NEW YORK — Mookie Betts acknowledged there were some jitters Sunday before his major league debut. They didn’t last long, as the 21-year-old singled into center field in his second at-bat.
Betts went 1-for-3 with a single, a walk and a run scored in the Boston Red Sox’s 8-5 win over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The rookie played right field and came away from his first big league contest with a sense of satisfaction.
“It was great. I mean, going up my first at bat I had a little jitters, but once I saw the first pitch, (it’s the) same game,” Betts said. “For the first game, it’s a really big atmosphere (at Yankee Stadium), but I had that day off before so I kind of got to feel it out and see what it was about.
“It’s the same game I’ve been playing the whole time,” Betts added. “Not wanting to put any extra pressure on myself today, so I think I did that pretty well.”
Betts grounded into a 5-4-3 double play in his first at-bat in the second inning. He didn’t let the disappointment get to him, and he shot a base hit back up the middle in the fourth inning, though he was thrown out attempting to steal second base soon after.
“They told me don’t change anything,” said Betts, who swiped 88 bags in the minors, including 29 this season between Double-A and Triple-A. “I was aggressive in the minors. So I’ll take that here, be aggressive, try and steal bases.”
Betts’ most impressive plate appearance came in the sixth inning, when the former fifth-round pick worked a nine-pitch, leadoff walk against left-handed reliever David Huff. Betts nearly earned another free pass in his final at-bat of the game in the eighth inning, but lefty Matt Thornton battled back after falling behind 3-0 to induce a groundout.
Betts still is learning the ropes defensively in the outfield, and that was evident in the fifth inning, when he came up short while diving for a sinking line drive struck by Ichiro Suzuki. The ball rolled all the way to the wall, allowing Ichiro to reach third base. Ichiro ended up scoring New York’s fifth and final run.
All things considered, it was a very positive first game for Betts. He earned the praise of several teammates — both from an on-field and a personality standpoint — and his skipper saw some encouraging signs.
“I thought he controlled each and every one of his at-bats, particularly the walk,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He takes a borderline 3-2 pitch for the walk. He showed good presence in the batter’s box. He might have been a little bit overaggressive on defense with the dive on Ichiro’s ball. But for his first outing, he showed very well.”
Betts brushed aside his jitters with ease Sunday. Now, it’s onward and upward for the phenom.