Red Sox pregame: John Farrell on Mookie Betts (.209): 'His batting average isn't the reason he's not in lineup'

Mike Petraglia
April 18, 2015 - 11:11 am
For as red hot as Mookie Betts was to start the homestand and the season, he has cooled off quite a bit in the last three days. He's is hitless in his last seven at-bats and just 4-for-17 on the homestand. His average has slipped to .209 on the season and facing a tough right-hander in Chris Tillman, with a heavy sinker and good breaking ball, doesn't figure to be the right medicine to get him better at the plate fast. Enter Brock Holt. The super utility man, batting .533 (8-for-15 in five games) made his fourth start Saturday, including his second in center. Holt is also 3-for-5 against Tillman while Betts is 1-for-6. "A way to get Brock in the lineup," Farrell said. "He has swung the bat well in limited looks against Tillman and our goal, and my personal goal, is to get Brock [in the lineup] and keep him in the mix as much as possible. That's his role. We try to do that to the best of our abilities and as frequent as possible. We also have a very deep roster. He accepts his role. He excels at it, and the versatility he provides is a real good fit, given David is our everyday DH on our team. "I think we've seen that so far. He's hit first. He's hit seventh. He's hit ninth. What really stood out last year with Brock is that when we put him in a new position he had never played before, he embraced it. He didn't make too much of it, in terms of the fact that he didn't have any previous experience there. It wasn't any big deal to him. It's almost the same way he goes about his approach at the plate, regardless of his spot in the order." As for Betts, Farrell said he's still very happy with the way the second-year outfielder is swinging the bat of late. "He's squared up some balls that have gone for naught and his approach at the plate hasn't changed," Farrell said. "His batting average isn't the reason why he's not in the lineup today. This is a matchup I like the way it suits us. Mookie has hit into some tough luck at times. That was more evident in the Phillies series. Still, he is our center fielder." The Red Sox are also facing a pitcher in Tillman who controls the bases when runners do get on. "He does a great job of controlling the running game," Farrell said. "When you look at the combination of pitches he does have, a guy with a sinking fastball and a good top-to-bottom curveball is a rare combination so he's unique in that way. He's pitched for a team that has had airtight defense. So that the combination of all that makes him a pretty complete pitcher." Speaking of the running game, the Red Sox used an aggressive jump from second base from Mike Napoli in the ninth inning to score the winning run on Xander Bogaerts' single Friday night. "It's a daily thing, whether it's through our meetings in the morning to the actual drill work we do on the field," Farrell said. "It's a clear controllable that we have so the detail, the emphasis and what's important to us, that's stressed daily. And it's acknowledged in the dugout each and every game when certain examples come up. If a player runs into an out because it's a good, aggressive decision on his part, yet it doesn't work, we still have to applaud it and support it." Bogaerts has been the flip side of Betts of late. He entered Saturday 4-for-11 on the first four games of the homestand. He recorded the first hit of the night with a sharp grounder over the third base bag in the fifth in front of Ryan Hanigan's game-tying homer. In the ninth, he allowed the pitch to travel deeper into his hands and went to right field for the game-winner. He became the youngest Red Sox player with a walk-off RBI since a 22-year-old Jim Rice singled home Denny Doyle on July 31, 1975. "He's just been a little bit more relaxed at the plate, letting the ball travel a little bit deeper into the strike zone," Farrell said. "It's allowed him to use the whole field a little bit more, which is more the norm of what he's always been as a hitter. He's in a confident place right now." Baseball America reported Saturday that the Red Sox have signed 32-year-old right-hander Denny Bautista to a minor league deal. He had pitched most recently in the majors with the World Series champion Giants in 2010 and is the cousin of Pedro and Ramon Martinez. John Farrell apparently had not been informed of the signing before Saturday's game. "We may have," Farrell said. "I'm unaware of it right now." Bautista spent the 2011-13 seasons in Korea and last season 2014 in Mexico. He has a career 5.88 ERA over 223 1/3 innings in the majors.