BOSTON — Red Sox manager John Farrell said over the weekend that top prospect Mookie Betts isn’t being viewed as the club’s savior.
Betts confirmed his status Monday before playing at Fenway Park for the first time as a major leaguer.
“I’m not the savior of the team. I’m not going to say that I am,” Betts said before Monday’s game against the Chicago Cubs at Fenway. “I’m just here to contribute and do my part.”
Betts, who was called up before Saturday’s game against the New York Yankees, made his major league debut Sunday at Yankee Stadium. He put forth a positive effort in the Red Sox’s 8-5 win, which added to the intrigue surrounding his arrival yet didn’t impact the 21-year-old’s humility.
“I’m not looking to add anything. I’m just coming up here and playing,” Betts said Monday. “I think they’ve been doing fine, I’m just coming here to contribute and do my part.”
Betts went 1-for-3 with a single, a walk and a run scored in his big league debut. He also ran into an out while attempting to steal second base and made an overaggressive play in right field, but the rookie held his emotions in check, which was most impressive given the recent hype of Mookie Mania.
“I feel like everybody here has really helped me a lot,” Betts said Monday of settling in with his new teammates. “They made my first game — even though it was at Yankee Stadium — they made it feel like I was in my backyard. I wasn’t nervous at all, and I was just going out and playing. Just knowing they have confidence in me and they’ve got my back is real good.”
Several players lauded Betts’ talent and personality over the weekend, further increasing the already sky-high expectations placed on the former fifth-round pick. Betts is attempting to simplify matters any way he can, though, recognizing that he’s still playing the same game he’s dominated for the last year-plus.
“I think just being able to put the ball in play, contact, trying to keep my strikeout rate low and walk rate high,” Betts said of his offensive strengths. “Just trying to get on base.”
Getting on base was Betts’ forte down on the farm, as he posted a .408 on-base percentage in 276 career minor league games — including a .437 mark this season in 77 games split between Triple-A Pawtucket (23) and Double-A Portland (54). The Red Sox were impressed enough to give Betts a shot in The Show amid their rollercoaster 2014 season, and it’s now up to Betts to seize the opportunity.
“I think anytime we take a player from the minor leagues, the player has indicated that his time’s arrived based on what he’s done at the minor league level,” Farrell said Monday. “And in Mookie’s case, his ascent through the system has been rapid. He’s met or exceeded every challenge and level along the way, and at the same time, with (Shane Victorino’s) reoccurrence of the injury, the two situations came together.”
Betts said after Sunday’s game in New York that the fans in right field heckled him a bit, though their creativity wasn’t exactly up to par. The Tennessee native now gets to spend the next 11 days — assuming he sticks around — at the friendly confines of Fenway, where the atmosphere should be a bit different.
“I think it’ll be great,” Betts said of playing at Fenway. “Going from Yankee Stadium, where everybody boos you, to coming to Boston, where everybody’s with you.”
Everybody is with Betts largely because they recognize he could be an impact player, even if he’s not necessarily “the savior.”
Photo via Twitter/@BostonGlobe