You better, you better, you Betts

Red Sox prospect making most of breakout season in Salem

Mookie Betts has an .891 OPS across two levels this season. (Ken Inness/

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | August 23, 2013 8:12 PM ET

At 5-foot-9 and a little over 150 pounds, Mookie Betts is your typical slick-fielding, speedy middle infielder.

He can slap base hits through holes, turn a nifty double play and stretch singles into doubles. Never known as a power hitter, the Red Sox's No. 18 prospect is looking to add that tool to his bag to make him a more complete player.

Betts went 5-for-6 with a pair of homers, two doubles, a career-high seven RBIs and three runs scored Friday night, powering Class A Advanced Salem to an 18-5 romp over Myrtle Beach at Field.

"Last year, I don't think I hit a ball to the fence," Betts said. "I told myself that I'm going to work hard and add some power to my game, and now it's starting to show.

"I just wanted to get stronger so that my body would hold up the whole season."

The 20-year-old second baseman singled to center field in the first inning, smacked a three-run homer to left-center in the sixth and added a three-run double the following frame. He doubled again leading off the ninth and capped his big night with a homer to left field off second baseman Edwin Garcia, the Pelicans' fifth pitcher.

"I did good, but the main thing I took out of it was that I stuck to my approach no matter what. I just stayed in the middle of the field no matter where the pitch was, and I just reacted," Betts said. "I was looking for pitches to hit and to be aggressive."

The five hits set a career best, eclipsing the four he recorded twice with Class A Greenville this season, most recently in a 7-5 win over Charleston on June 26. His previous high for RBIs was five, set on Aug. 11 against Wilmington.

Betts raised his average to .331 and has collected at least three hits in three of his last four games. He went 3-for-5 on Wednesday, missing the cycle by a triple against Carolina, then picked up four hits against Myrtle Beach on Thursday.

By contrast, he totaled nine extra-base hits in 72 games last season between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate and short-season Lowell.

In 21 games since Aug. 2, Betts is batting .430 (34-for-79), a dramatic change from his first 21 games in Salem, which saw him bat .227.

"I had to adjust to the different pitchers," said Betts, named after former NBA guard Mookie Blaylock, whom his parents enjoyed watching play. "Guys have better command of breaking balls and fastballs. Pitching-wise, it's a lot different. They throw off-speed in hitters' counts, and that is something I had to get used to. They have better two-seamers and cutters, and I had to adjust to that."

Selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2011 Draft, Betts' off-season regimen has given him unexpected bonuses. Sure, he has more power than ever before, but his entire game has benefited from a routine that saw him strengthen his legs and trunk, not just his arms.

"A lot of guys say you have to start from the ground up with your swing and that you have to start with a good base, and that has helped me a lot," said Betts, who was named Carolina League Player of the Week earlier this month. "It's helped me be explosive going to the next base and running and stealing bases and playing defense."

Betts has 35 stolen bases in 38 tries and has drawn 75 walks compared with 57 strikeouts.

On Friday, Red Sox left fielder Keury De La Cruz was 3-for-5 with a homer, double, four RBIs and two runs scored, while catcher Blake Swihart added three hits and an RBI and scored twice. Leadoff man Sean Coyle chipped in a three-run homer.

The most lopsided win of the season moved Salem back into sole possession of first place in the Southern Division for the first time since June 29. The Red Sox are a half-game ahead of the Pelicans and three in front of Carolina with 10 to play in the second half.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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