Since Jacoby Ellsbury bolted from Boston, the Red Sox have searched for a solution to their leadoff void in the lineup.
So it is tempting to suggest a player already in the organization, playing a couple of hours north of Fenway Park.
Have you noticed what second baseman Mookie Betts is doing these days, batting leadoff for the Portland Sea Dogs?
Average: 418, which is among the best among all minor league players.
On-base percentage: .455.
Combined on-base and slugging percentages (OPS): 1.113.
Stolen bases: Eight in nine attempts.
So when does Betts get promoted?
Too soon to answer that question.
Betts, 21, has played only 18 games in Double-A and, since being drafted out of high school in 2011, has played 216 pro games.
Just like you don’t give up on a player after a slow start, you don’t reserve his spot in the Hall of Fame after 18 games.
“He’s done some nice things in a small amount of time,” hitting coach Rich Gedman said. “He’s a guy to get excited about.”
Gedman is careful when talking about Betts and his outrageous numbers. Common sense dictates Betts can’t continue on this pace, but why worry about that?
“I say ride the wave as long as you can,” Gedman said. “In all fairness, the game has been pretty easy for him. It’s not going to be that easy all the time.
“So just go do your work. The sky’s the limit. Don’t put any limitations on yourself and see where it takes us.”
It has taken Betts far, from being an unknown infielder to being one of Boston’s top prospects. In 2013, Betts wasn’t listed among the Red Sox’s top 30 prospects by the Baseball America publication. This year he ranks No. 7. The soxprospects.com website has bumped him up to No. 3, behind Xander Bogaerts and Henry Owens.
Pretty heady stuff. But to watch Betts in the batting cage, you’d think he was scuffling with a .200 average.
“He’s harder on himself than I’ll ever be on him,” Gedman said. “That’s part of the reason he’s successful.”
Hard work and an intentional ignorance of his own statistics.
“He probably doesn’t realize (his numbers). Everyone else does,” said catcher Blake Swihart, a teammate since last year in Salem. “What he’s doing is really impressive.”
Is Betts impressed?
“I definitely don’t think about it,” Betts said. “I think about whatever I can do to help the team … in the cage I’m hard on myself, trying to be consistent and get my work in.
“When you’re out on the field, you can’t think about those things. Just go out there and play.”
Manager Billy McMillon nods his approval.
“He has the right attitude,” McMillon said. “Good kid. Good to see things going his way, even in a small sample.”
The small sample is one reason to temper the excitement, but it will be interesting to see how the Red Sox deal with him. A 21-year-old second baseman named Dustin Pedroia batted .324 in 66 games for the Sea Dogs in 2005 before going to Triple-A.
And it’s because of Pedroia that the Red Sox have an extra challenge. Pedroia, now 30, is signed to play second base in Fenway Park through 2021.
But that’s in the future. For now, Betts is following the advice of his hitting coach and riding the wave.
“Just stay within myself and not try to do too much,” Betts said.
KEURY DE LA CRUZ had the makings of an outfield prospect in 2012 when he hit .308 for Greenville. He had a streaky 2013, ending with a .258 average in Salem.
De la Cruz’s progress was stifled further with a broken wrist. De La Cruz, 22, was expected to join the Sea Dogs this year but injured his wrist in the final spring training game. The severity of the injury was not immediately known, but the director of player development, Ben Crockett, confirmed this week that De La Cruz will be out for a while.
CHRIS MARTIN made himself into a pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization, having risen from the independent leagues. Martin, who pitched parts of three seasons with the Sea Dogs, recently was promoted to the big leagues with the Colorado Rockies.
Martin, 27, was traded to Colorado in the offseason with pitcher Franklin Morales for infielder Jonathan Herrera.
TROT NIXON was one of the top Red Sox prospects when he was drafted in the first round in 1993. He became a fan favorite at Fenway Park through the 2006 season. Nixon will be at Hadlock Field for Monday’s 6 p.m. game, throwing out the first pitch and signing autographs.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: