BOSTON — To Red Sox teammate Jonny Gomes, it doesn't matter that Xander Bogaerts just turned 21 and had never appeared in a postseason game before this week.
"When you're between the lines, it hides your age," Gomes said. "It hides your draft status. It hides your contract."
Bogaerts walked twice and scored two runs in the Game 4 clincher against the Rays on Tuesday, one night after he entered the game as a pinch-runner and scored the tying run. In all, he has appeared in two games in the postseason, scoring three runs with a perfect on-base percentage: 1.000.
All before his first official at-bat.
"I just went up there and tried to get on base," Bogaerts, who turned 21 on Oct. 1, said on Thursday while the Red Sox waited to learn their AL Championship Series opponent. "For me, I wanted to reach on base. I didn't want to hit a homer."
A highly touted prospect who was called up in August, Bogaerts is a big reason the Red Sox were willing to part with Jose Iglesias in the deal that brought RHP Jake Peavy to Boston. Bogaerts had 11 hits in 44 regular-season at-bats, but he also walked five times and scored seven runs.
"He's very mature," 2B Dustin Pedroia said. "He seems calm; he's controlling the at-bat. Those are things that normally take a long time. It's pretty rare. There would be a lot of 21-year-olds doing it if they could."
Mac's back: Mark McGwire's homecoming is a juicy, natural subplot to the NLCS.
Once a star slugger for the Cardinals and later their batting coach, McGwire now serves in that role with the Dodgers on manager Don Mattingly's staff.
A swarm of reporters surrounded Big Mac near the batting cage before the Dodgers' workout. He told them he wasn't surprised the Cardinals stand in the way of the Dodgers' drive for their first pennant in a quarter-century.
"You know what? I think everybody figured you're going to have to go through St. Louis to get to the World Series," McGwire said. "Here we are. It's going to be a good series."
McGwire knows Cardinals hitters well after spending the previous three seasons with them, and agrees with St. Louis manager Mike Matheny that his familiarity could prove useful.
"You can go through that clubhouse and realize that he's got his fingerprint on quite a few of them," Matheny said. "I was blown away at how a superstar player can also be a superstar coach."
McGwire is curious about the greeting he will get tonight. "It'll be interesting," McGwire said. "It'll be really fun."
Cubs: OF Ryan Sweeney agreed to a two-year contract that includes a club option for 2016. Sweeney is due $1.5 million in 2014 and 2015, with the Cubs holding a $2.5 million option for 2016 with a $500,000 buyout. Sweeney batted .266 with six homers and 19 RBIs this season.
Orioles: 3B Manny Machado, 21, will have surgery Monday to repair a ligament in his left knee but he is expected to be ready for the start of spring training. He hit .283 with 14 homers, 71 RBIs and 51 doubles.