DETROIT — Alex Cora still sees greatness for Mookie Betts this season.
And even though everybody understands Betts is way off his MVP pace from a year ago, there still is an entire second half of the season for Betts to begin to approach the offensive dynamo he was when he led the league in nearly every offensive category.
This year, as of Friday morning, he led in just one: runs scored, 71.
That’s a big one, Cora said.
“Although it doesn’t look that way, he’s impacting the game, he’s scoring runs,” the manager said Friday before the Red Sox opened a three-game series with the Tigers. “He wants to be better? Of course, yeah, there’s a few things he’ll do better. We’ve still got plenty of time for him to get going. Everybody knows when he gets going he starts smiling and it’s contagious.”
Cora said his friend Carlos Beltran put into perspective the never-ending and perhaps underestimated value of a run.
“I had a conversation with Carlos Beltran two years ago,” Cora said. “We sat down and talked about OPS and everything that’s going on. I said, ‘What was your goal every season?’ And Carlos said, ‘You know, to score a hundred runs.’ ‘Why?’ ‘To score a hundred runs, you’ve got to get on base, you’ve got to drive the ball, you’ve got to do everything right for that to happen.”
Many have noted that one reason Betts’ power is down is that he’s been unable to pull the ball much. The Red Sox and Betts have been working to change that.
The double he lined to left field to lead off Friday night’s game was the kind of hit the Red Sox like to see.
“There have been a lot of empty fly balls to right,” Cora said. “Mookie’s a guy, when he hits line drives to the left-center gap, the ball takes off. We expect him to do damage.”
In his first 85 games last year, Betts already had 25 homers and was hitting .345 with a .432 on-base percentage, while slugging .664 with a 1.090 OPS.
This year, those numbers stood at 13 homers, .262, .386, .452 with an .837 OPS heading into game No. 86 for Betts.
Porcello back on mound
Rick Porcello on Saturday was scheduled to make his first start since he got shelled — six runs allowed in one-third of an inning — in Game 1 in London. The start of the game, however, was held up by a rain delay.
“I think he forgot it right away,” Cora said. “He threw the ball well the game before that, the one in Minnesota, that one was a good one. The one against the Jays, eh, it was OK, some bad luck but I think he’ll be fine for this one and looking forward to the break for him.”
Andrew Benintendi was out of the starting lineup Friday for the second night in a row. This time, Cora made him available as a pinch-hitter, while Thursday in Toronto was a totally down day.
“One more day — he’s starting (Saturday) and Sunday,” Cora said. “Just kind of like trying to get that feeling. That’s it. Sometimes it’s mechanical. Sometimes it’s mental. But I think we’re heading in the right direction. Overall, he hasn’t been what he expects, but if you look at the numbers, I mean, a few hits here and there and he’s right where he wants to be.
“I just think now rhythm-wise, he’s not where he wants to be.”
“A little bit banged up with the legs and all that,” Cora said. “Defensively we know what he can do. We put him in places that he’s going to make plays.”