Betts still has lots to learn about the outfield

Betts still has lots to learn about the outfield
July 4, 2014, 1:30 pm
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BOSTON -- Mookie Betts would be the first to admit that he has a lot to learn about playing in the outfield.

His transition from second base to center field began at Double-A Portland earlier this season and picked up in earnest when he was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket in June. Praised for his elite athleticism, he had enough speed and instincts to get by without a lifetime of reps like, say, someone such as Jackie Bradley Jr.

But since joining the big-league club, some of Betts' shortcomings in the outfield have made themselves apparent. He has misread balls off opponents' bats, and Fenway Park's geometry has toyed with him.

In the fourth inning of Boston's 16-9 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday, he misplayed a wall-ball from Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney by chasing its flight path too closely to the Monster. By the time it ricocheted off, it rolled away from Betts and instead of a double, Barney had himself a triple. 

Asked what he's learned about the Fenway outfield in his three games playing there, Betts smiled.

"There's a lot of angles you have to take," he said. "So many different ways to go about getting balls. I had a couple of mishaps today, but I'm still learning."

Betts has been working with first base coach Arnie Beyeler on tracking fly balls and how to play balls off the Fenway walls and in the center field triangle. He's also been spotted chatting with veteran teammate Shane Victorino as he gets accustomed to his new Major League home. 

But both Betts and his manager John Farrell know that, no matter how much tutelage he gets, improvement will come with game-action repetitions.

"We're all on that learning curve right now," Farrell said Friday. "That's done with early work with balls off the wall, and yet we're not going to be able to mimic or reproduce every carom. That's where time out there and time with games played in center field is going to lend to that."