Mookie Betts has captured the attention of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Farrell was asked before Saturday’s game against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum about the status of veteran outfielder Andres Torres, who signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox last week. The skipper didn’t offer much information on Torres, but he did offer a very interesting response centered on Boston’s most intriguing prospect.
“I know Mookie Betts is swinging the bat well,” Farrell said with a smile. “Not to create any (stir).”
Too late. Anytime Betts’ name gets brought up these days, it inevitably creates a stir because of the 21-year-old’s limitless potential. When Mookie Mania infiltrates an important 10-game road trip in which the Red Sox desperately need offensive help, it’s especially eyebrow-raising. In fact, it’s cause to wonder whether Betts’ major league arrival could come sooner rather than later.
“I’m not suggesting anything other than we recognize and watch what he’s doing daily,” said Farrell, seemingly well-aware that he opened a can of worms by mentioning Betts’ name unprovoked. “I don’t know (when he’ll be ready for the majors). 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 … He’s doing everything he can though to put himself on that track.”
Betts has done nothing but rake in the minors since being drafted by the Red Sox as a second baseman in the fifth round in 2011. His success this season at Double-A Portland earned him a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he has continued to excel offensively while also learning to play the outfield — something that could expedite his big league arrival given Boston’s lack of offensive production in that area.
“Center field, all reports — whether it’s been at Portland or down to Triple-A — the reads and the routes are good,” Farrell said Saturday. “We’re not ready to anoint him a regular center fielder or regular outfielder, but his athleticism certainly plays there.”
Betts entered Saturday with a .324 average, two homers, 12 RBIs, four stolen bases and a .403 on-base percentage in 17 games since being promoted to Pawtucket. Overall, Betts is hitting .348 with eight homers, 46 RBIs, 26 stolen bases, a .433 on-base percentage and a .969 OPS in 71 games split between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He has walked more times (44) than he has struck out (31).
The Red Sox entered Saturday’s game against the A’s having scored two runs or fewer in six of their last seven games. Their offensive production is down across the board from 2013, and the result is a club that’s six games below .500 (34-40) despite having one of the best pitching staffs in the American League. Perhaps Betts could inject some life into the sputtering offense.
“The best way to answer that is if a young player were to come to us, how do they inject into our lineup and what are some of the things they might do on the field to give us that energy?” Farrell said. “I go back to Brock Holt leading off the other night with a double, stealing third base, that’s a quick boost of energy we all fed on. That’s something that was part of our consistent approach last year and when we’re not driving the ball out of the ballpark, that style of play is very helpful.”
Betts, who spent 2013 split between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem, has had a remarkable ascent through the Red Sox organization. He’s clearly on the cusp of reaching The Show, and his continued success coupled with Boston’s need for a spark is creating a favorable situation for the top prospect.
Farrell’s comments before Saturday’s game are the most telling sign to date that a call-up this season could be inevitable for Betts.
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