PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Shortly after his June 3 call-up, Mookie Betts went to Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles. There was something on his mind that he wanted to talk about with his new manager.
“He actually came up and semi-apologized, saying ‘I don’t want to be a distraction,’” said Boles. “I’m like, ‘This is how it is. This is common.’ Whether it be Jackie (Bradley, Jr.) or Xander (Bogaerts), this is the attention that happens whenever you go to a new place, whether it’s Portland or Pawtucket or eventually the big leagues. It’s not a distraction. It’s just how he handles it.”
Betts, polite and respectful, didn’t want to be a get in the way of Boles and his staff, taking away from their regular, day-to-day duties.
“I know that [writers] go to the managers and talk to them about things,” Betts said. “And I know he has his everyday stuff that goes on. Managing the team, I’m sure, is tough, and I was just saying I’m sorry for it because I know he’s going to be interviewed about things.”
Those ‘things’ have to do with the buzz that Betts has created this season.
Before his promotion, he hit .355/.443/.551 in 54 games with Double-A Portland, with 56 runs scored, stealing 22 bases in 25 attempts. He reached base safely in 66 straight regular season games from Aug. 2, 2013 – May 16. His 17-game hitting streak in April, during which he hit .432, going 32-for-74, was the longest by a Portland batter since 2004.
With the PawSox, he is hitting .321/.402/.457 in 20 games, with nine runs scored, and six steals in eight attempts. He has reached base in all 20 games, and is riding an eight-game hitting streak in which his batting .389, going 14-for-36, with five multi-hit games and eight RBI
On Saturday, Red Sox manager John Farrell, during his regular pregame session with the media, offered unprompted praise of Betts, saying “I know Mookie Betts is swinging the bat well – not to create anything.”
Not to worry. Betts is creating things on his own.
Betts got a well-deserved day off on Tuesday, his first since being called up. It was also the day he was named to the Futures Game at Target Field on July 13.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” he said. “Looking forward to playing with all those guys [including Portland teammate, left-hander Henry Owens, who was also selected]. All those guys are really good players on both teams. It’s just a blessing.”
But, this season has also been a bit of a whirlwind for Betts.
“It is,” he said. “I was coming into the year knowing that Double A was going to be a big adjustment. And it was. And now that I’m in Triple A, I think it’s even more of an adjustment. So it’s been kind of a blur, but it seems like it’s been a really big adjustment period.
“Not as much off the field as on the field, playing with older guys that know little things about baseball, and I don’t even know those little things. So just being around them and learning, it’s been really fun.”
Betts, 21, a fifth-round pick by the Sox in 2011 out of John Overton High School in Brentwood, Tenn., played shortstop early in his professional career before moving to second base. Now, he is adding to his resume. On May 18, he made his professional debut in center field, and has appeared in 26 games there between Portland and Pawtucket. In 53 total chances he has not made an error.
New to the position, though, he hasn’t gotten his pregame routine down, part of the adjustments he’s made this season.
“It’s definitely been I think just more of an adjustment on how to go about my day,” he said. “I don’t really have a routine to get into yet. Just going out there, learning new routes to balls, things to think about. It’s been tough, especially late in the game because I’m not really fully confident on what I’m supposed to do.”
But he’s willing to learn. And watching what Brock Holt has been doing for the big league team – playing four positions he’s never played in his life – gives Betts reason to believe.
“I think that’s really good,” Betts said, “and really good to be that versatile. I’m not exactly sure that I could do it. I think I can but I don’t know. But I think it’s different for him because he’s up there and he knows about all those little things I talked about that I don’t really know much about. I think that really plays a factor in him being able to play all those positions.”
Would he want to find out?
“Hey, if it gets me there,” he said, “that’s fine with me.”
Some things you may not know about Mookie Betts:
• One of his uncles is Terry Shumpert, who appeared in 21 games for the Sox in 1995.
• His real name is Markus Lynn Betts.
• Don’t worry Sox fans. He didn’t get his nickname from THAT Mookie. Just before Betts was born, his parents were watching Mookie Blaylock, the basketball player, and liked the moniker.
• He was one of the top high school baseball and basketball players in middle Tennessee. But was also named The Nashville Tennessean’s boys bowler of the year in 2010.