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Betts' focus: Get to October, then win it all

Star right fielder locked in on 2018 and getting back to the World Series
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Star right fielder Mookie Betts had no qualms after sitting through his arbitration hearing with the Red Sox last month, in which he was awarded a $10.5 million salary for this season.

As he sat on a bench at Spring Training and spoke to the media on Thursday, Betts expressed only positives about his relationship with the team that drafted him in 2011.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Star right fielder Mookie Betts had no qualms after sitting through his arbitration hearing with the Red Sox last month, in which he was awarded a $10.5 million salary for this season.

As he sat on a bench at Spring Training and spoke to the media on Thursday, Betts expressed only positives about his relationship with the team that drafted him in 2011.

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"Just seeing that side of it is pretty interesting. I like those type of things, kind of see how people debate," Betts said of his arbitration hearing that took place Jan. 30. "There were no hard feelings, nothing wrong, I love these guys. Nothing changed. I'm just going to continue to go out and play and have my same relationship that I always have."

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Betts still has three more seasons before he becomes eligible for free agency after 2020. That is, unless the sides agree to an extension before then.

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"I've enjoyed my time here, for sure," said Betts. "Now that 2018 is here I can focus on this calendar year, and next year we can focus there. Right now I'm just worried about 2018."

Should there be any concern that this was the second consecutive year the Red Sox and Betts were unable to agree on a contract? Last year, the club renewed his contract.

"Not at all," said Betts. "That's just two sides, two people can't agree [sometimes]. That's just a part of life. I think it just so happened twice. That's OK. I love it here. I love the guys here. Right now, I'm just worried about 2018 and keeping my eyes focused there."

Betts, one of the finest all-around players in the game, will be a central part of the Red Sox again this season, and he expects it to end better for the team than the past two years.

He mentioned "bringing back a World Series". In order to do that, the Red Sox will have to clear the American League Division Series hurdle, which they've been unable to do after winning the AL East the past two years. But Betts thinks there was something to be learned in those losses to the Indians and Astros, who both ended up going to the World Series.

"You just have to go in and play with urgency," said Betts. "We weren't as urgent as we should have been. As we saw all the other teams, they were coming out ready to go. We were kind of lax for the last two years. I think we know that and we can make some adjustments there."

But Betts, who is emerging into a young leader at 25 years old, will make sure the Red Sox don't skip any of the necessary steps before October.

"Just got to get back there. Anything can happen there. I think we have to continue to go back and something is bound to happen," Betts said. "Nothing can happen if we're not there, so I think the most important thing to do is to get there and then we focus on that once we're there."

If more urgency is a key in the postseason, Betts thinks the Red Sox actually need to have a little more fun than they did over the 162-game grind last year, when they won 93 games.

"Yeah, we could have had more fun. I think we still enjoyed it. But we could have had more fun," Betts said. "Through the rough times, I think those are the times when we could have had a little more fun instead of being down so much. If we hit a rough patch this year, I feel like maybe we can learn from last year, and continue to enjoy the game and maybe get out of it faster."

For Betts, much of his enjoyment in the offseason centers around his other elite skill besides baseball, which is bowling. In November, Betts rolled a perfect game at the PBA World Series of Bowling.

"I was nervous in frames eight, nine and 10," said Betts. "I was nervous the whole time, but I was able to use the things that work here as far as breathing techniques to slow everything down, to take it there and be successful."

If this baseball season is as successful as Betts hopes, he'll be playing in the World Series for the first time.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts