It’s been two weeks since Mookie Betts made his major-league debut with the Boston Red Sox in New York. An era that began with a Sunday night win over the New York Yankees. An era that has no end scenarios short of a blockbuster deal for an impact bat.
No, the numbers don’t jump off the sheet. Betts has hit just .242 (8-for-33) with two extra-base hits and a .680 OPS in nine games. So he hasn’t reached base at the rate fellow rookie Brock Holt has this season. He hasn’t raked like Will Middlebrooks did when he came up in 2012.
But that’s not to say he hasn’t made an impact on the ball club.
Betts has given the Red Sox order just what the doctor ordered: speed, athleticism, energy and baseball sense. All of these areas Boston had excelled in during 2013 and made them the best offense in the game, but have been areas of contrition in 2014. Much having to do with the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury, injuries to Shane Victorino and Mike Carp, and Daniel Nava not playing to the level he did last year.
He was the sparkplug of the Red Sox’s Wednesday night comeback win over the Chicago White Sox.
Leading off the eighth down 4-0 against a dealing Chris Sale, Betts turned a ground ball to the Tony Gwynn 5.5 hole into an infield double. Beating out the throw from Alexei Ramirez, Betts saw nobody covering second base and took off for the bag. You saw the speed from the rookie in his ability to beat it out. You saw the baseball sense in seeing the open bag 90 feet away.
With the Red Sox scoring five runs over the next two innings to beat the Pale Hose, you could see the spark it triggered from the lineup. A spark the order has missed in 2014.
While he’s stolen just one base, Betts has scored five times out of the nine times he’s reached. He beat out a grounder to third in the ninth inning of Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros, which put the tying run on 270 feet away with one out.
Betts’ best asset has been his ability to be an offensive catalyst. It was what made him so valuable to the Greenville Drive and Salem Red Sox in 2013, and the Portland Sea Dogs and Pawtucket Red Sox earlier in 2014.
While it’s been in flashes opposed to in full, Betts has shown he can provide that same spark at the major-league level.