BOSTON — Mookie Betts won’t be the answer to the Boston Red Sox’s third base conundrum.
The Red Sox aren’t backing off their plan for Betts despite there being a clear need at third base for 2015. The 21-year-old’s long-term future resides in the outfield, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell. The club has no intention of trying Betts at either third base or shortstop.
“We moved Mookie to second base when Dustin (Pedroia) went down for the year. We moved Mookie to center field initially because of Dustin’s presence,” Farrell said before Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. “With Dustin coming back (in 2015), we see Mookie as an outfielder, not on the left side of the infield.”
Betts opened his professional career as a shortstop after being drafted in the fifth round in 2011. He played 13 games at shortstop with Single-A Lowell in 2012, committing six errors before shifting to second base. Betts remained at second base until this season, at which point he began learning the outfield to expedite his major league arrival.
“He was moved off the left side of the infield early in his minor league career because of some changes with accuracy to throws and that type of thing,” Farrell said. “To go back to an area that has already been played, we’re trying maximize the current ability and plug him in to a team that can contend and compete as soon as possible.”
The Red Sox, of course, have their second base situation squared away for the foreseeable future, as Pedroia, who went down with a thumb/wrist injury, is under contract through 2021. Third base, on the other hand, remains in flux with Will Middlebrooks struggling mightily the last two seasons amid a myriad of injuries. Shifting Betts to third base makes sense on the surface, especially considering the Red Sox’s crowded outfield, but Boston is happy with the rookie’s defensive development this season and would like to continue that momentum.
“Early on, he came to us and was learning on the fly (in the outfield), and I would still say he’s developing as an outfielder, even to this date, even though he’s been at second base of late,” Farrell said. “But in the times that he’s been in center field, there’s been real and tangible improvements each of those stints that he’s been with us.”
The Red Sox need to figure out their third base situation for next season. Just don’t expect Betts to be part of the conversation.