It might be time to call up Mookie Betts

June, 28, 2014
Jun 28
12:31
AM ET
NEW YORK -- You needn't look far to find the best counterargument for not summoning Mookie Betts on the first flight out of Providence/Boston on Saturday morning.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
Jerome Davis/Icon SMIAcross 54 games for Double-A Portland and 22 for Triple-A Pawtucket this season, Mookie Betts is slashing .348/.437/.523/.960 with 29 stolen bases, 8 home runs, 70 runs and 48 RBIs.
Xander Bogaerts, an October sensation last year -- universally adored by scouts, stat geeks, scribes and starstruck fans who all bought into the forecasts of fast-approaching greatness -- has two hits in 28 at-bats on this trip. In 17 games since June 8, Bogaerts is 6-for-63, with more than twice as many strikeouts (16) as hits (6). That translates to an .095 average.

Jackie Bradley Jr., a former No. 1 pick with great advance notices, who has hit everywhere he ever played until he got to the big leagues, is batting .209.

No one says Bogaerts will not eventually figure it out. A few more doubts surround Bradley, but the confidence of the organization in him has not wavered.

Markus Lynn Betts was the 172nd player taken in the 2011 draft, selected in the fifth round by the Red Sox. A year ago at this time, Betts was playing for Class A Greenville in the South Atlantic League, which is a long way from the big leagues. He wasn't even promoted to Double-A until the start of this season, and has played all of 22 games in Triple-A.

Yes, he has reached base in all of them, and has placed himself squarely on the Sox radar as a player who factors into their future ... but should that future be now? When there is such overwhelming evidence that this game is seemingly built to strike down the gaudiest reputations, especially of the young (Bogaerts is 21, Bradley 24, Betts 21)?

Shoot, you can have 10 years of professional experience, like shortstop Stephen Drew, and still go 29 consecutive at-bats without a hit, a streak that did not end until Drew sliced an opposite-field double with two outs in the seventh inning Friday night.

This is a hard game, one that harbors little tolerance for saviors. The Sox already have been gifted with one surprise at the plate, Brock Holt, who has given the club more production than it ever imagined. Is it even reasonable to contemplate that Betts could be another, based on such a thin résumé?

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That is the dilemma facing the Red Sox, who on Friday night managed just three hits while being shut out by the Yankees, 6-0, before a crowd of 48,522 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees had three home runs. The Sox never advanced a baserunner to third base.

The three hits were the fewest by the Sox against the Yankees since Sept. 26, 2009. That night they collected two hits, one off CC Sabathia, who at the time was in his prime, the other off Mariano Rivera, who should be a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame.

Friday night, the Sox were facing left-hander Vidal Nuno, a one-time 48th-round draft pick by Cleveland who came to the Yankees as a minor league free agent. Nuno had allowed a total of 12 runs on 14 hits in his past two starts, over a combined 9⅓ innings.

Facing the Sox for the first time, Nuno gave up a single to Jonny Gomes in the second, a double to Holt in the third. He was long gone by the time the Sox recorded their third hit, Drew's double off reliever Dellin Betances in the seventh. After Drew's hit, the last seven Sox batters went down in order.

They have been held to three or fewer runs in 11 of their past 13 runs. In their past four games -- the first three against Seattle -- they have scored just one run after the fifth inning. They have just seven hits in their past 42 at-bats after the fifth inning, a .143 average. Only two of those hits have been for extra bases.

The Sox expected to import help this weekend. Shane Victorino, who has played just 21 games all season, was set to make his return, until his cranky back acted up again. The Sox have shut him down, ending his minor league rehab assignment and forbidding any baseball activity while he undergoes treatment. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, out with a fractured right index finger, also has been shut down because of continued swelling.

Betts was never supposed to be part of the conversation this soon. But the Sox are down a position player, they need a right-handed bat, and they could use a spark from someplace. David Ortiz, between grousing about the team's travel schedule, was asked if the time had come for the Sox to find assistance from the outside.

"I don't know, man," he said. "The GM is here somewhere. Ask him that question. I'm just a player."

Ben Cherington was indeed on the premises, but in a back room off-limits to the media, no doubt contemplating his options. Manager John Farrell, who had hinted before the game that the club could add another position player by Saturday night, was asked if that would indeed be the case.

"At this moment, no," he said.

A lot of moments remain between now and Saturday night's first pitch, scheduled for 7:15. Plenty of time for the Sox to make a move. The task, if anything, becomes tougher. Masahiro Tanaka, who may be the best pitcher in the American League this season, is scheduled to face the Sox. Welcome to the big leagues, Mookie Betts?

Seems unfair, an invitation to potentially confidence-crushing failure. But the Sox are running out of options.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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