Red Sox promote Mookie Betts to Triple-A Pawtucket: ‘This was the time’
|06.03.14 at 12:21 pm ET|
Feats of Mookie: One step away.
Mookie Betts will be promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket in the coming days, possibly as soon as today when the PawSox are in Durham. The news was first reported by SoxProspects.com and confirmed by multiple industry sources. (As of noon on Tuesday, there is still no official word as to whether Betts will be added to the Triple-A roster today.)
UPDATE: According to an industry source, Betts will indeed join the PawSox in Durham on Tuesday and be added to the roster.
“You look at his performance over the course of the season to date and he’s really excelled in every area of the game. That’s been going on. He’s controlling the strike zone, he’s running the bases, he’s playing defense, he’s obviously hitting, he’ s hitting for power and I think at some point, we have an obligation to challenge our young players when they are performing at a level where it’s not certain that they’re being challenged, it’s up to us to make sure that they’re being challenged,” said Sox GM Ben Cherington. “This conversation started a few days ago and we wanted to avoid introducing too much all at once to Mookie. We knew that, because he had started to play the outfield, we wanted to give him a little bit of time to settle in in the outfield before also introducing him to Triple-A. So, now that he’s gotten a little bit of time in the outfield and he’s gotten comfortable out there, we felt like this was the time to move him up to Pawtucket.”
The decision to move the 2011 fifth-rounder up from Double-A follows a brilliant season-opening run in Portland in which, over 54 games, Betts hit .355 with a .443 OBP, .551 slugging mark with six homers and 27 extra-base hits in 54 games.
He has more extra-base hits (27), walks (35) and steals (22) than strikeouts (20) — underscoring the idea that Betts is a player with uncommon hand-eye coordination, bat speed and barrel control, giving him the ability to impact the ball while maintaining a solid approach that permits him — despite a slight 5-foot-9 frame — to combine excellent plate discipline with the ability to drive the ball.
Betts opened the year by reaching in his first 36 games in Portland, extending his streak of consecutive games on base to 71 straight (including 30 regular season and five more postseason games last year in High-A Salem). He hit .393 with a .462 OBP and .607 slugging mark during the season-opening stretch in Portland. Though he’s cooled somewhat in the subsequent two weeks, he’s still delivered a solid .283/.421/.450 line with 14 walks, seven strikeouts and plenty of hard contact during his 17 post-streak contests.
Since the end of the streak, Betts — who had played exclusively at second base from June 2012 through the end of the streak — has been working in center field to add versatility to his game. He’s played 12 of 17 games in Portland in center in an effort to open different potential pathways to the majors, at a time when Jackie Bradley Jr. has hit .200 with a .283 OBP and .300 slugging mark as the Sox’ everyday center fielder.
The initial returns on Betts’ time in the outfield have been strong.
“We keep kind of pushing the envelope with him and he keeps responding in a good way,” said Red Sox minor league outfield coordinator George Lombard. “Moving him to the outfield has nothing to do with his inability to play second base. We’ve seen make some Gold Glove type plays. We’re just trying to get him ready where he can help our organization at the highest level.
“In trying to introduce the outfield to him, we don’t want to make it too complicated. We don’t want to get into specific drills or anything like that. We’re just trying to have him go out there, be athletic, play the outfield similar to the play he plays the infield where you have a pre-pitch, get ready and expect the ball to be hit to you every play and you have a responsibility every play. Having said that, he looks very, very natural playing the position. There are going to be a lot of things he needs to experience to understand — the timing plays, where he’s supposed to be to back up every play, where your cutoff is going to be. Those are things that it’s hard to teach without getting out there, getting experience and doing it.
“He’s just a naturally good athlete. Just watching him track the balls, his routes are improved. He covers a ton of ground. He’s fast. All those things naturally help him become a good outfielder. It’s something you can’t learn — those instincts like Andruw Jones and that type of outfielder, you can’t teach, but there are a lot of things you can learn as an outfielder and become good and become an above-average to great outfielder.”
That Betts has flashed an ability to adapt quickly in the outfield comes as little surprise given how quickly he’s adapted to his other transitions, moving through Single-A Greenville, High-A Salem and Double-A Portland (as well as the Arizona Fall League) as one of the most impressive talents in each league in the span of 14 months.
“We just want to keep him on the right path. Every year, he’s gotten better and he’s the ideal type of player you want to coach,” said Lombard. “He loves to play, which you see in little things. When you watched him running on and off the field [from second base], you’d say, ‘Wow, he gets on and off the field really quick. One of the other players said, ‘He tries to be the first kid in and out of the dugout every inning.’ ”
With Brock Holt now in the big leagues (along with other outfield depth options such as Daniel Nava and Alex Hassan, at a time when Shane Victorino is on the disabled list), playing time is available to Betts, resulting in the expectation that he will be joining the PawSox, perhaps as soon as today.