Fresh off winning his arbitration case, Mookie Betts cleared the air on what he called “tension in the locker room” last season.
Speaking to the media in Fort Myers, Fla., the Red Sox right fielder acknowledged that he was disappointed by his own performance last year, and that the players “could have had more fun through the rough times” in 2017. Betts said he’s focused on learning from those experiences and bringing back the World Series in 2018.
“If we hit a rough patch this year,” Betts said. “Maybe we can learn from last year, continue to enjoy the game, and maybe we can get out of it faster.”
He wasn’t the only Sox player talking clubhouse drama on Thursday. Xander Bogaerts declined to detail specific incidents, but said tension is inevitable during the course of a long season.
“Whenever there are a lot of men in a room, there will always be some kind of headbutts, disagreements,” Bogaerts said. “But in the end we came out on top: division leaders, division champs. So we had to be doing something right.”
Betts also talked about his arbitration case during the offseason. In January, a panel of judges ruled that the Red Sox MVP candidate will make $10.5 million this season instead of the $7.5 million the team offered. Betts said that the process did not alter his relationship with the organization and would not affect his long-term plans.
“It’s just the business of baseball,” Betts said. “Knowing that, you don’t take anything personal. You take emotions out of it. They have to take care of themselves and I have to take care of myself. Again, like I said, there’s no hard feelings. You just worry about 2018 and going out and winning some games.”
The Red Sox will attempt to win those games with a lineup that looks nearly identical to the 2017 group that won the AL East but fell short in the first round of the playoffs. Betts was asked about the team’s offseason additions, or lack thereof, but said the players on the roster will be good enough going forward.
“If a couple of us step up a little bit, I think we’ll be just fine,” Betts said. “If somebody comes then somebody comes, but right now we just have to focus on what we have now.”
As for the right fielder’s personal approach to spring training and the upcoming season, Betts said that he’s focused on being more consistent and productive at the plate. But he doesn’t care where he’s slotted in the lineup on March 29 when the Red Sox open their 2018 campaign in Tampa Bay.
“As long as I’m in there, that’s all that matters,” he said.
Watch: Cora, Bogaerts, and Betts talk Day 2 of Red Sox Spring Training