NEW YORK — Mookie Betts hardly seemed overwhelmed.
Betts arrived at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon after being called up by the Boston Red Sox from Triple-A Pawtucket. The 21-year-old was calm, cool and collected while talking with reporters, seemingly unfazed by the immense expectations bestowed upon him amid his rapid ascent through the Red Sox organization.
“I think I’m as ready as I’m going to get,” Betts said. “Only time will tell. When I get out there and (start) playing and learning more, we’ll be able to tell if I was ready or not. But the front office feels like I’m ready, so I have to feel like I’m ready as well.”
Betts was notified Friday night that he was headed to the majors for the first time. He was about to order pizza with his fiancée after returning to his hotel when Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles called and asked to see him.
“He said something had happened, and I had no idea,” Betts said. “It was kind of weird how he said something happened. It scared me, honestly.”
Once Boles delivered the news, Betts’ fear subsided. The focus was back on baseball — a game Betts has dominated over the last year-plus — and the amazing progress he’s made since being drafted in the fifth round by the Red Sox in 2011.
“It’s flew by,” Betts said Saturday while reflecting on his rise through the system. “It was literally last year that I was in (Single-A) Greenville. But it’s a blessing to be here now.”
Betts arrives in the majors looking to spark a Red Sox team that is clinging to life in the American League East, largely because of its offensive struggles. While the pressure seems enormous, Betts is taking a realistic and healthy approach to the situation.
“I’m here just to contribute,” Betts said. “The tables will turn. This team is a good team. They were world champions last year. I’m sure the tables will turn. It’s not on me. It’s going to be a group effort. We’re going out there, and we’re going to play.”
Betts, who wasn’t in Saturday’s starting lineup against the New York Yankees because the Red Sox wanted him to get acclimated, will be used both in center field and right field moving forward, according to manager John Farrell. Betts was drafted as a second baseman, but reports of his work in the outfield have been positive, and his comfort level continues to grow.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it,” Betts said. “But I’m getting reads in BP and shagging and talking with some guys. I think I should be OK.”
Betts’ calling card is his offensive prowess. His combination of power and speed — coupled with his tremendous plate discipline — has translated at each level of the minors despite facing better pitching along the way. The phenom prospect is confident his jump to the majors — the biggest jump in baseball — won’t be any different.
“Just being confident in myself, knowing that everybody around me has confidence in me,” Betts said of transitioning to life in The Show. “Just being confident in myself, and they tell me just to go play. Go out there and play; that’s all I can do.”
Photo via Twitter/@Soxlunch