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Mookie Betts on debut: ‘Same game I’ve been playing’

06.30.14 at 1:25 am ET
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NEW YORK — It was a night of firsts for Markus Lynn Betts, the 21-year-old whose MLB monogram received official validation on Sunday night in the Red Sox‘ 8-5 win over the Yankees. Mookie Betts went 1-for-3 with a single, a walk and a run in his first big league game, showing the poise that convinced the Red Sox to bring him up to the big leagues after just 23 games in Triple-A Pawtucket.

Betts said that he was not overwhelmed by his surroundings, that the 48,124 ensemble at Yankee Stadium did not alter the fact that he was playing the same game at which he’s excelled while rocketing through the Red Sox system over the last two years.

“It was great, I mean going up my first at bat I had a little jitters but once I saw the first pitch — same game,” said Betts. “For the first game it’€™s a really big atmosphere but I had that day off before so I kind of got to feel it out and see what it was about. … I don’€™t think it was difficult at all [to remain patient at the plate]. Just be in my approach, swing at good pitches, if it’€™s not, then take it. Again, I go and relax. It’€™s the same game I’ve been playing the whole time. Not wanting to put any extra pressure on myself today, so I think I did that pretty well.”

Betts displayed his characteristic patience at the plate. In his first plate appearance, he got ahead 2-0 against Yankees starter Chase Whitley before a swing and miss at a slider and then grounding into a 5-4-3 double play. After taking a first-pitch slider against Whitley in his second at-bat, he pounced on a 90 mph fastball for a groundball single up the middle. He got ahead, 2-0, in his third at-bat en route to a nine-pitch walk against lefty David Huff, then wrapped up his day by getting ahead of left-hander Matt Thornton, 3-0, taking a pair of strikes, fouling off a pair of 3-2 pitches and finally grounding to short on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.

“He controlled each and every one of his at-bats, particularly the walk,” noted Sox manager John Farrell. “He takes a borderline 3-2 pitch for the walk. He showed good presence in the batter’s box.”

While Betts was patient in the box, he proved aggressive elsewhere. In his third career start in right field, Betts had an eventful fifth inning, coming up short on a diving attempt of an Ichiro Suzuki liner to right to lead off the fifth, with the ball bouncing to the wall for a triple. Farrell suggested that Betts’ attempt “might have been a little bit overaggressive,” and it served as a prelude to an inning in which Betts also chased a Brett Gardner double to the wall and finally reeled in a Mark Teixeira fly ball to the warning track to end the inning.

Betts acknowledged that some of the patrons of Yankee Stadium made themselves heard after the Suzuki triple.

“Luckily some guys told me to expect it so I was able to tune it out,” said Betts. “They weren’€™t too creative tonight.”

He likewise proved aggressive on the bases, getting caught stealing after his single — an out for which Betts, who enjoyed a career 87 percent (88-for-101) success rate in the minors, didn’t apologize.

“They told me don’€™t change anything. I was aggressive in the minors. So I’€™ll take that here, be aggressive, try and steal bases,” Betts said.

In all, Betts’ initial major league feats — which came in the context of a win — offered a host of positive first impressions to a Red Sox team that is hoping for a lift from the addition of his talent.

“Great kid. Loves to work. Asking questions,” said Dustin Pedroia. “He’€™s fun to be around.”

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