Red Sox minor league notes: Mookie Betts works at shortstop, Garin Cecchini impresses at third

February 24, 2014 - 4:50 am
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mookie Betts is the best Red Sox position prospect who is not in big league camp. He's coming off a breakthrough 2013 season in which he showed a tremendous approach at the plate, drawing walks, forcing pitchers to throw strikes and impacting the ball when they did so. He hit for power (15 homers), he was a game-changer on the bases (38-for-42 in stolen base attempts) and he showed a penchant for highlight reel defense at times while splitting the year between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem. One problem: He plays a position where the Red Sox have identified their everyday second baseman for the next eight years. Betts may be ideally suited for second base, but assuming that his path to the big leagues would have to be re-routed if he was to ascend through the Sox system, the team believes that there could be alternative pathways for the 21-year-old. And so it was noteworthy that on Sunday, Betts camped out at shortstop during batting practice and then worked out at the position with infield coordinator Andy Fox. Part of the exercise of taking grounders at short was simply to maintain arm strength. Indeed, Dustin Pedroia has been known to take groundballs at short for the same reason. Still, in the case of Betts, the idea of creating more versatility on his way up through the minors has particular significance. If he can show the ability to play second and short, while also potentially mixing in work in the outfield (Betts played short and center in high school, and he still tracks balls in the outfield with a sense of purpose during batting practice), then it increases considerably the likelihood that he can find a role in the big leagues with the Red Sox. Fox said that Betts, thanks to the explosiveness of his first step, has the range to play shortstop (he played 13 games at short in his pro debut in Lowell before the arrival of Deven Marrero resulted in Betts spending most of the rest of the season at second). While some have asked if he has the arm for the position, Fox is not among them. "He has plenty of arm strength," said Fox. Video evidence that Betts took a groundball at shortstop:

brightcove.createExperiences(); A couple of additional notes: -- Right-hander Dalier Hinojosa, who spent most of the last decade pitching in Cuba's Serie Nacional, said that he's ready to make the transition to the U.S. as a minor league pitcher and proving there that he deserves a big league opportunity. "Like everything in life you've got to start out crawling, and then you start to walk and then you start to run. So I'm prepared," he said through translator Duncan Webb. "I believe that starting at a lower level can actually do me some good, that I can take some time to learn. But I always say jokingly, hey, some day I'm going to be where I need to be." More on Hinojosa here. -- Third baseman Garin Cecchini has impressed with his defense in the early stages of spring training, showing improved first-step quickness at the position. By his own admission, in an otherwise spectacular 2013 campaign, Cecchini had a somewhat disappointing performance at third base, committing 17 errors in 103 games (up from 14 in 99 games in 2012) while showing average range, but his winter focus included gaining more explosiveness in order to improve his ability to stay at the position going forward.
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