Rafael Devers- past, present and future

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Mods, obviously feel free to merge this with the other Devers thread, but it seems like this discussion here is a bit different. Anyhow.

I'm curious what you all think Devers future, both short term and long term look like. After his explosive first two weeks in 2017, starting pitching caught up to him and he fell back to earth but was also one of the few bright spots in the offense against the Astros last season's playoffs.
I was expecting a slow start and lots of people calling for his demotion to AAA but hoping Cora would have the kid tough through it and we'd see him catch up to the adjustments that ML pitchers did. After he bottomed out in early June 5th with a .675 OPS, he seemed to start to make some adjustments and had a .825 OPS from that day for the next month and looked to be making adjustments.
I recall him getting injured around that time and then making a short return in which he struggled then was injured again... and obviously his hitting improvements derailed through that time.
I know his defense- mostly his arm- could also use some improvement.
Short term, I think he's sitting versus lefties in the playoffs and will likely be replaced by Nunez in late innings with a lead or pinch hit for if he comes up against a lefty in the later innings.
Long term future I still think he's going to be a very good player but I think he's going to develop slowly and worry the Sox won't have the patience with him. Keep in mind JD Martinez came up with the Astos and had 3 pretty bad seasons with them before they lost their patience..... I think he should still be given the starting 3B job for next year and the Sox need to continue showing patience.
He may not be long term at 3B but I think he's going to be an offensive monster and a future middle of the lineup 40HR, .300 average hitter. OBP may drag his overall OPS down but I can foresee a .350/.600 type of hitter by 2020
 

curly2

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I think he will eliminate some of the mistakes at third base as he matures. The talent is certainly there, and I think experience and coaching will cut down on the errors. I also think an offseason training program that focuses on flexibility over strength -- he's already strong enough to hit the ball out anywhere -- would help him in the field.

The big thing for him is to develop some plate discipline. Will Middlebrooks could also hit the ball a mile, but never developed discipline, and pitchers realized they didn't have to throw him a strike. Devers walks more than Middlebrooks did, but still chases way too many bad pitches.

I would love to see the Sox have Dwight Evans take on Devers as a project next spring. Evans, especially in the second half of his career, was terrific at making pitchers come to him.

I'm not saying Devers has to walk X amount of times, and I don't want him looking for walks. I want him swinging at strikes.
 

BaseballJones

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The kid is 21 years old. He has tons of power and is still in the formative years of his MLB career. I see a guy who can routinely be a .270 hitter with 30 hr power and a ceiling of average defensively. In other words, a guy who can have a pretty nice, long MLB career.
 

donutogre

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The kid is 21 years old. He has tons of power and is still in the formative years of his MLB career. I see a guy who can routinely be a .270 hitter with 30 hr power and a ceiling of average defensively. In other words, a guy who can have a pretty nice, long MLB career.
That's where I'm at. He's shown he can hit major league pitching at a very young age, so the talent is there and he should become more consistent with more experience.

I'm not good at judging his defense, but again, he's so young that I think he has plenty of time to figure it out. As long as he isn't a full-on liability over the next two seasons, I figure the Sox can afford to run him out there and let him figure it out.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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I've been a broken record on this, but I feel as though Devers' problems at the plate at least are very specific and consistent. His swing is exactly the same without regard to the count or the situation and he doesn't seem to really appreciate that aspect of the game. He has terrible plate discipline numbers across the board. Two strikes, two outs, man on third, whatever, it's all the same to him. He rears back and swings the bat as hard as he can at where he thinks the ball is being pitched.

When he connects, he hits the ball as hard or harder than probably 95 percent of the league. But at the moment that is his single virtue. He is a horrible hitter when he's behind in the count and he's especially trouble with two strikes. (Not that anyone is a particularly good hitter with two strikes but Rafi pretty much needs to get lucky.) He doesn't move runners along when a productive out is needed and he is very poor at converting the run with man on third and less than two out. He gets over anxious with bases loaded. The two grand slams are awesome but you almost wonder if they were a bit counterproductive in the long run.

Anyway, I don't think any of this is that he doesn't care. I think it's that he just doesn't know. I think he's a young kid with very little time in the minor leagues (thanks to Panda!) who got there by never ever having to worry about this stuff. He didn't get off the island by going oppo, or taking pitches, or anything else. He got off the island, I suspect, because he hit the ball harder than pretty much anyone else on the field.

So, what does it all mean now? Attempting to teach him this stuff in the middle of the season has been comical. There is absolutely no subtlety so far. Cora tells him that he needs to take pitches for burritos. So that's exactly what he does. He takes pitches. And he walks. But he's no more selective. His batting average when he's taking pitches sucks. Cora tells him to go oppo, and so he tries for a couple of games where it's obvious exactly what he's doing and he has no idea. He gets a few to left field but it's just as common that he's shortening up his swing on inside pitches and looking foolish because I don't think he really even grasps the basic concepts.

I think it was not unreasonable to hope that he might pick some of this stuff in the majors, but maybe a bit unrealistic. It has been a hard environment. Playing on a great team in a tooth and nail pennant race gave little opportunity for teaching and no pressure -- it was the exactly opposite all year as the minors would have been. The question for me is whether the offseason can be productive. I don't think reps alone are going to fix these problems. He's had 500 reps so far this year. Yes, he'll get a bit better with pitch recognition. And maybe being on the same team with Mookie and JD will get him some basic introduction to preparation against pitchers. But if Devers is going to stick with the Red Sox, I don't think that's enough. He needs to learn how to be a hitter. Hopefully, they can find him a guru in the offseason.
 

Buzzkill Pauley

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DDB, I would be willing to bet the exact same criticism could be found on the Sons of Scott Ullger, circa September 1999, about one David Arias.

Cora is playing this exactly right. The kid is 21, but the Sox should be using Núñez now to win games instead of devoting the playing time to Devers’ development.

There’s of time to devote to his craft in the cages now, as well as during the offseason.

But you don’t give up on a kid who OPS’d over .800 in MLB as a 20-year old.
 

geoduck no quahog

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Question: Do you carry Devers as the backup 3B/PH in the playoffs? Or rely on Phillips, Holt and/or others?

I'd think they stick with Devers.
 
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I would love to see the Sox have Dwight Evans take on Devers as a project next spring. Evans, especially in the second half of his career, was terrific at making pitchers come to him.

Evans worked with Charlie Lau and experienced a remarkable turnaround in his career. I always thought his new stance looked a little odd and might not work for everyone. Ted Williams also had a similar opinion, though he expressed it more forcibly. In the attached article he said that Lau had set hitting back 25 years and that watching Dewey bat made him want to vomit:

https://www.si.com/vault/1986/04/14/633776/a-real-rap-session
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
When he connects, he hits the ball as hard or harder than probably 95 percent of the league. But at the moment that is his single virtue. He is a horrible hitter when he's behind in the count and he's especially trouble with two strikes. (Not that anyone is a particularly good hitter with two strikes but Rafi pretty much needs to get lucky.) He doesn't move runners along when a productive out is needed and he is very poor at converting the run with man on third and less than two out. He gets over anxious with bases loaded. The two grand slams are awesome but you almost wonder if they were a bit counterproductive in the long run.
I agree with most of what you wrote. It certainly seems like what we're watching is a classic case of a guy so talented that he's been able to get to the majors very quickly without ever needing to worry about approach all that much. Now he's having to learn stuff that other guys start to pick up in the minors, because they have to in order to advance.

Just a quibble, though, on the quoted paragraph. Devers' split between batter ahead/pitcher ahead is a little wider than MLB average, but only a little (Devers 1.030/.474, MLB .978/.512). And he's actually a better than average two-strike hitter (.586 vs. .520).

The one place in the "Counts" section of the BBref splits page where Devers is clearly much worse than the league is on the first pitch, where the MLB average is .926 and Devers hit just .636. This is probably connected to the fact that he swings at the first pitch 38.4% of the time, vs. 28.7% for the league. (Hence the burritos.) Pitchers know they can throw the kind of pitch on 0-0 that they would usually save for a two-strike count, and he'll bite.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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DDB, I would be willing to bet the exact same criticism could be found on the Sons of Scott Ullger, circa September 1999, about one David Arias.
No doubt. I think some of my postings in the other Devers thread were taken as me not liking the guy or wanting to punish him or whatever. I think he has the potential to be great. I think his intro to MLB was not ideal, because we needed a 3B and he does enough to earn his keep in the MLB, and, well, he crushed Chapman in a big moment last year. All I want is the Sox to do what preserves his potential without breaking him down.

Just a quibble, though, on the quoted paragraph. Devers' split between batter ahead/pitcher ahead is a little wider than MLB average, but only a little (Devers 1.030/.474, MLB .978/.512). And he's actually a better than average two-strike hitter (.586 vs. .520).The one place in the "Counts" section of the BBref splits page where Devers is clearly much worse than the league is on the first pitch, where the MLB average is .926 and Devers hit just .636. This is probably connected to the fact that he swings at the first pitch 38.4% of the time, vs. 28.7% for the league. (Hence the burritos.) Pitchers know they can throw the kind of pitch on 0-0 that they would usually save for a two-strike count, and he'll bite.
Serves me right for thinking I knew without taking a close look at the numbers.

“Mookie wept.”
Rick Porcello has been ok with two strikes too.
 

bosockboy

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I would hope they keep Devers on the playoff roster.
Phillips playing 3B certainly makes that seem likely. If Devers pinch hits, its late in a game which means you don't want to insert his glove into a close and late situation. I think he sits and chalks up 2018 as a learning year.
 

PLagosi

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Rafa may have the yips on certain throws at the hot corner, but you got to get that bat in the line-up against
any pitcher in the playoffs. Kid can run into a few balls that may prove pivotal in any game.
Replace him with the glovemen like Holt or even Kinsler late or with a lead.
 

charlieoscar

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I've been thinking for some time that Devers must ultimately be moved to another position but there seems to be only two choices--1B or DH--and I have a feeling that he'd be more dangerous as a fielder at first than he is at third. I don't know how he'd adjust to being only a DH: some players can, some can't.
 

Cesar Crespo

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I've been thinking for some time that Devers must ultimately be moved to another position but there seems to be only two choices--1B or DH--and I have a feeling that he'd be more dangerous as a fielder at first than he is at third. I don't know how he'd adjust to being only a DH: some players can, some can't.
Why? Most of his problems are throwing.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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He definitely needs another season at 3rd to see if his throwing can improve... it obviously can. It's likely mental. But after '19 it makes sense for him to move if Dalbec can show some plate discipline next season and continue hitting for power.
 

pantsparty

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Devers looks like he cleaned up his swing a little while he was out. He still takes big cuts, but it looks to me like he doesn't whip his bat through the zone quite as violently as he was earlier in the season.
 

ZMart100

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I don't think his accuracy is that bad considering his age. A lot of players his age are airmailing balls at high A as they get their reps to improve. We have to see his work in progress D because his bat carried him up quickly. I wouldn't plan on moving him until we see how he develops.
 

BillLeesJumpShot

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Agreed regarding reps being part of the solution. My eyes tell me his throwing woes are related to his footwork, as I believe others have mentioned.
 

Mike F

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What was the complaint about Boggs' Fielding? I remember he took 100 balls a day from John Pesky and became a very good fielder. Course #6 isn't around now.

As to moving RD to 1st, mitigating factor may be a surge by Chavis.
 

nighthob

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Arm is far less of an issue at 1b. I think after next season, he makes the move.
I agree with you here, I think the lower defensive learning curve might help him focus more on hitting.

What was the complaint about Boggs' Fielding? I remember he took 100 balls a day from John Pesky and became a very good fielder. Course #6 isn't around now.

As to moving RD to 1st, mitigating factor may be a surge by Chavis.
I think that ultimately Chavis ends up in LF and Dalbec at 3B with Devers moving to 1B. It's a lot cheaper to move Benintendi to CF than to pay JBJ's free agent toll.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Just want to say that that play he made last night probably ranks among the top 10 plays I've ever seen a third baseman make. Maybe even top 5. The kid obviously has a ton to learn out there, but I'm not persuaded he can't do it. He has great reactions, more agility than his soft body would lead you to expect, and though his arm can be erratic, it's a cannon.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
BTW, the list of players who hit at least 20 HR in no more than 500 PA at age 21 or younger is a short and interesting one:

Ronald Acuna
Darryl Strawberry
Tony Conigliaro
Gleyber Torres
Bob Horner
Carlos Correa
Giancarlo Stanton
Juan Soto
Rafael Devers
Jay Bruce
Bryce Harper
 

Koufax

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Just want to say that that play he made last night probably ranks among the top 10 plays I've ever seen a third baseman make. Maybe even top 5. The kid obviously has a ton to learn out there, but I'm not persuaded he can't do it. He has great reactions, more agility than his soft body would lead you to expect, and though his arm can be erratic, it's a cannon.
Good to hear. I missed the play, but have always thought that he looks quite athletic and had a cannon. The problem, I think, is lack of experience.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Good to hear. I missed the play, but have always thought that he looks quite athletic and had a cannon. The problem, I think, is lack of experience.
For your viewing pleasure:

https://www.mlb.com/video/devers-backhand-robs-mccutchen/c-2508388283


The two things that wow me are (1) the way he read the high hop and adjusted in mid-dive to glove it cleanly, and (2) that without fully righting himself, he was still able to get off a 140-foot throw straight to Pearce in the air, which was the only throw that could have gotten McCutchen out. Athletic, heady play.
 

Koufax

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Thank you. Seeing it for the first time, I thought the runner was safe. Looking at the slo-mo - nope, out by a whisker. Dever's powerful and accurate throw while still slightly off-balance was remarkable. The kid has talent, for sure. Some coaching and practice could make him into an above-average 3B, and wow, has he got pop in his bat!
 

SouthernBoSox

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Last night Pedro said he was talking to Sheffield and they both said "this kid doesn't even know who he is yet" and I think that's a great way go describe him.

What he is, is possibly the highest ceiling left handed bat in the American League. Seriously. The potential at his age... its hard to wrap your head around. He's such a baby. Doesn't even know who he is yet.

One day he's gonna realize he's a baaaaaaad man and that should terrify pitchers.
 

BaseballJones

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Last night Pedro said he was talking to Sheffield and they both said "this kid doesn't even know who he is yet" and I think that's a great way go describe him.

What he is, is possibly the highest ceiling left handed bat in the American League. Seriously. The potential at his age... its hard to wrap your head around. He's such a baby. Doesn't even know who he is yet.

One day he's gonna realize he's a baaaaaaad man and that should terrify pitchers.
Long, long, LONG way to go before he gets to that point. But then again, he's just 21, so plenty of time.

I posted this in a different thread, but here are his career postseason numbers:

36 pa, 31 ab, 9 r, 11 h, 3 hr, 12 rbi, .355/.417/.645/1.062

Not bad. The kid's alright.
 

canderson

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Last night Pedro said he was talking to Sheffield and they both said "this kid doesn't even know who he is yet" and I think that's a great way go describe him.

What he is, is possibly the highest ceiling left handed bat in the American League. Seriously. The potential at his age... its hard to wrap your head around. He's such a baby. Doesn't even know who he is yet.

One day he's gonna realize he's a baaaaaaad man and that should terrify pitchers.
Mike Lowell (pretty sure it was Lowell) on MLBN last night said Devers' defensive issues are almost purely footwork and that's very easy to correct over an offseason. Said Devers will be one of the best MLB players in the league soon.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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There are so few lefty hitters who can miss on a mammoth pull swing and still have enough to get that ball 350 feet. To be sure, Verlander’s velocity helped. And he got the one ballpark out of few where that was deep enough to reach the seats. But that is exactly what he brings you.

As infuriating as his lack of plate discipline and pitch recognition can be when you really need a baserunner or have to get that runner in from third, what he gives you is the ability to have a chance even against great pitchers who hit their spots because he hits the ball so fucking hard.
 

Zososoxfan

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I took his 2 (IIRC) strikeouts looking last night as actively working on something the coaches have asked him to do. Both times, he knew he was out on pitches that were clearly in the zone and gave a long look back to the pitcher(s). I am 100% projecting, but to me that was Devers trying to internalize what just happened and remember it for better use going forward.
 

Dewey'sCannon

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I think the HR last night might also have been out at Camden Yards. Off the wall at Fenway.

I really think he's going to be a consistent All Star (or All Star caliber) player. I'm confident that the D will improve, and that he'l make the adjustments at the plate to become a smarter hitter that will take him to the next level. He'll be hitting cleanup at some point in the not-to-distant future.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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Rafi's home run was the second hardest pitch (by .1 mph) that any batter put in play last night. The only harder pitch put in play was Mookie's weak pop up. 98.3 and 98.2. The closest behind that was Kemp's game ending fly out on a 97.8 mph fastball by Kimbrel.

I really can't think of another lefty batter who could do what Rafi did for the home run last night. Verlander made a good pitch and Rafi basically missed it and still hit it for a pennant winning home run.

From the right side, there are definitely a few. Judge for sure. Stanton too. Even when they're not trying to go oppo they can miss a little and have a late bat and still pop fastballs up to right for home runs. JD maybe? It always looks when he goes oppo that he means to. I don't watch much NL baseball though -- maybe Harper? I'm sure I'm missing guys but the one who comes to mind when I think about Rafi's home run last night is prime Chris Davis, who could be late and hit these 40 degree launch angle fast balls into the seventh row of the right field porch in Camden Yards.
 

JohntheBaptist

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There are so few lefty hitters who can miss on a mammoth pull swing and still have enough to get that ball 350 feet. To be sure, Verlander’s velocity helped. And he got the one ballpark out of few where that was deep enough to reach the seats. But that is exactly what he brings you.

As infuriating as his lack of plate discipline and pitch recognition can be when you really need a baserunner or have to get that runner in from third, what he gives you is the ability to have a chance even against great pitchers who hit their spots because he hits the ball so fucking hard.
You watch a lot of baseball, particularly one team, you start to get in their rhythms--the kind of plays your IF usually makes, pitches members of the staff throw and when, that sort of thing.

One thing I noted all year (last year too) was that Devers fly balls routinely carried way, way farther than they seemed based on the pitch and his swing. The Chapman HR is a perfect example. The kid has crazy, crazy power.

Add to that the babyface and that he seems like everyone on the team's little brother--struggles and all he's been one of my favorite parts of this team. When Cora was on the podium in the clubhouse last night, a question came up about him and as Cora started praising him. They cut to Devers looking on and he was beaming. It was pretty great. Lot to look forward to with him.
 

joe dokes

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Mike Lowell (pretty sure it was Lowell) on MLBN last night said Devers' defensive issues are almost purely footwork and that's very easy to correct over an offseason. Said Devers will be one of the best MLB players in the league soon.
He made a play on a routine grounder in the 7th(?) where his feet didn't not look right as he threw (or maybe it was even in the game before) perfect throw, but I thought he was going to trip himself.
 

Jpb121

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The man now has box seats in Houston named after him. Crawford, nay, DEVERS BOXES!

And clearly, Mookie owns the front row in right.
 

Hawk68

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All metrics aside, my eyeball test tells me this:
1) He has soft hands. Things he touches he will field.
2) He has a gun. Modern medicine/training may make it possible to teach "live arm", but experience says you have a gun. Or you do not.
3) He has power. Real, gamebreaking power that should grow.
4) His fielding is held back by clumsy footwork. Footwork is teachable.

I think his future is bright, and is in the heart of the red sox order.
 
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chrisfont9

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I took his 2 (IIRC) strikeouts looking last night as actively working on something the coaches have asked him to do. Both times, he knew he was out on pitches that were clearly in the zone and gave a long look back to the pitcher(s). I am 100% projecting, but to me that was Devers trying to internalize what just happened and remember it for better use going forward.
That makes sense. I thought he was really gaining the upper hand on these relievers as he saw them multiple times in terms of controlling the strike zone. Before the HR he had put together some really strong ABs against guys with very tricky junk to lay off of. And when he took big cuts at fastballs, it was pretty terrifying. He's for real. I'm sure he can improve defensively but even if he didn't, his bat makes his presence worth it.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
I really can't think of another lefty batter who could do what Rafi did for the home run last night. Verlander made a good pitch and Rafi basically missed it and still hit it for a pennant winning home run.
"Missed it" might be putting it a shade too strongly, but he definitely had his foot in the bucket and it looked like his core gave the ball a glancing blow rather than a solid, 100% concerted swing (like the kind JDM puts on outside fastballs for oppo HR). So it went out of the park largely on the strength (literally) of his arms and shoulders. You're right, that's not stuff everybody can do. The comp that comes immediately to my mind is Ryan Howard, except that Rafi, at 21, is already a better contact hitter than Howard ever was, and has only to improve his plate discipline a bit to be a better overall hitter than Howard ever was. And Howard at his peak was damn good, even if that peak lasted a disappointingly short time.
 
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