Boston Red Sox: Mookie Betts

Holt leads rookie uprising as Sox walk off

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
2:10
AM ET

BOSTON -- Forget the birth certificates. The Red Sox all played like kids Wednesday night, won in their last at-bat and then went out for ice cream afterward -- John Farrell's treat.

Just when you thought fun had become a permanent no-show on Yawkey Way, with the Sox having lost seven of eight games on a homestand that was supposed to serve as a trampoline into contention but instead turned into a trap door, it made an after-hours appearance Wednesday night.

With the Sox seemingly headed to another dry-dock defeat -- blanked through the first seven innings by White Sox ace Chris Sale -- they burned the white flags and scored five times in their last two at-bats. Rookie Mookie Betts started a three-run, eighth-inning rally with that rare art form known as an infield double, and rookie Brock Holt singled for the first walk-off hit of his career in a 5-4 win over Chicago.

"We were able to finish it off, which is something we haven't been able to do recently," Holt said. "So it's a good feeling."

[+] EnlargeBrock Holt
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesBrock Holt celebrates after driving in the winning run in the Red Sox's comeback victory.
Those in the crowd of 36,218 who bought one might want to hold onto the scorecards from this affair.

This was the first time since Aug. 16, 1987, that the Sox started five rookies, not including September call-ups, in a game. The latest addition, No. 55 on your program, was 23-year-old catcher Christian Vazquez, the replacement for A.J. Pierzynski, the 37-year-old veteran whose torpid bat had made him dead weight on a roster that isn't through molting.

Holt played shortstop for the first time this season, alongside third baseman Xander Bogaerts, who might yet return to short, according to GM Ben Cherington, who said he'll leave that decision up to Farrell (Note to reader: In the 21st century, lineup decisions are never left to just the manager. If Bogie winds up back at short, more than one voice will be heard, including the GM's).

Jackie Bradley Jr. was in center, Mookie Betts was in right, and Vazquez was catching another kid, Rubby De La Rosa, who technically isn't a rookie but was appearing in just his 17th game for the Sox and his sixth this year. It was the big leagues as finishing school, which shouldn't be confused, Farrell insisted, with pulling the plug on a season that has yet to reach the All-Star break.

"We haven't conceded anything," the manager said. "The bottom line is to go out and win."

De La Rosa was pitching with an overabundance of rest, as his routine was disrupted when the Sox kept him on the big league roster in case they made a change, then sent him down to Pawtucket. After throwing back-to-back gems against the Twins and Athletics in his last two big league starts before his demotion, De La Rosa had pitched just 6 2/3 innings since June 21, in one start for the PawSox and what amounted to a one-inning tune-up on Sunday.

Maybe it was the rust, maybe it was the thunder in the White Sox bats, but De La Rosa quickly found himself down 3-0 on home runs by Cuban strongman Jose Abreu and Conor Gillaspie, who homered for the second straight night, and a fielding error by first baseman Mike Napoli, his third in less than a week's time.

When the White Sox added another run in the seventh on three straight hits off Edward Mujica, the Red Sox looked headed to their sixth straight loss against Chicago teams -- they lost three to the Cubs this past week.

[+] EnlargeBradley Jr
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesRed Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. robs Tyler Flowers of extra bases on Wednesday night.
But even while being stymied by Sale, who didn't walk a batter and had allowed just three hits entering the eighth, the Sox had offered some resistance, at least defensively. Bradley made a spectacular diving catch in center, Vazquez cut down Dayan Viciedo attempting to advance to second on a throw home, and Jonny Gomes -- nobody's idea of a rookie -- relayed a Wall carom off his nose to Bogaerts, who threw out Alejandro De Aza at the plate, with Vazquez making a nice sweep tag.

Those headed for the exits -- understandable behavior given how lifeless the Sox have been of late -- came to rue their departure when Betts ignited a rally by beating out a hit to the hole at short, then high-tailing it to second when he realized neither Chicago middle infielder could outrace him to the bag. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez was closer to third than second, and second baseman Gordon Beckham had gone to back up the play at first.

"It was a big gamble, but Farrell says [to] be aggressive the same way I've been my whole career," Betts said.

With Betts on third and two out, White Sox manager Robin Ventura lifted Sale, and the Sox capitalized on his departure. Score one for the old guys. Dustin Pedroia singled home Betts. David Ortiz doubled home Pedroia. Gomes doubled home Ortiz. It was turn-back-the-clock night at Fenway, and the Sox were down by just a run.

Koji Uehara then blasted through the top of the ninth and struck out the side, and Betts turned instigator again in reaching first when he was hit by a pitch from reliever Javy Guerra. Vazquez was due to bat next, but Farrell opted to forgo the storybook ending and sent up pinch-hitter Daniel Nava instead. Nava doubled home Betts, Holt punched a single to right that scored Nava with the game-winner, and the Sox piled out of their dugout just like school kids when the day's final bell rings.

Fun. What a concept. Come back tomorrow. With these kids around, there might be more.

Reporting from ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes, Brendan Hall and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Betts' speed sparks Boston's comeback win

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
12:39
AM ET
BOSTON -- It was only a matter of time until the Red Sox got their first look at Mookie Betts' greatest weapon.

The power he showed against the Cubs a week ago, the poise he demonstrated in his major league debut at Yankee Stadium. Those all take a back seat to Betts' speed, a tool with enough behind it to impact a game in a moment's notice.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsMookie Betts slides into second base with a rare infield double.
The Chicago White Sox learned that the hard way Wednesday night.

With Boston held scoreless by White Sox ace Chris Sale for seven innings, Betts legged out an infield double to lead off what would become a three-run eighth inning for the Red Sox along the way to their 5-4 comeback victory over Chicago. Betts' speed once again played a factor in the ninth, with the rookie scoring the game-tying run after being hit by a pitch.

"That's probably my best attribute," Betts said. "It plays a big part in range, going to get balls in the outfield, being able to beat out infield hits. Being able to do what I did today."

After working an 11-pitch at-bat to tally his first career double on a wall ball off Sale in the fifth inning, Betts took a more aggressive approach into his next appearance in the eighth. The 21-year-old watched a 93 mph fastball over the plate for a strike before pulling a changeup to the right of a ranging Alexei Ramirez at short. Ramirez fielded the ball on the run, then was unable to get enough on the throw to beat Betts at first.

Settling for an infield single wasn't enough for Betts, however. Alertly realizing that second was open for the taking with Ramirez off the bag and Chicago second baseman Gordon Beckham backing up Jose Abreu at first in case of an errant throw, Betts took off for second. Abreu's throw back to a racing Ramirez was off the mark as Betts was able to slide in safely and take advantage of the mental lapse.

"[Manager John Farrell] says be aggressive the same way I've been my whole career," Betts said. "I just saw the second baseman going to back up and I knew the shortstop had to come in on it so second base had to have been open. Just took a gamble and went."

Although Betts claims the instance wasn't the first infield double of his professional career, several of his teammates marveled at the rookie's rare feat.

"I don't think that I have [seen an infield double]," Brock Holt said. "Pretty impressive for him to beat that ball out."

"I wish I was that fast -- that would be nice," Daniel Nava said. "You clearly hear the adage [speed] doesn't slump and it makes up for a lot. I think we've been missing out on a lot of speed this year and it certainly came up big right there."

Betts' wheels once again came up big in the ninth once he reached base after getting hit by a Javy Guerra fastball. Nava pinch-hit for catcher Christian Vazquez, lining a double off the wall in left-center to score Betts from first with the tying run.

"I knew they weren't going to catch it so I made sure I put it into extra gear and I made it," Betts said.

In all, Betts ended the day 2-for-3 with two doubles, his first career game with multiple extra-base hits. On top of that, his two key runs scored late in the game stood out to his manager in the grand scheme of an exciting walk-off win.

"When you look back over the last couple of innings, Mookie Betts kind of stands out," Farrell said. "Obviously he trusts his speed."

Getting to know Mookie Betts a little better

July, 5, 2014
Jul 5
9:20
PM ET
Who is Mookie Betts? By now you have probably heard how he was nicknamed for former NBA guard Mookie Blaylock -- not 1986 Mets World Series hero Mookie Wilson. You know he got his first MLB hit in his debut game on "Sunday Night Baseball" at Yankee Stadium and his first home run Wednesday at Fenway. But ESPNBoston.com found out 20 things you don't know about Mookie Betts, from his worst fear to haunted hotels in the minors to getting lost at Fenway. --As told to Louise K. Cornetta

You know how I got the nickname Mookie, but how about my real name, Markus Lynn Betts?
My dad's middle name is Mark, and my grandma said, "Let's make it Markus." Lynn is my mom's middle name, so I have two middle names.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
Jim Davis/Getty ImagesMookie Betts made his Fenway Park debut Monday night.
Jackie Bradley Jr. and I were roommates in 2011 in the Instructional League.
We kept a pretty clean room because our room was the one everyone came to to hang out and play video games. I never got to take any naps or anything because our place was where everyone came. It got to the point where Jackie and I didn't play video games anymore but everyone else was. We'd try to go to our rooms to get some sleep, but people would be over until one or two o'clock in the morning.

Besides Jackie, the one showing me the ropes has been Jonny Gomes.
Jonny Gomes has been a big part of my learning a routine, even when I'm not playing. When I am playing, he's shown me how to look at pitchers and what to look for. He's taught me a lot in the week I played here.

My family keeps my memorabilia.
At my major league debut in New York, I had my mom, my dad and my fiancée at the game. My first hit came that game. My mom has that ball. I didn't even know until recently that Derek Jeter rolled the ball into the dugout for me. I don't know where my mom puts all my mementos. She just takes it, and then I don't know where it goes. My first home run ball -- my fiancée has it. She said my mom took the other one, so she's going to keep that one. Weird note about that first home run too: The guy who caught it pitched against me in summer ball in Nashville. It was his senior year of summer ball and my junior year, and he pitched against my team. He threw a four-hitter, and he said I had two of the hits.

Besides the family, the person who has been a huge influence on my career was Tim Dulin, who played for the Orioles.
Tim Dulin helped me through the whole draft process. He had already been through it, and I was playing on his team. He told me how the process works, what's going to happen at certain times, what certain dates mean. He really helped me through the draft process.

The minor league game I am most proud of happened this past year.
I was in High A ball, and we were in Myrtle Beach. I went 5-for-6 with two home runs and seven RBIs. It was a pretty good day.

My best minor league story isn't about a bus breaking down, surprisingly, as that happened only once.
This year in Double-A, there is a haunted hotel in Scranton. We read a whole bunch of stories about it before we stayed there. In my room, I probably got only four or five hours of sleep each night because I was scared out of my mind. We went looking for ghosts, and while I was looking, the team was plotting to scare me. So I came back to our room, and I heard some shuffling. I started packing my stuff because I was going to leave. By the time I got to the door, I was scared out of my mind. They got me good.

I love the NBA but don't have a favorite team.
I like watching different teams. It depends how I feel that day. Sometimes I like watching the Spurs because of the way they move the ball. Sometimes I like watching the Thunder because of the way they run. Sometimes I like watching the Lakers because I like watching Kobe [Bryant]. My favorite player, though, is probably Kevin Durant with how he just dominates the game in different ways.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsBetts is a big fan of the NBA, but the Nashville native doesn't have a favorite team.
My worst fear is a little different.
Rust. I hate rust. If I look at rust, it messes me up. It makes my skin crawl. I can't sit right. I have to get away from it. It's been this way pretty much my whole life. I don't know why I don't like it. If I see rust, it really does just mess me up.

The music I am embarrassed to have on my playlist is country.
I have some country music on there, and though it's not really embarrassing, it's not me. I don't really like country music, but there are a few songs I listen to. One song I listen to is called "Ol' Red" by Blake Shelton -- that's my jam.

The worst purchase I ever made was a watch.
I bought one of those smart watches. It worked for, like, two days. So that was probably the worst $300 I ever spent.

My pregame meal is healthy.
For some reason, I don't like playing on a full stomach. I just pound fruit. I eat a whole lot of strawberries, grapes and pineapples, but really whatever fruit I can find. My favorite dessert is also healthy. I'll eat any dessert that has to do with strawberries; I'll eat anything with strawberries.

I'm never without my phone.
My wallet is another story -- I'm always losing that -- but I'm never without my phone when I'm not playing. My favorite app is called Cut the Rope. It's a game which has a piece of candy and a little monster, and the candy is connected to a rope. You have to cut the rope, and different things will happen.

My hidden talent is bowling.
I'm all right at bowling. I have bowled two perfect games. It was exciting. I don't get to bowl a lot, but I'll try to this offseason.

The movie I can watch over and over is "Life."
The movie "Life" with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence and any of the Shrek movies are my favorites.

I have some guilty pleasure TV shows.
My fiancée watches the "Real Housewives" shows Atlanta and New Jersey. She also watches "Say Yes To The Dress," and I have to sit there and watch those.

My favorite TV show is a cartoon.
If you want to know my own favorite TV show, it's "SpongeBob SquarePants." In the offseason, I'll watch marathons of "SpongeBob" every day just lying in bed. I like the character Squidward the best, but I also like SpongeBob. Either one is my favorite. Patrick is hilarious too, but everyone already likes him. I've been watching "SpongeBob" since high school. Some of my best friends will just come up to the house and watch "SpongeBob" all day. Sometimes the show makes me laugh, but it actually has some older jokes for older people. I didn't realize that until later on. It makes me laugh and is just a really good show.

If I could be on any game show, I'd pick "Family Feud."
I'd want to be on "Family Feud" so my whole family could play with me.

I have three favorite cereals.
They are Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruit Loops and Reese's Puffs.

Getting to Fenway isn't easy.
I drove around and around the first day I went to Fenway. Then I went into the wrong entrance, instead of the players' entrance. I was blowing up Jackie's phone that day. Speaking of Fenway, I have not gone inside the Green Monster yet. I should probably do that.

Tracking Mookie Betts' first home run

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
1:35
AM ET
Mookie BettsJim Rogash/Getty Images
BOSTON -- When Chris Large bought tickets to Wednesday night's Red Sox game last month, he had no idea he would have the chance to renew acquaintances with an old adversary.

It wasn't until a week before the game, when Large received a text from a friend, that he knew a phenom prospect by the name of Mookie Betts had been called up to make his major league debut for the Boston Red Sox.

"[My friend] told me, 'Mookie just got called up,'" Large said. "And I was like, 'Whoa, I'm actually about to go to Boston, maybe I'll get to see him.'"

Large wasn't sure if Betts would remember him, but he sure remembered Betts -- and that was long before Large caught Betts' first major league home run Wednesday night.

Large says that, after his senior year of high school in 2010, he threw a four-hitter during summer league play in Nashville against a team including a then 17-year-old Betts, who had two of the hits.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts and Chris Large
Kyle Brasseur for ESPNBoston.com Mookie Betts, center, meets with Chris Large and sister Lindsey after Wednesday's game.
A year later, Betts was drafted by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. In two short years, he became the team's top prospect, completing a meteoric rise through the minor leagues by being called up to Boston on June 28.

Four days later, off to a 1-for-12 start at the plate and in search of his first hit at Fenway Park, Betts stepped up with A.J. Pierzynski on first in the fifth inning of Wednesday's game against Chicago Cubs reliever Carlos Villanueva.

It was then that Chris' sister Lindsey made a bold prediction.

"She said right before the at-bat, 'He's about to hit a home run,'" Chris said. "I said, 'What if I caught it?'"

Sitting in the second row of Fenway's Green Monster seats -- just to the left of the Sports Authority sign -- this was a legitimate possibility for Large. Betts dug in and took two balls from Villanueva before the right-hander pumped a fastball down the plate for strike one.

The next pitch, an 83 mph changeup, hung a bit too high. Betts turned on the pitch, pulling it out toward left field on a line high and deep enough to not only be his first Fenway hit, but his first career home run.

Large saw his chance.

"It came right to us," Large said.

"I saw it and I could tell it was coming over here. So I jumped up [to catch it] but I wasn't tall enough."

The ball caromed off the row above Large, bouncing forward with enough hang time for him to recover and make the catch ("It was kind of slow motion," Large said). Fenway Park staff approached Large to retrieve the ball, which he was more than happy to turn over.

"When we were talking about it I said, 'If I get it, it's his first home run. I'm glad to give it to him,'" Large said. "I didn't mind a bit."

Betts later validated the well-intentioned exchange.

"He said as soon as he found it he wanted to find a way to get it to me," Betts said. "I really appreciated that."

After he made the catch, Large was told he would receive a few signed Mookie Betts items and get the chance to meet Betts (or, in his case, see Betts again).

As clubhouse attendants brought Betts over to meet Large and his sister after the game, Large told Betts everything -- about getting the tickets early, his sister's prediction, their history -- all facts that Betts said he couldn't remember. Their meeting, however, was a moment neither will forget.

For Betts, it's the story of his first home run and the ball that he said will inevitably end up in the hands of his mother, Diana.

For Large, who met with Betts approximately 10 minutes before midnight, it's the birthday present of a lifetime.

"I'm about to turn 22 tomorrow," Large said Wednesday night.

All parts of one crazy story.

"For them to talk about it and it all kind of happened?" Betts said. "It's God working."

"It's the most unbelievable thing I've ever experienced," Large said.

Betts ready for Fenway debut

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
6:58
PM ET
BOSTON -- Mookie Betts got a lot of firsts out of the way before making his Fenway Park debut. In his first major league start, the 21-year-old Tennessee native collected his first hit and first run scored as the Red Sox claimed a series win at Yankee Stadium.

On Monday, Betts will make his first start in center field, providing Jackie Bradley Jr. (.207/.289/.295) with a day off.

In Betts’ view, it’s no different than any other day at the ballyard.

“I get to play today,” he said. “Nothing different than what I’ve been doing -- a chance to play.”

In the pregame, Red Sox manager John Farrell said he had no qualms playing Betts in center or right field at Fenway Park, meaning at-bats will likely come at the expense of Bradley, Daniel Nava (who makes the start in left field against Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta) and/or Jonny Gomes.

“Mookie’s in center field tonight, Jackie will likely be back out there tomorrow,” Farrell said. “That’s part of the rotation we’re trying to get to every day, or at least close to every day -- particularly with the young players on our roster.”

As Betts continues his transition to the outfield on the fly, he was cognizant of those who have helped him make such a swift and seamless adjustment, including injured outfielder Shane Victorino, who labeled Betts as a “star in the making” before Monday night’s game.

“Everybody here has really helped me a lot,” Betts said. “They made my first game, even though it was in Yankee Stadium and not in the backyard, I wasn’t nervous at all. Just knowing they have confidence in me, they’ve got my back, is real good.”

After all, if the pressure of playing at Yankee Stadium in his big league debut doesn’t faze him, there’s not much that will.

“I think it’ll be great,” Betts said of his Boston homecoming. “Going from Yankee Stadium where everybody is against you to coming to Boston where everybody is with you. Got to be a great feeling.”

Colbrunn returns: Red Sox hitting coach Greg Colbrunn returned to the team Monday night for the first time after suffering a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage while the team was in Cleveland.

“It’s great to have him back,” Farrell said. “Just to have him back is a great sign and the fact that he’s back in his role is nothing but a positive.”

Farrell added Colbrunn wasn’t likely to stick around for Monday night’s game as he works back toward full strength, but that he’s back performing his regular duties with the club.

Betts hits big time on biggest stage

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
2:58
AM ET


NEW YORK -- At the ripe age of 26, which makes him the senior member of the Boston Red Sox rookie class, Brock Holt is two years removed from his big league debut, which he made with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012.

How did that day compare to Mookie Betts’ first night in the majors?

"I don’t think I had as much hype for my opening night," Holt deadpanned after the Sox beat the New York Yankees 8-5 on Sunday night.

It’s a little silly to call it Mookiemania, the kid has to prove he can play first. But the anticipation has been building all season for a glimpse of this 21-year-old comet shooting through the Red Sox minor league system, hurtling from one of the lowest rungs, Class A Greenville, at the start of the 2013 season, through Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in a matter of weeks this season.

Sunday night, with right fielder Shane Victorino recovering from an epidural in his back and the Sox's offense in dire need of an infusion of life, Betts played his first game in the major leagues. Like Jackie Bradley Jr. a year ago Opening Day, his debut took place on the game’s biggest stage, Yankee Stadium. Like Bradley, Betts made an immediate impact.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsMookie Betts had a single, a walk and scored a run in his much-anticipated big-league debut.
Betts bounced sharply into a double play in his first big league at-bat in the second inning, but grounded a single up the middle for his first big league hit in the fourth. He was thrown out attempting to steal by Yankees catcher Brian McCann to end the inning, but in the sixth, he walked and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Dustin Pedroia.

"It was fun to watch, especially because he’s a good kid who works hard," said Holt, who so far has set the standard for all Sox newcomers this season, claiming a leadoff spot that was begging to be filled and leading all AL rookies with a .321 average through 48 games.

"Finally," Holt said, "we get to see Mookie Betts play, as opposed to just hearing about him."

The Nashville native, a former state bowling champion who received as many scholarship offers to bowl as he did to play baseball (he thought he was going to the University of Tennessee before the Sox drafted him in the fifth round in 2011 and persuaded him to do otherwise), was given a day Saturday to get acclimated to his new circumstances.

He watched the Red Sox win Saturday night on Mike Napoli’s ninth-inning home run, then heard himself announced Sunday night on the Yankee Stadium PA system -- "Batting eighth, playing right field and making his major league debut, Mookie Betts."

His mother and father, Diana and Willie Betts, and his fiancée, Brianna Hammonds, watched from section 228 in the second deck. "They told me to go play and have fun," Betts said.

The ESPN cameras were there for the nationally televised game, and the reporters outnumbered the players in the clubhouse. A much different scene, Holt said with a smile, than the one that greeted him as a September call-up by the Pirates in 2012, and he pinch-hit in the eighth inning in Milwaukee, walking on four pitches.

"None of that," he said. "I didn’t have 100 media people talking to me before the game. That’s something you’re definitely not used to, but you’re going to get a lot of media with the Red Sox. Double that, playing at Yankee Stadium."

Betts said he had "a little jitters" when he stepped into the box for the first time against Yankees right-hander Chase Whitley, but insisted they evaporated after the first pitch.

"Same game," he said.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
Gordon Edes for ESPNMookie Betts' fiancée, Brianna Hammonds, and mother, Diana, were among those taking in the game from section 228 at Yankee Stadium.
"I just felt relaxed. The same game I’ve been playing the whole time. I didn’t want to put any extra pressure on myself today."

By the time he batted for the first time, having already played an inning in right field, he’d been introduced to the more, shall we say, outgoing members of Yankees fandom, who accorded him the same courtesies they typically extend to visitors from Boston.

"Luckily, guys told me to expect it," he said. "But nothing too creative, no."

Betts came here after having reached base in all 23 games in which he played for Pawtucket. That streak began at one Sunday night, in a game in which every member of the Boston lineup reached base, a rarity for a Red Sox team that had averaged just 2.4 runs in its previous 14 games.

"Great at-bats," praised Pedroia, whose sacrifice fly brought Betts across the plate with his first run scored in the big leagues. "He controlled the strike zone, controlled his at-bats, especially facing guys he’d never seen before. Real mature at-bats for his age, just coming up.

"He’s great, man, a great kid who loves to work, asking questions. Fun to be around."

Holt, Bradley, Xander Bogaerts and now Betts. Four rookies breaking into the lineup of the defending World Series champions. Only one defending champion in the past 70 years has had even three rookies play 40 or more games the following season, and that was the 1998 Florida Marlins, who stripped their team of stars for financial reasons.

Unlike Holt, Bradley and Bogaerts also came with glowing advance notices. They have both struggled this season, Bogaerts sitting down Sunday after recording just six hits in his last 66 at-bats. But for all of them, the journey has just begun.

Sunday night, Mookie Betts became more than just a name fraught with possibility. The proof? After he collected his first hit, a most uncommon player extended the common courtesy of tossing the ball into the Sox dugout. The deliveryman? Derek Jeter. He is 40 years old now. He was 20 years and 337 days old when he made his big-league debut.

On that day, Jeter was no different than Mookie Betts. Bright-eyed and full of promise.

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 8, Yankees 5

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
11:54
PM ET


NEW YORK -- So, was there a difference in the Boston Red Sox's offense Sunday night? You bet(ts).

The result: The Sox marked the arrival of Mookie Betts’ major league debut by generating a dozen hits and eight walks, a first in one game this season, and rolling to an 8-5 win over the New York Yankees before a crowd of 48,124.

The Big Picture I: The Sox won the rubber game of this three-game set and finished their 10-game, three-city excursion with a 4-6 record. They are 18-25 on the road, 15-20 in the AL East and trail the first-place Toronto Blue Jays by six games.

The Big Picture II: The Jays are 12-15 in June and have lost nine of their past 13 games. Despite a losing record on the trip, the Sox picked up a half-game on Toronto.

Big Picture III: It's worth noting that on June 8, the San Francisco Giants were 9½ games ahead of the Dodgers. Three weeks later, the teams are in a virtual tie for first place.

Mookie mania: Betts did his part, grounding a single in the fourth for his first major league hit, then walking and scoring his first big league run in the sixth. He also was caught stealing and missed a diving attempt at a liner by Ichiro Suzuki that went for a triple.

No less than the prince of the Yankees, Derek Jeter, who at 40 is 19 years older than Betts, tossed the ball from the kid’s first hit into the visitors’ dugout for a memento, while his father and mother, Willie and Diana Betts, and his fiancée, Brianna Hammonds, watched from box seats in the second deck.

Hit-o-rama: But this was a night in which everyone in the Sox's lineup got into the act.

* Dustin Pedroia singled in each of his first three-at bats, giving him six straight hits, hit a sacrifice fly and drew a walk. He scored a run and drove in three, and also stayed in a rundown long enough after being picked off for another run to score.

* David Ortiz hit a three-run home run off Yankees starter Chase Whitley in the third, his 19th home run of the season and 450th of his career, in the third.

* Mike Napoli, who always hits in games John Lackey pitches (24-for-55 on his career), doubled and scored Boston’s first run.

* Stephen Drew singled Napoli home, his second RBI of the season, for the first Sox run.

* Brock Holt walked twice and singled, scoring two runs.

* Jackie Bradley walked and scored, singled, and also threw out Carlos Beltran at the plate when he attempted to score in the sixth with the Yankees down three runs.

* A.J. Pierzynski threw up his arms again in mock celebration when he blooped a hit in the fifth.

Lackey gets a pickup: Lackey was knocked around for five runs (four earned) in five innings, giving up home runs in the fourth to Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, but was credited with the win. He is 7-0 in games in which the Sox score four or more runs.

Shutdown pen: Sox relievers pitched two-hit ball over the last four scoreless innings, striking out six. Andrew Miller K’d three in the seventh.

Bogaerts (6-for-66) sits; Holt plays 3B

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
7:30
PM ET
NEW YORK -- The first person to sit as part of John Farrell’s rotation designed to make room for Mookie Betts was third baseman Xander Bogaerts. Brock Holt started at third in Bogaerts’s place, with Betts playing right field.

It is only the third time this month that Bogaerts has not started, but he is mired in a horrific slump. On June 8, Bogaerts was batting .299; he has lost 48 percentage points since, dropping to .251. In 18 games over that span, he is just 6-for-66 (.091), with one extra-base hit, a home run. In 70 plate appearances, he has 19 strikeouts and three walks.

“His timing’s off,’’ manager John Farrell said. “We recognize it. There are some things that are tangibly different from when he was in a stretch where he was impacting the baseball with regularity.’’

Farrell said the flaws in Bogaerts’ mechanics were detected both on video and from the dugout, and that Bogaerts is working on making corrections. The problem to date, Farrell said, is that at game speed, Bogaerts has not yet been able to make the adjustments. “We’ve got to remain patient,’’ he said.

Mookie as in Blaylock, not Wilson

June, 28, 2014
Jun 28
9:57
PM ET
NEW YORK -- "I think it was a little before my time," Mookie Betts said, "but I'm aware of it."

Betts was born in 1992, six years after a slow roller by Mookie Wilson slipped between the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

No, he clarified again Saturday, he was not named after that Mookie.

"My parents were watching Mookie Blaylock," the Red Sox rookie said, invoking the name of the former NBA point guard who played for the Nets, Hawks, and Warriors.

Betts said his mother, father and fiancée were all present on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, hoping to see him make his major league debut.

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?

SportsNation

Should the Red Sox call up Mookie Betts and get him in the lineup?

  •  
    78%
  •  
    22%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,602)

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.

Victorino stuck in neutral; Betts still raking

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21
4:07
PM ET
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Outfielder Shane Victorino (right hamstring strain) will be out of the lineup for Triple-A Pawtucket for the third straight game Saturday night, and the Red Sox's hopes of having him back during the West Coast stretch of their road trip has all but disappeared.

"He'll have another day of treatment," manager John Farrell said. "He'll re-engage with BP tomorrow and that's where we are right now. I wouldn't categorize it as a setback."

When Farrell was asked about recently signed veteran outfielder Andres Torres' progress, he said he didn't have "a real update" to offer. "I know Mookie Betts is swinging the bat well," Farrell added, smiling.

Betts is batting .324 with 12 RBIs, two home runs, three doubles, one triple and four stolen bases in 17 games since being promoted to Pawtucket from Double-A Portland. He's reached base safely in all 17 games. In his past five games, he's gone 10-for-23, including a two-run, walk-off single Friday night in a 3-2 win against Wilkes-Barre.

How fast could Betts get to Boston?

"I don't know," Farrell said. "The fact that he's in Triple-A, he's clearly on the radar, and the fact that he continues to swing the bat with some consistency ... Timeframe, no indication to it. He's doing everything he can, though, to put himself on that track."

Betts was drafted in the fifth round in 2011 as a second baseman, but he's now also playing in the outfield.

"We're not ready to anoint him a regular center fielder or a regular outfielder, but his athleticism certainly plays there."

• First baseman/outfielder Mike Carp (broken right foot) has started to "jog lightly" and hit off a tee, but he's not ready to go on a rehab assignment, Farrell said. Carp went on the 15-day disabled list on June 2, retroactive to June 1.

• Third baseman Will Middlebrooks (fractured right index finger) is making solid progress during his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket, Farrell said. "Timing is becoming more and more consistent with each passing day. While he still has some soreness in the finger, he's getting back to more game speed and game activity."

Red Sox promote Betts to Triple-A

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
1:53
PM ET
The Red Sox on Tuesday promoted second baseman/outfielder Mookie Betts to Triple-A Pawtucket, general manager Ben Cherington confirmed.

The 21-year-old Betts -- the organization’s No. 1 prospect, as ranked by SoxProspects.com -- hit .355 in 54 games for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs this season. He had 6 homers, a .994 OPS and 34 RBIs in 214 at bats.

"We looked at his performance over the course of the season today, he's really excelled in every area of the game and that's been going on," Cherington said on a conference call to discuss the upcoming draft. "He's controlling the strike zone, he's running the bases, he's playing defense, he's obviously hitting -- he's hitting for power. 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 are being challenged. It's up to us to make sure that they're being challenged."

The career second baseman just recently spent some time in center field in Portland, the club figuring it will have a need for an outfielder long before a second baseman, with Dustin Pedroia under contract through 2021.

"This conversation started a few days ago and we wanted to avoid introducing too much all at once to Mookie," Cherington said. "Because he started to play some outfield we wanted to give him a little bit of time to settle in in the outfield before also introducing him to Triple-A. Now that he's gotten a little time in the outfield, and he's gotten comfortable out there, we felt like it was the time to move him up to Pawtucket."

Before the Red Sox's game Tuesday in Cleveland, manager John Farrell said “you can’t rule out” the possibility that Betts could be summoned at some point this season to help the major league team. Farrell said the plan for Betts at the outset of his time in Pawtucket is to play second base. Eventually, however, Farrell expects Betts also to be used in center field, where he had played a handful of games for Portland.

“A positional fit defensively is going to be part of this,’’ Farrell said of Betts’s big-league prospects. “It’s exciting to see a young player who this time a year ago was in the South Atlantic League. He’s moving quick.

“A player tells you when he’s ready for the next challenge, and his performance at Double-A suggests that. He’s doing some things offensively that are eye-popping, when you see how productive and consistent he’s been.’’

Betts, 21, started the 2013 season with Greenville in the lower Class A South Atlantic League before being promoted to high Class A Salem of the Carolina League, where he hit .341 with 22 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases in 51 games.

Both Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts were promoted to the big leagues a year after starting a season in Class A Salem.

SoxProspects: Betts getting work in CF

May, 26, 2014
May 26
9:24
PM ET
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Things are changing for Mookie Betts. Both on the field and off, Betts has had to adjust to an evolving set of circumstances brought on by his breathtaking success to start the season.

Betts, a member of the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, had a breakout 2013 campaign. He was named the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year after hitting .314 AVG/.417 OBP/.506 SLG across two levels of Class A with 15 home runs and 38 steals.

This year, he has taken that to another level. The 5-foot-8 Betts got on base in the first 35 games of the season, recording hits in all but one of those contests. His on-base streak, reaching back to last season, grew to 66 games, 71 including playoffs. He fell five games short of the minor league record of 71 regular-season games, set by two players Red Sox fans are familiar with: Kevin Youkilis and Kevin Millar.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsWith Dustin Pedroia blocking his path at second base, Mookie Betts seemingly is being groomed for a potential super-utility role.
From the beginning of the season until the last game of the streak on May 15, Betts hit .401/.467/.619 with six home runs and 18 stolen bases, scoring 44 runs atop the Portland lineup. Entering Monday's games, he ranked among the minor league leaders in average (.366), runs (50), hits (68), total bases (107), doubles (17) and steals (22), and has been a standout in the field at second base.

But since Dustin Pedroia signed his eight-year, $110 million extension last July, there was one nagging question that followed Betts’ gaudy numbers: How would he fit in Boston once he was ready to play in the majors?

This week, we started to see how that fit might work, as Betts made his debut in center field on May 18. In the 11 games (over nine days) since, he has been the center fielder seven times, the second baseman three times and the DH once. The athletic Betts, who also excelled in basketball and bowling in high school, always has projected as a potential Ben Zobrist-type utility player, a first-division starter who can fit in several places in a major league lineup. Introducing him to center field looks like it may be the first step in developing him into such a player.

Betts was not really tested in his three games in center during a recent series against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Manchester, recording a few easy putouts on pop flies, but he was somewhat tentative on reads and reactions at the new position. Betts said the adjustment has been mostly mental thus far.

“You have to think about getting behind the ball, where you’re going to throw it, where are your lines, where are you going to be on the routine plays,” said Betts, who played some center field in high school. “It’s a new environment for me. I’m not standing on dirt anymore.”

Betts said he was told about two days before his first game in center field that he would begin playing the position in games -- perhaps not coincidentally, it was right after the end of his on-base streak -- but he had been working there on his own during batting practice for some time. Still, those who think Betts now has a rocket to Fenway strapped on his back should take note that it will take time for him to get comfortable in the outfield.

“It’s an adjustment because it’s been four years or so [since I played there],” he said. “[In professional baseball] there’s a lot more responsibility that goes on. In high school, you don’t really think about all that. Here, you have to. There’s always a place to be, even on the routine plays. That’s what I’m learning now.”

Meanwhile, Betts is in the process of adjusting to all the attention his play has garnered from media and fans. Even last year, during Betts’ breakout season, he was sheltered from the bright lights of Red Sox Nation in the Low A South Atlantic League and High A Carolina League. Now, closer to the majors both geographically and professionally, and with the major league club going through intense struggles, the spotlight is firmly centered on the 21-year-old.

“It’s been very different, but I feel like I’m adjusting to it pretty well,” he said. “But, yeah, it’s definitely been different coming to the field, signing more autographs, giving more interviews. It’s been fun, but … not annoying, but something to get used to.”

If Betts keeps it up, he may have to get used to even more changes, such as a new locale in Triple-A Pawtucket, and before all is said and done this season, maybe the majors.

Farm notes: Betts soars up the charts

May, 1, 2014
May 1
2:40
PM ET
As of May 1, Double-A Portland second baseman Mookie Betts leads all of minor league baseball with a .430 batting average. His full slash line is .430/.481/.688 with 10 doubles, 4 homes runs, and 10 stolen bases, which follows up a breakout 2013 season in which he hit .314/.417/.506 with 36 doubles, 15 home runs, and 38 stolen bases between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem. Including last season, Betts has reached base in 52 consecutive games as of the close of April.

In addition to his offensive prowess, the 21-year-old also plays plus defense at second base, and may be capable of moving to shortstop, left field, or center field in the future if need be. Betts has skyrocketed up the prospect charts, and at anything even close to this pace will be ranked among the top prospects in all of baseball by season’s end.

TOP PROSPECTS

Center fielder Jackie Bradley graduated from prospect status on April 25, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts is slated to graduate from prospect status on May 2.

Here’s how the other top position prospects in the system fared offensively in April.

Notes: Garin Cecchini continues to put the bat on the ball, and has maintained an excellent plate approach despite being assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket at the age of 22 (he’s since turned 23), but the lack of added power in his fourth year in the system has some scouts concerned it may not come ... On the other hand, Christian Vazquez continues to impress scouts enough with his offense, where the defensive wizard might now be considered a potential future starting option for a first-division club ... At 18, Wendell Rijo is the seventh-youngest player in all of Low-A ball ... Rafael Devers turned some heads with his present power and makeup in spring training, but at 17 will likely open his season in the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League.

Here are the lines for the system’s top pitching prospects from April.

Notes: Henry Owens opened the Portland season with a rain-shortened no-hitter on April 3 and followed that up with 6.2 scoreless innings on April 9, but has struggled with command and control over his last three starts ... Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo have both been inconsistent to start their 2014 campaigns, issues that have plagued them for the past few years ... Matt Barnes missed the first three weeks of the season with right shoulder tenderness ... Trey Ball, Boston first-round pick in 2014, was promoted from extended spring training to Low-A Greenville on April 26 ... Drake Britton hasn’t let up many runs to start the season, but his velocity has been down a tick and he’s struggled with control.

OTHER TOP PERFORMERS

Other top hitting performers have been Greenville infielder Carlos Asuaje, hitting .352/.477/.606, and Salem outfielder Kevin Heller, posting a line of .312/.450/.562. An 11th-round pick in 2013, Asuaje impressed with his bat, glove, and versatility in spring training, earning himself a spot as a regular on the Drive’s roster.

On the pitching front, the other top performers have included Pawtucket right-hander Rubby De La Rosa, Portland right-hander Keith Couch, Greenville left-hander Cody Kukuk, and Salem left-hander Corey Littrell.

De La Rosa has made five starts for the PawSox, going 1-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 25 strikeouts, and 7 walks in 27.2 innings. He’s been able to throw strikes with his fastball, changeup, and slider, and hasn’t given up a lot of hard contact.
Given the early returns, De La Rosa may be next in line if an opportunity presents itself in the major league rotation.

Couch has opened his second season in Portland in dominant fashion, going 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 25 strikeouts, and 5 walks in 29 innings over 5 starts. The 24-year-old relies on a solid low-90s sinker, an average curveball, and a decent low-80s changeup. An unheralded 13th-round pick in 2010, he has posted solid numbers throughout his time in the organization.

Kukuk, also repeating a level in 2014, is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 29 walks, and 12 strikeouts in 24.0 innings. If he continues to maintain improved control as he has early on this season, he should get a bump up to High-A Salem before the All-Star Break.

Littrell, 22, is in his first full professional season after being selected in the fifth round in 2013 and thereafter posting a 1.74 ERA in 12 games with Short-A Lowell. In 2014, he’s 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 29 strikeouts, and 10 walks in 27.2 innings with Salem. The polished lefty has a mix of four solid-average pitches. His fastball now sits in the 88-92 mph range, after topping out in the mid-90s in college. He could move quickly through the system, especially if his velocity returns to previous levels.

ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERS

As of May 1 (cumulative stats, minor league only, min. 75 plate appearances or 20 innings pitched for non-counting stats)

AVG
1. Mookie Betts, .430
2. Brock Holt, .358
3. Carlos Asuaje, .352

OPS
1. Mookie Betts, 1.169
2. Carlos Asuaje, 1.083
3. Kevin Heller, 1.012

HR
1(t). Mookie Betts, 4
1(t). Bryce Brentz, 4
1(t). Travis Shaw, 4
1(t). Kevin Mager, 4

SB
1. Mookie Betts, 10
2. Manuel Margot, 7
3(t). Ryan Dent, 5
3(t). Shannon Wilkerson, 5
3(t), Matty Johnson, 5

ERA
1. Cody Kukuk, 1.88
2. Rubby De La Rosa, 2.28
3. Keith Couch, 2.48

Strikeouts/9 IP
1. Brian Johnson, 11.57
2. Cody Kukuk, 10.88
3. Mickey Pena, 10.32

Walks/9 IP
1. Keith Couch, 1.55
2. Mike McCarthy, 1.74
3. Mike Augliera, 1.88

Saves
1(t). Drake Britton, 2
1(t). Alex Wilson, 2
1(t). Jose Valdez, 2
1(t). Joe Gunkel, 2
1(t). Jonatahn Aro, 2

PLAYER MOVEMENT

Two players got the call to Boston from the minor leagues in April: IF Brock Holt and RHP Alex Wilson. Meanwhile, Holt, Wilson, Workman, IF Ryan Roberts, and OF Daniel Nava were all sent down to Pawtucket from Boston over the course of the month.

Three major-leaguers had rehab assignments in April: Craig Breslow, Shane Victorino, and Will Middlebrooks.

Minor-leaguers who received promotions included RHP Pat Light from Greenville to Salem and Ball from extended spring training to Greenville.

Mike Andrews is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SoxProspects.com and a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

SoxProspects: Keep an eye on Betts

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
3:06
PM ET
BOSTON -- By no means is it a stretch to say 2013 was a breakout campaign for Red Sox prospect Mookie Betts. The athletic second baseman went from being ranked outside of the SoxProspects.com Top 40 entering the season to now residing at spot No. 10 on our list in a loaded farm system, picking up the site’s Offensive Player and Breakout Player of the Year awards along the way.

If you ask him though, the secret to his success is simple. “Just work,” Betts said at the New Stars for Young Stars fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund on Jan. 11. “Just trying to work hard in the offseason, trying to make things happen.”

Betts was taken out of high school as a raw four-sport athlete in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. He played very little that season, and spent 2012 in extended spring training and Short-Season A Lowell. Though he batted .267/.352/.307 in 71 games that season, he came on strong in the second half after moving from shortstop to second, and many saw him as a having the potential to grow into a plus defender at second with an excellent approach at the plate and good speed on the basepaths.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
AP Photo/Brian Westerholt/Four Seam ImagesBetts was Offensive Player of Year in 2013, hitting .314 with a .417 OBP and 38 stolen bases for Greenville and Salem.
But the 5-foot-9, 156-pound Betts was considered anything but a power threat at the time. He did not even hit his first professional home run until this past spring with Low-A Greenville. However, that first one came in just his fifth game of the season, and he never looked back, finishing the season with 15 longballs totaled across two levels, while hitting a cool .314/.417/.506 in 127 games.

“He said he didn’t hit any home runs in high school, didn’t hit any home runs in Lowell, and comes out and hits what, 15 this year, total?" said catching prospect Blake Swihart, who got to see seven of those homers firsthand in High-A Salem. "That’s awesome. That’s really finding your swing and finding confidence in your at-bats.”

“I didn't know I could do it,” Betts admitted looking back on his power surge. “But once you do it a couple times, then you're confident and you just stop worrying about it. You just let it happen. That's kind of what happened this year.”

The added power did not hinder his abilities on the basepaths either, as Betts stole 38 bags in 127 games this year after swiping 20 in 71 last season. Perhaps most impressive was that he was caught stealing just four times, while moving up a level mid-season.
Betts is not slow by any means, but also not someone you would consider a burner. He instead uses his strong baseball instincts to get good jumps.

“I don't consider myself really that fast,” Betts acknowledged. “Just getting a good read on the pitchers is huge, whether you're fast or not.”

Though the season was a resounding success individually for Betts, that was not the case for the Greenville Drive team with which he began the season. The Drive went 22-47 in the first half, and were 32-55 when he was promoted on July 9. Such a situation can be a grind mentally, but Betts used it as a learning experience.

“It was tough, but each day is a different day,” said the 21-year-old. “You have to go into each day with a new attitude. Learning was a way of life sometimes [in Greenville] and everything's not going to go your way. You have to just be patient with the process. That really taught me things about life as well as baseball too.”

Earning the promotion to Salem in early July, he seemed to only get better, upping his batting average from .296 to .341, while also improving his slugging percentage. He also helped key a second-half turnaround that led to the Red Sox winning the Carolina League championship. The club went 34-18 with Betts to close out the regular season, then swept through their five playoff games to capture the Mills Cup.

All of this led up to Betts being selected to take part in the Arizona Fall League in October and November, a prestigious league featuring countless top prospects over the years. Each organization can send eight attendees, but only two of those can be players that did not play in Double-A or above the prior season. Betts was one of these selections this year, and needless to say it was a significant challenge for him.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsBetts played against the East during the 2013 Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium in Arizona.
“Definitely,” Betts responded when asked if it was the toughest competition he’s faced. “That was really tough. Getting to see [teams’] number ones and number twos [every day], even deep into the bullpen. It was a great learning [experience] though. I'm really happy I got the chance to go and to see it because I feel like it will be somewhat of an advantage going into this next year.”

In his time out there, he managed to hold his own in a very small sample size, batting .271/.368/.373 with eight steals and one home run across 16 games. Perhaps the biggest honor was being selected to take part in the Fall Stars Game, the annual showcase that features the best prospects from the AFL. These are selected based not necessarily on performance during the fall, but status as a prospect, by scouting and farm directors from every Major League organization.

More importantly, the time spent in Arizona should serve Betts well in the transition to Double-A, where he is projected to begin the 2014 season.

“I wouldn't say I'm nervous, I'm excited about it,” he said on the prospect of playing in Portland. “Hopefully I do make it up [to Double-A], I have no idea. If I was to, then I'd be really excited about it, knowing I'm just one step closer.”

Though he has spent all of his time at second base since moving after 13 games at shortstop early in his time with Lowell, there have been reports this offseason that the organization may expose him to shortstop again in 2014, and perhaps other positions. Betts played mostly shortstop and center field in high school, and is hoping to become more versatile, but said he has not heard from the team yet on their exact plans.

SoxProspects.com director of scouting Ian Cundall thinks Betts looked more natural once moved from short to second, but Betts does have the athleticism for the position. His arm strength would be the main question at short.

Despite all of his success, Betts is ready to “forget” the best season of his baseball life and move on to the next. He knows ultimately that he's still a long way from his goal.

Matt Huegel is managing editor for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegelSP. SoxProspects.com executive editor Chris Hatfield also contributed reporting to this story.

SPONSORED HEADLINES