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Mookie Betts making first professional start in center field

05.18.14 at 12:19 pm ET
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One day removed from the conclusion of his 71-game on-base streak, Red Sox prospect Mookie Betts will make his first professional start in center field. Betts had spent his entire pro career to date at shortstop (13 games, none since the beginning of his 2012 campaign in Lowell) and second base, but with that position expected to be occupied for the rest of the decade by Dustin Pedroia (who is under contract through 2021), the Sox had long anticipated exposing Betts to other positions. In center, he’s returning to a position he played somewhat extensively in high school.

“We put him in center at times. You talk about a guy who could go and run the ball down, too,” recalled Betts’ coach at Overton High School, Mike Morrison. “He would play shallow and then challenge people to hit a ball over him. He’d make running catches over his shoulder.”

Partially in anticipation of that development, Betts has spent one batting practice group every day taking fly balls in center. Exposure to multiple positions is something the Red Sox typically do in the upper minors with their top prospects in order to increase the number of potential pathways for them to the big leagues — something that Betts embraces.

“People always ask me about [Pedroia's long-term future at second base], but I can’t control that. The Red Sox do what they feel they need to do. If I were the Red Sox, I would sign Pedroia the same way — he’s a great guy, great player and he’s a franchise guy,” Betts observed. “As far as me, all I can do is try to make it whether it be second base, shortstop, third base, catch, however — I just want to make it. It doesn’t matter to me where I play.”

The 21-year-old is hitting .383 with a .452 OBP and .591 slugging mark (along with six homers, 19 extra-base hits, 18 steals, 21 walks and just 13 strikeouts) in 37 games with Double-A Portland this year.

The Sox decided to start exposing Betts to a position other than second in Portland based on the fact that he’s in an environment where he’s thrived offensively, at a position where he’s developed a level of comfort thanks to his work during batting practice. Betts will play both second base and center field going forward.

For more on Betts and the position question, click here.

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