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Allen Lessels' On Baseball: Sea Dogs' talent show lands in NH
The Mookie Betts All-Stars after all — packed with up-and-comers and featuring, perhaps, a World Series-winning shortstop — hit town tonight for their first appearance of the season at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium to take on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Game time is 7:05.
For much of the first month, it seemed, it was all about Betts, the talented and touted 21-year-old second baseman. He was the leadoff hitter flirting with the .400 batting average, the one who got on base every night — really, he got on base every night.
On Sunday, Betts was in the Portland lineup in a new position. For his first time as a pro, he played in the outfield in center field and the speculation started quickly. How soon would it take him to get ready and solve the outfield and leadoff woes of the big club in Boston? He played center field most of this week and word out of the Red Sox organization was he would work at the other outfield spots, too, as well as at second base going forward.
He needs a week, at least, to prep for his return to the major leagues and the guessing was he’d start his minor league stint with the Sea Dogs, beginning tonight in Manchester.
The Fisher Cats, on the flip side, needed a 3-1 win at Reading on Thursday to snap a team record 11-game losing streak and improve to 16-30 for the season.
Betts leads the site’s most recent Top 20 list of prospects and he’s followed by left-handed pitcher Henry Owens and catcher Blake Swihart.
The list doesn’t include guys like first baseman Travis Shaw, who has been killing the ball and has nine home runs, a batting average of .307 and on base percentage of .399; and right-hander Keith Couch, who has a 6-0 record with a 2.39 earned run average.
Owens has allowed only 34 hits in his 50 and a third innings, but has had control problems. He’s tied for second in the league in strikeouts with 57, but also is second in walks with 27.
Betts, a 5-foot, 9-inches and 156 pounds, has made himself the most high-profile Sea Dog of the bunch. His average has dipped, but he still took a .368 batting average, .440 on base percentage and .575 slugging percentage into Thursday night’s game. He has six home runs, 16 double and 19 stolen bases.
The Red Sox are counting on it.