PAWTUCKET — With a look of determination on his face, Mookie Betts tried to make sense of the scouting report devoted to the Louisville starting pitcher the PawSox faced on Sunday afternoon.
Mind you Pawtucket did not face your garden-variety Triple-A hurler, hence why the information provided to the club’s hitters was a bit more elaborate. In Chien-Ming Wang, we’re talking about a 34-year-old right-hander who once posted back-to-back 19-win seasons for the New York Yankees and has eight years of big-league service time on his résumé.
Luckily for the 21-year-old Betts, the PawSox newcomer had help deciphering the elaborate report dedicated to solving Wang. Infielder Justin Henry took the time to explain what everything meant, from the different pitches in Wang’s arsenal to the various speed ranges in which he delivered his offerings.
As Henry’s explain to Betts drew to a close, Kevin Boles tacked up another sheet of Red Sox-related minor-league info on the bulletin board. Quickly picking up on the conversation between his charges, the PawSox manager provided Betts with a piece of advice that was straight out of something you would to put a high schooler at ease when taking the SATs – scan, discard and move on.
Translation: Don’t let this wave of information that’s available at your fingertips suffocate you. It’s there to provide assistance, not to overload the senses.
“I think the biggest trap a guy who’s new to this league can make is making an adjustment before the league tells that you need to make an adjustment,” Boles said. “It’s important to slow things down and prepare by gathering little pieces of information. All this stuff does not have to be learned overnight. Just play the game, take risks and try not to over think game situations. Do what got you here.”
Stated Betts, “The goal is to still play the same game I’ve been playing since the start of the season. Just because I’m switching levels, it’s important not to let the game speed up on you. Whether it’s (Wang) or another Triple-A pitcher, they’re still throwing the same way. You can’t think about their background or anything.”
The scouting reports Boles and the PawSox employ pretty much mimic what’s accessible at the top of the professional baseball pyramid.
“That’s a more advanced version,” the skipper said in reference to the report on Wang. “We have spray charts on all the hitters and log them in. These are things that they’re going to be introduced at the major-league level. There’s a lot of volume.
“Just talking to Mookie last week in Durham, we told him to take away what he thinks can help him. Don’t try to digest everything,” Boles delved further. “That’s when you get information overload and that can cause problems for young players. I think Mookie is doing it the right way: analyzing, looking it over, taking what he needs and moving forward.”
Both Betts and Boles agree that it takes time for a young player to parse and properly compartmentalize what must seem and feel like endless reams of data.
“It’s definitely impressive, but you don’t want to fill your head up too much,” Betts acknowledged. “You don’t want to be thinking while you’re playing.”
“Hopefully there’s been some introduction to that early on. I’m sure some of them saw that in major-league camp [during spring training],” said Boles. “There’s a lot of information and on top of it, there’s the outside expectations pertaining to the attention all these guys get. The biggest thing is playing your game. We don’t want to overload these guys. We want to see what they can do.”
The fact that Betts’ curiosity was piqued to begin with is encouraging – albeit to a point. The key is not to become overwhelmed just because he’s reached a more advanced level that features a number of pitchers with MLB experience.
“It’s good as long as it’s not taken to an extreme. We want these guys to have their natural ability take over, be themselves and just play the game,” Boles relayed. “At this point, we’re just letting Mookie play.”
EXTRA BASES: Boles confirmed that lefty Felix Doubront will make a rehab start for the PawSox Tuesday afternoon at McCoy Stadium against the Louisville. As to what that means regarding whether the rest of the rotation simply gets pushed back a day or if a PawSox starter follows Doubront to the mound – Sunday’s game notes listed Steven Wright as Tuesday’s probable – Boles stated, “We’ll piece that out over the next couple days with (PawSox pitching coach) Rich Sauveur and (Red Sox roving pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel). We’ll see what (Doubront’s pitch count will be) before figuring everyting out.” … Lefty reliever Rich Hill confirmed that the opt-out date on his contract is June 30.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03