Betts could last a while as Sox center fielder

Betts could last a while as Sox center fielder
August 20, 2014, 11:45 am
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BOSTON - Three things we learned in the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Angels on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

1. Mookie Betts could very easily take Jackie Bradley Jr.'s center field spot permanently.

That's one of the reasons he's up here, right? To prove he belongs in the majors?

Betts would have to have a non-existent month-and-a-half at the plate to perform worse than Bradley Jr. did this season.

The fact that Boston transitioned him from second base to the outfield to begin with shows that they truly do have serious interest in keeping him around.

Betts could have continued to tear up the minors while playing second base, and the Sox could then have traded him for some serious value in return. Instead, they put him in the outfield knowing full well that's his best chance at cracking their lineup.

Ben Cherington and John Farrell fully expect Betts to become a more-than-capable outfielder.

"Absolutely he has the potential [to be an outfielder]," Cherington said of Betts on Tuesday. "He's a terrific athlete, he's performed at a high level offensively at the minor league level, he's already shown progress defensively in the outfield compared to when he was here the first time."

Betts already has a few highlight-reel catches to his resume over a small sample size up in Boston. Sure, there will be blips on the radar - he's not Bradley Jr. out there - but he's trending upward on the field and is already a better hitter than Bradley.

Putting aside all your fantasy Giancarlo Stanton trade ideas, Betts could be your starting center fielder at the start of next season. Bradley Jr. is undoubtedly going to work on fixing his swing, but it's clear that it's no small task for him.

Betts on the other hand has a strong grasp on what he needs to work on in the field. His production at the plate will make that process a lot more bearable to accept.


2. Will Middlebrooks goes down again

It doesn't sound like Will Middlebrooks' hamstring injury is too serious, so we won't go overboard here . . .

But man, is this guy having a rough go of things or what?

Here's what the Red Sox love about Middlebrooks: his power potential. Though he's made a couple nice plays at third base recently, he's far from a defensive wizard. He's also not going to hit for average (hello, .188 average!).

But Middlebrooks has just two home runs this year. And yes, part of that is due to his going on the DL twice and having an extended stay with the Paw Sox. This is after a 2013 season that saw him go on the DL with a back strain, and then eventually to the PawSox to work on his swing before Xander Bogaerts took some of his playing time in the postseason.

He had 15 home runs in his rookie season (75 games) which started the hype. But his 2013 and 2014 seasons have put a 180-degree spin on things.

With Garin Cecchini heating up in Pawtucket, it's going to be that much harder for the Sox to justify playing Middlebrooks over him when rosters expand in September, assuming Middlebrooks isn't back on the DL by then.

This may be Middlebrooks' last shot to prove he belongs at third base for the Red Sox. But he can't do that from the dugout.

3. Is Koji Uehara getting a bit tired?

No need to hit the panic button, but it's noteworthy if nothing else that Koji Uehara has given up a run in each of his last two outings.

It hurt the Sox Tuesday night as he allowed the go-ahead run in the ninth to cross the plate after back-to-back hard-hit balls.

In the game before that, he allowed a home run to Astros rookie Jon Singleton, and put a couple other batters on base in the inning.

Uehara, like set-up man Junichi Tazawa, has been used extensively over the last two seasons, including the postseason. But unlike Tazawa, Uehara is 39 years old.

Nobody is saying that Uehara isn't fit for the job after two uncharacteristic outings - obviously. The guy still sports a 1.53 ERA and 0.80 WHIP this season.

And after the game he said through a translator that he felt fine.

But Uehara becomes a free agent after this season. The Sox reportedly put him on revocable waivers, which doesn't mean much except that they're trying to determine what the interest or value in him is across the league.

Boston wants to put a contender out there next season, and Uehara will probably still be the team's best bet to close games. It might be smart to limit his workload the rest of the way here.