Mookie Betts Taking More Aggressive Approach at the Plate

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts has easily been the biggest story of Spring Training for the Boston Red Sox, in large part due to his more aggressive approach at the plate as of late.

In 14 Spring Training games thus far, Betts is hitting .452/.477/.857, good for an astounding 1.334 OPS. The 22-year old infielder-turned-outfielder has collected seven doubles, two triples, two home runs and five runs batted in.Mookie Betts

What number stands out the most, however, is only two base on balls.

“[Major league] pitchers are just around the zone more. I feel like you have to swing a little more. You can’t go up there taking,” Betts shared with Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. “I kind of learned last year that you can’t go up there taking. You’ve got to be ready to swing it. That’s how [Derek] Jeter got 3,000 hits. He wasn’t up there taking.”

“That’s kind of why my approach is a little more aggressive than it used to be, which is all right. I feel like it works both ways — it cuts down on strikeouts and it may cut down on walks, but that’s OK. I’ll take [walks] when they come, like today.”

The new offensive approach seems to be working brilliantly for Betts, who at one point this spring had more extra base hits than any player in the Grapefruit League.

“I think [the more aggressive approach] just kind of just developed over last year, especially against [major league] pitchers,” Betts said. “They’re kind of in the zone with everything. I feel like if you go up there taking, you’ll be 0-2 in the blink of an eye.”

“It’s not something that I think about. It’s just something that’s naturally been an adjustment, the same way I always say – I feel like I just make natural adjustments.”

The ability to make those adjustments on the fly should pay huge dividends for Betts, as he prepares for his first full season in the majors. In 52 games in 2014, Betts hit .291/.368/.444 with five home runs, 18 runs batted in, seven stolen bases and 21 walks.

Matt Barnes Fighting for Opening Day Roster Spot

matt barnes

With Boston’s bullpen still a very big question mark less than two weeks from Opening Day, Matt Barnes is doing everything he can to prove his worth as a big league pitcher.

Barnes entered Saturday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charolette Sports Park with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, replacing knuckle baller Steven Wright. He promptly got Asdrubal Cabrera to roll a ground ball to shortstop Xander Matt Barnes Bogaerts, who forced out Steven Souza Jr. at second base to retire the side.

The 24-year old Danbury, CT native returned to the mound for the bottom of the fifth, and promptly retired Evan Longoria, James Loney and Desmond Jennings in order.

After Brandon Guyer started the bottom of the sixth frame with a double to left field, Barnes was able to retire Logan Forsythe, Curt Casali and John Jaso on three consecutive strikes outs.

Barnes finished the day with 2 2/3 innings pitched, allowing a single hit and striking out four. In seven Spring Training games, he owns a 0-1 record to go with a 5.25 ERA, but has held opponents to just a .227 batting average, and has posted an impressive 1.08 WHIP.

Although there is a very real possibility Barnes ends up on the Opening Day roster, he is trying only to focus on the things he can control personally.

“I’m not trying to think about that at all,” stated Barnes in an interview with MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “If you start thinking about that, I’m getting ahead of myself.

“The only thing I can control is going out there and pitching. I’m focusing on that, getting my work in between outings, and letting the rest take care of itself. I feel happy with how I’ve thrown the ball. We’ll just let the management make the decision on that.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell was impressed with Barnes’ outing, especially coming in a true relief scenario.

“I thought he was very good. He gives up the 1-2 double and then records the three strikeouts following that [in the sixth inning],” Farrell told Browne. “Went to his curveball a little bit more to get some swing and miss against some quality major league hitters. He looks poised coming in for the middle of an inning. That’s the first time he’s come in with men on base. It’s a quick out to end the threat. He looked fine.”

With the clock ticking towards the start of the season, and the Red Sox still facing several questions regarding their bullpen, there is a good chance we will see Matt Barnes in the big leagues at some point this season, if not on Opening Day.

Mookie Betts Looks Poised to Take Over Lead Off Role

mookie betts

It hasn’t taken long for Mookie Betts to go from top infield prospect, to major league outfielder and potential lead off hitter for the Boston Red Sox.

In 52 games with the big league club in 2014, Betts impressed many while hitting .291/.368/.444 with 18 extra base hits, 18 RBIs and 21 walks compared to just 31 strikeouts.

So far this spring, the story has been much of the same.

Betts contributed a hit and a RBI in Boston’s 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, and so far is hitting .273/.273/.444 with an RBI and two runs scored in thMookie Bettsree games this spring. He has also looked good in center field—a position that was totally foreign to him not even one season ago.

“It speaks more to some genuine and natural confidence,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell in an interview with CSNNE.com. “He’s an inquisitive person, so he asks a lot of questions and he’s not afraid that he comes across as not knowing something. He wants to know what a certain game situation would cause him to do and he works through it. He’s one of those guys who asks a question once, you give him an answer and that question doesn’t come up anymore. I think it speaks to how smart he is.”

When Farrell was asked by CSNNE’s Sean McAdam about Betts’ ability to hit from the lead off spot in the order, he seemed more than confident in the 22-year old Nashville, TN native.

“He looks pretty comfortable,” Farrell stated. “When you get on base two or three times per game (it helps). It’s a spot that he’s been most comfortable in, and hit out of. He profiles that spot very well,” he stated.

Although it has been rumored that Betts will compete for the center field job with Rusney Castillo during camp, early injuries to both Castillo and Shane Victorino seem to indicate that there’s a good chance Betts will make the Opening Day roster.

The Red Sox saw first hand in 2014 how the lack of a lead off hitter can effect an offense’s production, and if Mookie Betts can continue to provide contributions from that spot in the lineup, he should see plenty of playing time in Boston this season.

Brian Johnson Tosses Two Innings En Route to 6-3 Sox Victory

BRIAN JOHNSON

Former Sea Dog Brian Johnson helped contribute to the Red Sox 6-3 victory over the Mets at Tradition Field on Sunday, pitching two innings while allowing one run on three hits and a walk. The 24-year old southpaw struck out 2013 batting champion Michael Cuddyer on three straight pitches in the bottom of the fourth inning.

“He might not have garnered a lot of the same attention outside of the Red Sox, but we Brian Johnsonvalue him, and he’s a good pitcher,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell according to BostonHerald.com.

Johnson is coming off a stand out year in 2014, one that saw him win the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award, as well as earn a runner-up finish to teammate Henry Owens in the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year voting.

In 25 starts between the Salem Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs, Johnson compiled a 13-3 record to go with a 2.13 ERA. During one stretch of last season, Johnson held opponents to two runs or less in 22 of 23 starts.

The key to  Johnson’s success was his ability to keep runners off the base paths, owning a miniscule 0.97 WHIP and holding opposing batters to just a .197 batting average, all while striking out 132 batters.

Johnson’s stellar 2014 campaign earned him an invite to Red Sox spring training this year, where he is working alongside two other top left-handed pitching prospects, Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez.

Instead of viewing the situation as a competition, however, Johnson has tried to learn as much as possible from his colleagues, all three of whom pitched in Portland at some point last season.

“You’re always taking notes in your head while you’re watching [them pitch] or charting the game or scouting the game as a player,” Johnson stated in an interview with SoxProspects.com.

All three lefties are presumably slated to begin the year at AAA Pawtucket, but with a lot of uncertainty surrounding Boston’s rotation, it would not be surprising to see one or more of these top young arms at the major league level at some point in 2015.

Futures at Fenway Game Preview

futures at fenway

Sea Dogs’ Third Baseman Garin Cecchini

The Futures at Fenway game is tomorrow, Saturday, July 27th at 12PM. I highly recommend that you attend. The Portland Sea Dogs face the Harrisburg Senators, both are Double-A teams for their respective franchises. Earlier in the season, Brandon Workman and Drake Britton were part of the Sea Dogs five-man rotation. Now they play for Boston. The future, for these guys, is now. So what will become of the current players on the Sea Dogs roster?

The current Sea Dogs roster is strong, but I may be bias because I am a pretty big fan girl. Christian Vasquez and Michael Almanzar are making a difference on the field and at the plate. Pitchers Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and Keith Couch have improved their games over the course of the season. Most notably, Ranaudo, who tied a team record of 13 strikeouts on June 13th. He shares this record with Jon Lester. Right-handed pitcher Couch will start on the mound on Saturday. He is currently 7-3, winning four of his last 10 starts. Couch has a strong curveball and has made steady progress on mechanics throughout the season.

One other player to keep an eye on is infielder Garin Cecchini. He moved up from High Single-A  Red Sox (Salem, VA) in late June. He makes a massive impact offensively for this team. Cecchini holds the second highest on-base percentage in the entire minor league.

I am proud of the depth the Sox have in their system. I say we just hold off on any trades. The team does not need to go looking for other players to add to the club. We risk upsetting the chemistry of the current team. In addition to the chemistry, the Sox do not want to lose the talent they have, for someone that is just as good as a player we have down on the farm.

At the poker table that is July 31st, I encourage the club to fold. Let’s see how far these players, including those on the farm, can take us.

Red Sox in the Dominican Republic?

dominican republic

Courtesy of Boston.com

The Red Sox have a facility in the Dominican Republic? How long have I been living under a rock? Why did I just learn about this?

The Red Sox academy in Santo Domingo, DR opened in 2003 to attract prospective players. The academy teaches prospective ball players English and how to acclimate to culture in the United States, while training them to be skilled players. There are fields, batting cages, a dormitory that accommodates 65 players, and a full fleet of professionals on hand to train.

The team plays as part of the Dominican Summer League against other MLB affiliated teams. All of the teams are filled with prospects from Latin American countries where baseball is king.

In 2003 the ballclub reportedly devoted $6 million to this facility, and its interest in Latin American players.

In 2004, thanks to a large donation, the Red Sox foundation launched the Lindos Suenos program, which pairs 10 high school age students from the United States with 10 Dominican Republic kids. They spend a week of mornings rebuilding homes and improving various communities in and around the Red Sox’s Dominican Academy.  The afternoons are spent playing baseball in full Red Sox regalia with the talented professionals at the Dominican Academy.

Dominican Republic

I love this combination of my two favorite things community service and baseball. I know this franchise gives back in many ways, but this program I found to be particularly touching. To learn more about the program go to http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/community/lindos_suenos.jsp