his swan-song season, plus the continued emergence of young stars Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, have helped Boston pace the American League in runs scored.

Last season, however, third base was largely a black hole as Sandoval gobbled up the bulk of the starts (yeah, sorry, puns intended) and posted an anemic .245/.292/.366 slash line. That wasn’t the only reason the Red Sox limped to a second consecutive last-place finish in the AL East, but it didn’t help.

Now, they’ve got Shaw, who’s earning close to the league minimum but playing like a guy worth, well, Sandoval money.

The Red Sox need a much larger sample from Shaw before they deem him a permanent solution. Sizzling starts can quickly melt in the heat of summer.

And Sandoval is still just 29, with a proven track record as a postseason hero during his salad days with the San Francisco Giants. Boston is going to pay him through 2020 regardless, so unless he’s shipped out in a salary-eating deal, don’t be surprised if he gets another look at some point.

For now, however, the hot corner belongs to Shaw, who is putting in the necessary work, as’s Scott Lauber outlined:

Within the past week, Travis Shaw recognized a potentially troublesome trend. Opposing pitchers were attacking him with inside fastballs, believing he’s vulnerable to pitches in that location. And so, after he went hitless on Monday night, the young Boston Red Sox third baseman spent extra time in the batting cage on Tuesday making an adjustment to his swing.

That same day, Lauber noted, Shaw turned on an inside fastball from the Atlanta Braves‘ Matt Wisler and cranked it out for a three-run jack.

It’s one at-bat, the smallest possible sample. But it’s also an instructive anecdote. The league will adjust to even the biggest talents; the key is to adjust right back.

“He’s just a heady player,” Boston third-base coach Brian Butterfield said of Shaw, per Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “He’s a young guy that’s a little bit ahead of the curve mentally.”

Shaw is doing what he’s supposed to do. The results are there. And the Sox are rolling, having won seven of their last eight, including a three-game sweep of the archrival Yanks.

Not so long ago, third base was a pile of ashes in Beantown. One month into the 2016 season, it’s unequivocally something good.


All statistics current as of May 1 and courtesy of and

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