March 31, 2014 at 2:11 PM
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For someone who enjoyed such great success last year, hitting .314/.417/.506 between Greenville and Salem, Mookie Betts (pictured, left) hardly seems ready to relax after his breakout season.
“We’ve been working on things and learning a lot,” Betts said of his time in spring training after a recent game on the back fields. “I’ve still got a long way to go though.”
Betts got his first taste of major league action this spring, getting into six Grapefruit League games and making six plate appearances. He didn’t enjoy the benefit of a hit in those brief call-ups from minor league camp, but much like his attitude on the spring, he found learning experiences where he could.
“For the couple games I went over, it was great,” the 21-year-old said. “The way they go about their business, the way they treat each day and each at-bat, each play. It’s fun watching and being a part of.”
Over the winter, Betts mentioned that he thought he would begin to expand his versatility by playing positions other than his primary spot of second base, and speculation of such a move was also reported by some outlets. He is of course blocked by a certain well-known second baseman in the majors, and played shortstop and center field in high school, so it is natural to think he might try one or both of those again. That has not been the case to this point though, outside of taking grounders at short during practice, which is not necessarily a sign that a move is imminent.
“[I'm ready] whenever they feel that it’s time for me to move,” he said. “I guess we’ll just cross that bridge when it comes.”
Betts will begin the season in Double-A Portland, making what is largely considered one of the hardest transitions in the minors, so it may be a case where the team doesn’t want to put added pressure on the player at this time.
After a breakout season, Betts seems most concerned with making sure his 2013 was a sign of things to come, and not just a one-hit wonder of a season. At the plate, he preached consistency in his approach as his main focus this spring, and in the field, he has similar goals.
“[I want to] be more consistent with taking ground balls,” he said of his work at second this spring. “Double plays have been a big focal point this year, so yeah, mainly turning the double plays and making the routine plays.”
Hassan looking for big league opportunity
Alex Hassan (pictured, right) quietly put together a great season last year despite battling injuries, and just may have put himself in position to be at the top of the club’s list of potential replacements should it need a corner outfielder this season. Having yet to make his major league debut after spending part of the last two seasons in Pawtucket, it is a possibility that has the 25-year-old excited.
“I’m just going to go out there and do the best I can, and if something happens that would be great,” Hassan said on the potential to get the call up this season.
This spring, in Hassan’s first healthy major league spring training, he went just 3 for 21 in 10 Grapefruit League games, but after hitting .321/.431/.460 in 55 games with Pawtucket last year, Hassan has certainly played his way onto the major league radar.
For now though, he is just happy for the experience of being around the major league team.
“It was good to get out there and play with some of the better players in the organization,” Hassan said after being optioned back to minor league camp. “[I was] just trying to watch what they do, learn from them, try and observe and take in as much as I can.”
One of the keys to his success last year was a change to his approach, which he described as minor, but helped correct issues he had with other mechanical tweaks in 2012 that had adverse effects.
“[They weren’t] drastic changes, just trying to be more rhythmic and use the middle of the field. I’m just trying to create force to the middle of the field,” he said. “[It] allowed me to be ready to hit the fastball. Just subtle things.”
For the first time since the two-way college player moved full-time to the outfield after signing with the Red Sox, Hassan tried his hand at another position last season—first base. At the time, he spoke postively of the development in Pawtucket, recognizing the increased versatility as providing a potential path to the majors. But this spring, he had limited time at the position, having not broken out his first baseman’s mitt in major league camp, and seemed unsure whether he would need to do so again at Pawtucket this season. However, he was seen getting reps at first base late in minor league camp in an inter-squad scrimmage, signaling that he may be working it back into his repertoire more as the season progresses.
Photo credit: Mookie Betts and Alex Hassan by Kelly O'Connor
Matt Huegel is Managing Editor for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegelSP.