Allen Lessels' On Baseball: On deck for Fishers — Portland
MANCHESTER -- THE New Hampshire Fisher Cats got, well, schooled by starting pitcher Greg Peavey and the Binghamton Mets, 6-0, in front of a mostly-kids morning crowd of 6,871 on Manchester Schools’ Day at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on Wednesday.
Peavey threw a complete game two-hitter at the Fisher Cats and snapped their two-game winning streak.
Now it’s Mookie Time.
The Fisher Cats load up the bus this morning and leave at 10 a.m. for a four-game set in Portland and their first look at the 2014 Sea Dogs — the Red Sox wannabes and in some cases gonnabes — starting tonight at 6.
Markus Lynn Betts — a 5-foot, 9-inch,156-pound Sea Dogs second baseman known best as Mookie Betts — has been tearing up the Eastern League in his first go-round at Double-A.
He hit .430 in April, had at least one hit in each of his 22 games and led the league in all sorts of offensive categories.
Betts was — in what may have been the most anticlimactic result in the history of voting — the Eastern League’s Player of the Month for April.
New Hampshire manager Bobby Meacham has been concerning himself with his own team, as any manager does, and came to Mookie Madness late.
“We had to vote on Player of the Month, and they compile the stats for us on the candidates, and I was like, ’Whoa,’ ” Meacham said. “That jumped out at me. Then I looked him up online and the kind of year he’s having, and I’m like, ‘Holy ... This is crazy.’”
The craziness has continued into May. Betts led off Portland’s game at Reading on Wednesday with a home run, his fifth of the season, to push his batting average to .412. That was his only hit in four at-bats, and he was at .402 at the end of the day.
He leads the league in batting average by nearly 40 points, is second in on-base percentage at .457, first in slugging percentage at .623 and tops in hits with 49 and stolen bases with 15.
Wednesday’s home run kept him perfect in reaching base this year in his first 29 Double-A games and ran his overall streak of reaching base safely to 64 straight games, stretching back to last year with the Class A Salem Red Sox in the Carolina League. Betts hit .341 there.
The folks back home in Nashville — Betts was drafted in the fifth round out of John Overton High School by the Red Sox in 2011 — are loving every minute of Mookie’s extended hot streak.
“I think everyone makes note of what Mookie’s doing,” said Mike Morrison, who coached Betts at Overton. “It seems like every day someone is coming into the building and trying to be the first to tell what Mookie did last night. We’re in an area where we don’t have all that many people doing what Mookie’s doing.”
What area does?
Betts, Morrison added, has been known as Mookie as long as the coach has known him and may well be named after that Mookie.
“I’ve heard the rumors that they started calling him Mookie after Mookie Wilson,” the coach said.
That Mookie was the New York Met who hit the grounder that went through the legs of Bill Buckner during the 1986 World Series against Boston.
This Mookie has shot up the ladder as a Red Sox prospect and is now tagged as the organization’s No. 1 prospect on the most recent list put out by the web site soxprospects.com.
What position he might eventually end up playing is open to debate.
The Red Sox, you may have heard, have a fairly well established player at second base, fellow by the name of Pedroia, who is signed through 2021.
No one seems too worried about that at the moment. Betts has said he makes a habit of taking fly balls in the outfield during batting practice, just in case. Speculation in the media in Boston is that he might well end up there.
Morrison points to his former player’s versatility. Betts was the starting third baseman as a freshman in high school, second baseman as a sophomore and then moved to shortstop.
“He made all the plays,” Morrison said. “You got so used to him making all the plays that you didn’t think of them as big plays. Then you’d have someone who hadn’t seen him say, ‘That’s a heck of a play,’ and you’d say, ‘I guess you’re right.’
“He’s as athletic as can be. Nothing he does really surprises me. He just seems to be able to do things. He’s a unique kid.”
Betts is just one of several top Red Sox prospects the Fisher Cats will run into this series. Lefty pitcher Henry Owens is No. 2 on the soxprospects.com site, and catcher Blake Swihart is No. 3. Outfielder Henry Ramos (.327 average), shortstop Deven Marrero (.287) and first baseman Travis Shaw are off to strong starts.
In a match-up of their respective organization’s top-rated pitchers, Owens and his 3-2 record and 3.89 earned run average go up against Fisher Cat Aaron Sanchez and his 1-1 mark and 2.55 mark in the series opener tonight.