BOSTON — Mookie Betts is not quite ready to declare himself a full-fledged major-league outfielder. He knows he still has plenty of ground to cover before he can say that.
But a few more catches like the one he made Friday, and other people might start to say it for him.
Betts saved a run and possibly a Red Sox victory with a tremendous, leaping catch in deep center field in the eighth inning of the Red Sox’s 4-3 win over the New York Yankees on Friday. The catch, coming immediately after a solo home run by Derek Jeter narrowed Boston’s lead to one run, was more than just a stand-alone highlight.
“Heck of a play,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s going back on a ball, leaping catch, at a pivotal time of the game, particularly after Jeter’s home run to start off the eighth inning. For a guy who’s transitioned positions inside this year, (it was) a very athletic play.”
An infielder all through his rocket-like rise through the Red Sox’s system, Betts moved to the outfield this season to address a need at the big-league level (not to mention his path to the show being blocked at second base by Dustin Pedroia). His versatility earned him a recall to the bigs Friday, after Boston’s trade deadline maneuvering created the need for a stopgap outfielder.
Betts still takes some creative routes to balls at times, but starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo wasn’t concerned with the route Betts took on his catch. The play saved Ranaudo’s chance at a victory in his first major-league start. Betts has ridden the I-95 from Fenway Park to McCoy Stadium multiple times this season, something Ranaudo now appears destined to do in the final two months, so saving a win for a longtime minor-league teammate was extra special.
“I didn’t really think about that at the moment, but now that I think about it, I’m happy to take care of him, especially,” Betts said. “But if anybody’s on the mound, we’re all trying to get the win.”
The victory did not vault the Red Sox out of last place in the American League East, though, and Ranaudo was expected to head right back to Pawtucket after the game. Betts’ catch was about more than just getting one win, though. It was about building up his belief that the outfield is something he can master, as he has with other skills on the diamond.
“I think it just shows I believe I can go get the ball,” Betts said. “Sometimes I don’t get the right jumps or don’t take the right routes, but just having done that (Friday), I feel like I took a step forward.”