Mother Nature perhaps is the only one who can slow down Mookie Betts.
Betts turned in another remarkable performance Friday before rain ended the Boston Red Sox’s 4-2 Grapefruit League loss to the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium after seven innings. The 22-year-old literally did it all while further solidifying himself as Boston’s center fielder and leadoff hitter to open 2015.
Betts singled in his first at-bat and stole second base with two outs. Rusney Castillo flied out to center field with the bases loaded after Allen Craig and Daniel Nava worked back-to-back walks, but Betts’ knock and theft provided the perfect snapshot of why he’ll be hitting atop the Red Sox’s order come April 6.
Next, it was time for Betts to show off his plate discipline. Walks have been nonexistent for the aggressive outfielder this spring, but don’t mistake that for an undisciplined approach. Betts showed a keen eye throughout his minor league career and at the major league level last season, and it’s a huge reason why he’s considered such a lethal on-base threat.
The loudest bang of the afternoon came in Betts’ third at-bat, though, when he smoked a two-run homer over the left field fence against Julio Teheran in the fourth inning.
Teheran, an All-Star in 2014, has won 14 games each of the last two seasons while posting a 3.03 ERA in 63 starts. The righty is no slouch.
“He seemingly is on time all the time at the plate,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., after Friday’s game. “ … It’s been very exciting to see. It hasn’t been against pitchers that might not be seen during the regular season at the major league level. He’s facing some of the better pitchers that are going to be pitching this season.”
Betts is hitting .487 (19-for-39) with two homers, five RBIs and a 1.435 OPS after Friday’s performance. His 11 extra-base hits are the most by a Red Sox player in spring training since Josh Reddick produced 12 in 2010.
And if that wasn’t enough, Betts made a diving catch in center field in the fifth inning Friday to help Clay Buchholz wiggle out of a jam.
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Farrell hasn’t made any announcements regarding the Red Sox’s starting outfield or his Opening Day lineup. He should jot down Betts’ name with permanent marker right now, though.
Not that anyone’s going to forget it at this point.
Thumbnail photo via Carlos Osorio/USA TODAY Sports Images