Mookie Betts needs a challenge.

The Boston Red Sox need an outfielder who can hit.

Might there be a connection?

Boston promoted Betts from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday. Betts played second base for Pawtucket Tuesday night, going 0 for 4 with a walk.

“He’s really excelled in every area of the game,” Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington said.

Betts, 21, so dominated the Eastern League that you have to wonder if Triple-A is his ceiling this season.


Other Sea Dogs starred in Portland and reached Boston the same year.

“You certainly can’t rule it out,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell told reporters in Cleveland. “He’s doing things offensively that are eye-popping.”

The numbers: .355 average, six home runs, .443 on-base percentage, 22 stolen bases in 25 tries. And there was that 56-game on-base streak, stretching back to last year.

“He’s controlling the strike zone. He’s running the bases. He’s playing defense,” Cherington said. “He’s obviously hitting. He’s hitting for power.

“At some point we have an obligation to challenge our young players.”

Thus, Betts traveled through Portland faster than any other everyday player in the Red Sox system. Jackie Bradley Jr. was the previous fastest prospect (61 games).


Last year, another prospect got promoted after a short time in Double-A.

And, yes, we’ve made the Xander Bogaerts-Mookie Betts comparison before. (Our March 27 headline: “Is Betts the next Bogaerts?”).

Bogaerts, an obvious talent and only 21, came to Portland at the end of the 2012 season and was promoted by June 13, 2013, after 79 games in Double-A.

But Bogaerts did not stay in Triple-A long, reaching the majors on Aug. 19 and eventually starting in the World Series at third base.

Betts, like Bogaerts, has been remarkably consistent as he moved up the Red Sox system. From .296 in Greenville early last year, to .341 in Salem the second half, to Portland.

“He was as solid last year as he was this year,” said Sea Dogs Manager Billy McMillon, who managed Salem last year. “More wisdom. More experience. There was nothing glaring he needed to work on.


“Then he got some new challenges thrown at him.”

McMillon referred to Betts’ new position. In the move heard around Red Sox Nation, Betts switched from second to center field on May 18.

Since then, Betts has played second five times, and center 12 times, including his last five games with Portland.

He appeared hesitant initially in the outfield, but was soon coasting to fly balls.

“First couple of days, he was just nervous,” McMillon said. “The more he played, his reads became a lot better. Got a little more confident. I think he’s a serviceable outfielder now.

“The more he plays, the better he’ll get.”


If not for the move to the outfield, Betts might have fled Portland sooner.

“We wanted to give him a little bit of time to settle in in the outfield before also introducing him to Triple-A,” Cherington said.

Will Betts’ outfield play be good enough for Boston? Probably, if he keeps hitting.

After Tuesday’s game, Boston’s outfielders were led by Jonny Gomes at .231, followed by Grady Sizemore (.225), Bradley (.202) and Daniel Nava (.130). Shane Victorino (.242) is on the disabled list.

The Red Sox lineup could use a boost.

That boost could eventually be Mookie Betts. He said goodbye to Portland Tuesday, joining the Pawtucket lineup.


Can it be long before Farrell is writing in his name?

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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