Andrew Benintendi is making the first start of his professional career in left field Friday night for the Portland Sea Dogs as the Red Sox ready him for a potential call-up.
To be honest, every day played by Benintendi in center field at this point would be a waste. He's a very good outfielder, and could play in center in the majors by all accounts, but the Red Sox already have one of the game's best gloves at that position, meaning the path to Fenway always ended in left field for Benintendi. If he needed fundamental work in the way the Sox believe Yoan Moncada still does, exposing him to the new position might just serve to slow that development.
But Benintendi does not. All he needs is a bit of experience with the angles and, perhaps most importantly of all, gaining a sense of the wall. Hadlock Field features a replica Monster, which should give Benintendi both an idea how to play balls off the wall and not run himself directly into it or the one down the left field line in the way both Blake Swihart and Hanley Ramirez have these past couple years.
There's no guarantee that this is a prelude to a 2016 call-up, but let's be honest, it'd be very surprising at this point if the Red Sox didn't at least give themselves the option of bringing Benintendi to the playoffs. That might mean forcing the issue even if there's no immediate need for it, which is kind of the case right now given how well Brock Holt is playing since returning from his concussion.
Still, there's plenty of time left before they have to make that decision. Perhaps even time enough to move Benintendi to Triple-A, though really that jump isn't hugely significant, and might not even be worth removing him from the Fenway simulacrum provided by Portland. Whenever he makes it up, though, at least now he'll have some experience where he's asked to play.