Converted infielder makes leaping grab in center to keep tying run off bases
BOSTON -- After Derek Jeter homered to put the Yankees within one, Jacoby Ellsbury's drive to center field looked like it would put him in scoring position as the potential tying run in the top of the eighth inning.
There were no outs and Boston's lead appeared to be in jeopardy. Then Mookie Betts got on his horse.
"I figured I had run that far," said Betts, who only recently converted to playing the outfield after playing mainly second base in the Minors and is ranked the Red Sox's top prospect. "I might as well dive and catch it."
Boston's center fielder for the night got a good jump, flew toward the warning track and dove backward to make the catch and deny Ellsbury extra bases. Although Junichi Tazawa put two more runners on, he eventually ended the inning to preserve the Red Sox's one-run lead. Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth to pick up the save and give Boston a 4-3 win.
"I don't really remember what happened," said Betts. "It all happened at once. I hit the ground, saw the ball in my glove. I'm happy about that."
The Red Sox recalled Betts from Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday as part of a slew of roster moves, including the designation of Mike Carp and Shane Victorino heading to the disabled list. Betts has now started five games each in center and right field, last playing in the big leagues on July 13 prior to Friday.
On Friday, Betts went 1-for-3 at the plate with a run scored, hitting two balls hard. In his last 10 games with Pawtucket, the 21-year-old went 15-for-43 with three homers and 10 RBIs. His bat was never the question.
Betts made the positional switch because of team need. Dustin Pedroia is the team's second baseman of the present and future, and the left side of the infield is crowded as well. The Red Sox needed help in the outfield and gave Betts some work there.
"For a guy who has transitioned positions inside this year, a very athletic play," manager John Farrell said.
Betts has been working on his fielding with Pawtucket batting coach Dave Joppie and Boston first-base coach Arnie Beyeler. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and PawSox outfielder Corey Brown have been helping him out during batting practice as well.
"A lot more comfortable," Betts said of his feel for the outfield. "They tell me things to think about in BP and things to do. And I feel like that's translated."
Just 10 games in, Betts looks pretty comfortable and any work he's doing translated on a run-saving catch Friday.
"He's going back on a ball, a leaping catch at a pivotal time in the game," Farrell said. "Particularly after Jeter's solo home run to start the eighth inning."
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com.