Sunday night was the long-awaited debut of Boston Red Sox uber-prospect Mookie Betts, who got the start in right field for the rubber match of the three-game series with the New York Yankees in the Bronx.
Going 1-for-3 with a walk on the night, it was a mixed bag of results for the 21-year-old middle infielder-turned-outfielder in the Red Sox’s 8-5 win in New York. Some good. Some not so good.
The biggest thing Betts showed Sunday night was his speed on the basepaths. Though he was caught stealing in his lone attempt to end the fourth inning, it was clear that he has speed that pitchers have to respect. A threat the Red Sox have gone without in 2014 thanks to the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino being limited to 21 games. The two players combined for 73 of Boston’s 123 stolen bases in 2013.
Meanwhile in 2014, the Red Sox have stolen just 27 bags in their first 81 games — two less thefts than Betts had this season between double-A Portland and triple-A Pawtucket.
Betts looked comfortable at the plate, especially for his first time facing major-league pitching. He didn’t chase bad pitches and had a good feel for the zone. He gave two very good swings, in particular.
The first came in the fourth, when he jumped on an 0-1 fastball from Chase Whitley and sent it up the middle for his first career hit. The latter came in Betts’ next at-bat, two innings later, when he lined a pitch down the third base line but was just foul. He would come back to work the leadoff walk, scoring his first career run on a Dustin Pedroia sacrifice fly.
The not-so-good at-bat for Betts came in his first attempt, grounding into an inning-ending double play that ended the second. It was one of many outs the Red Sox gave away in the early innings that allowed Whitley to pitch into the fifth inning. Boston put four runners on over the first two innings, but had just one run to show for it. They grounded into double plays to end each of the first two frames.
The real struggles for Betts came out in right field. Playing in just his third professional game in right, the inexperience showed. The rough night in the field was highlighted by Ichiro Suzuki‘s triple to lead off the bottom of the fifth, in which Betts went for the diving catch but whiffed, the ball rolling all the way to the wall. Ichiro went into third standing up and scored off the Brett Gardner double that followed.
However, it was still a strong start to what looks to be a promising career for Betts. His speed, athleticism and offensive production is what the Red Sox need in order to remain in the race.
If Betts can do what he’s done in the minor leagues over the past two seasons — which is basically hit, get on base and hit some more — he will be a very good asset to this team.