Mookie Betts

Want to know toughest part of playing outfield? Let Mookie Betts explain

John Tomase
March 01, 2015 - 9:17 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mookie Betts is finally starting to feel like an outfielder. Lost in the good feelings of his debut last season was the fact that he posted excellent offensive numbers while learning a new position. A second baseman for virtually his entire pro career, Betts basically moved to the outfield in the big leagues and learned literally on the fly. It was more of a challenge than the natural athlete expected. "I didn'€™t know it was going to be as hard as it was," he said. "I knew it would be a tough adjustment. Being at the big league level and everything, it gets kind of magnified. It was a bigger adjustment than I thought, but I feel like I'€™m taking strides." Until playing the outfield, Betts didn't realize how tricky it was to read the ball off the bat, factor in the pitch type, and then put his head down and run to the spot while trusting he had taken the right route. If all went properly, he'd arrive in time to make a catch. If he didn't the ball could be rolling around in the gap. "I didn'€™t realize how hard it was to learn those routes as far as different hitters and what the pitcher is doing and all those things," he said. "It'€™s a lot to take account for. It'€™s not just running and catching the ball." Betts has used BP to train himself to read the ball off the bat, but it's only useful to a point. His real training will come in game action. "[BP is] the best I can do," he said. "Just try to run down everything I can. That'€™s been working for me pretty well." It helps to have such a strong support system. Veteran Shane Victorino gives him advice, and Betts has also been able to consult with former Red Sox greats like Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. '€œIt'€™s huge, having a relationship with those guys, because they'€™ve been around for so long and they know so much about the game and being friends with them and not saying, oh, it'€™s Big Papi, oh, it'€™s Jim Rice," Betts said. "I think that'€™s huge, being able to talk to them, and they'€™re down to earth." Manager John Farrell saluted Betts' inquisitiveness. "The biggest thing that stands out is he feels comfortable in his own skin," Farrell said. "So he'€™s not afraid to make a mistake, not afraid to ask a question that might expose him. He'€™s asking those questions to improve and hopefully shorten down that natural timeline to be an established major league player. You do that in combination with your abilities and wanting to find out. If a mistake is made, make it be your only time and adjust from there." Betts knows he's in a battle for a spot on the team. He said his parents raised him not to be stressed, so whether he opens the season in the starting lineup, or on the bench, or in the minors, he'll be fine. "Just be myself," he said. "I may not be a starter. Maybe I will. That'€™s whatever they want to do, and what'€™s best for the team. I know that I can'€™t try to be anybody else but me."