PAWTUCKET â It wasnât Mookie Bettsâ intention to create a firestorm. Thanks to his strong play since joining the PawSox three weeks ago coupled with Red Sox manager John Farrellâs impromptu âI know Mookie Betts is swinging the bat wellâ remark last weekend, the 21-year-old wunderkind is being seen in a different light.
In response to the attention that goes with the territory of being the flavor of the moment, Betts sought out Kevin Boles. The last thing Betts wanted to do was to make the life of the PawSox manager even more chaotic.
âHe actually came up and semi-apologized, saying âI donât want to be a distraction.â Iâm like âThis is how it is. This is common,ââ Boles said prior to the start of Pawtucketâs season-long 10-game homestand. âWhether it be Jackie (Bradley Jr.) or Xander (Bogaerts), this is the attention that happens whenever you go to a new place, whether itâs Portland or Pawtucket or eventually the big leagues. Itâs not a distraction. He gets a lot of attention and he handles it well.â
On the same day that saw him named to next monthâs MLB All-Star Futures Game in Minnesota, Betts explained what his life has been like since being branded a potential savior to Bostonâs rapidly sinking season and why he felt compelled to speak to Boles.
âI know that you guys (the media) go to the manager and talk about things and I know he has his everyday stuff that goes on,â Betts explained. âManaging a team is tough. I was just saying Iâm sorry for it because I know heâs going to be interviewed about things. âSomebody tweeted it at me,â said Betts when asked when he first heard Farrellâs words. âItâs nice to hear but heâs not the guy that calls us up and down. It comes from the front office. But itâs good to know the manager âŠâ
To have the manager of the parent club acknowledge you does that in some small way validate how everything has transpired up until this point? Remember, Betts began the season with no at-bats above Double-A. Now he appears on the verge of reaching the Red Sox sooner rather than later.
âI canât look at it as validation or anything. Just look at it as Iâm doing something well and heâs saying keep going,â Betts calmly stated. âComing into the year, I knew Double-A was going to be a big adjustment and it was. Now that Iâm in Triple-A, itâs even more of an adjustment. Itâs been kind of a blur, but itâs been a really big adjustment period.â
For a refreshing change of pace, Betts was afforded the chance to cool his heels and enjoy Tuesdayâs contest from the bench. In 20 games with Pawtucket, heâs batting .321 with a .402 on-base percentage. Heâs also swiped six stolen bases, which has him one off the team lead set by Mike McCoy. Betts has played in 37 fewer games than McCoy.
If Betts does end up in Boston, he wonât be judged solely on results or be viewed as a breath of fresh air.
To Shane Victorino, what sets the youngster apart is his willingness to speak up and ask for advice, a skill that figures to serve Betts well as the attention and scrutiny figures to intensify.
"He's doing very well,â Victorino said. âI see a lot of upside. I think what amazes me about the kid is that he's not afraid to ask questions. My first rehab stint, my first day down here, the first thing he wanted to know was about outfield, some of the things about how I play, some of the things in regards to communication, so that in turn tells me that this kid wants to learn, that he's not a kid who thinks he knows it all or thinks he's got it right there in front of him because he's a 21-year-old in Triple-A and this big phenom that everyone is talking about.
âThat's the part I always focus on that. I don't focus on what a guy does on the field. That in turn, that's going to show. That's going to shine, a guy that is good, he's going to go play the game. But it's understanding what it takes to be a big leaguer, to understanding what I've got to do.
âHe's trying to learn. He's trying to fasten his process of getting to the big leagues but not afraid to ask, not afraid to learn, not afraid to pick somebody's brain. That's the part that I look at,â Victorino added. âThe performance part, that's going to take care of itself. I want a kid that's going to want to learn, that's not going to get to the big leagues or even to Triple-A and think, 'Oh, I'm too good, I don't need to learn from other guys, I don't need to ask questions.' That's the stuff I look at and say, 'This kid has got a chance to be something special if he continues to do what he does and is not afraid to learn."
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