Chris Betts hasn’t made his Major League Baseball debut yet, but the 22-year old Wilson High alum grabbed some headlines earlier this month with a fantastic display of fundamentals.
Betts is the everyday catcher for the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Single-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, and is having a solid season after a slew of injuries. A few weeks ago in a game against the Lansing Lugnuts, Betts took a run off of the scoreboard with a heads-up play to end the inning.
With one out and a Lugnuts runner at third, a deep fly ball turned into an apparent sacrifice fly RBI when the runner at third easily slid into home without a play at the plate. However, Betts watched closely as the runner passed the plate and noticed he didn’t touch it. Before the next pitch, Betts asked for the ball, stepped on the plate, and the umpire signed for the third out. Betts told the press after the game that he’s been checking if the runners touch the plate since he was 15.
How about #Rays #Catcher @ChrisBetts26 w/ the heads up play! Knowing the rules is 1 thing. Paying attention & using the rules to your advantage is very different. Chris told me he’s been checking if the runner touched the plate every time since he was 15. Looks like it paid off!
Betts also had an RBI double in the game, and has a .415 slugging percentage with 26 runs scored, 20 RBIs and six home runs in 36 games this season.
In other news for MLB players with Long Beach ties, Aaron Hicks has started to come on after coming off of the injured list last week. The Wilson High alum has four hits and five runs scored in his last four games in the New York Yankees outfield. Hicks, 29, also hit his first home run of the season on Sunday in a win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Bryan Shaw has finally found a home in the Colorado Rockies bullpen. The former Long Beach State Dirtbag signed a three-year $27 million deal prior to last season, but posted a 5.93 ERA in 61 appearances as a reliever without a role. This season, Shaw has been spotting his cut fastball and throwing more offspeed pitches. The nine-year veteran has a 2.79 ERA in 24 appearances as an anchor in the Rockies bullpen.
Jason Vargas is scheduled to throw a bullpen session for the New York Mets on Friday after spending two weeks on the injured list with a hamstring. The former Dirtbag lefty and 13-year veteran should start his rehab assignment at Double-A Binghamton this weekend.
Jared Hughes has the best sinker in the MLB. The league has measured pitch movement, and Hughes’s sinker has 11.6 inches of average drop. The former Dirtbag righty is more than three inches better than second place. Hughes, 33, hasn’t given up a run in his last four appearances coming out of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen.
J.P. Crawford had a nice little four-game hitting streak last week that included his first home run for the Seattle Mariners. The Lakewood High grad was called up on May 10, and is hitting .238 with three doubles and six runs scored.
Nick Vincent has been struggling in the San Francisco Giants bullpen lately. The former Dirtbags pitcher has given up eight runs in his last 12 innings, but still has a respectable 3.33 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 27 innings.
Jeff McNeil got back on track on Tuesday night. The former Dirtbag is having a breakout season as a utility player for the New York Mets. McNeil, 27, hadn’t scored or driven in a run in eight games until Tuesday when his RBI double helped the Mets come back for a 6-5 win over the Washington Nationals.
Evan Longoria, now with the San Francisco Giants, had a fun family story written about him by MLB.com this week. The Dirtbags product has custom bat knobs dedicated to his two young children. One has a unicorn dabbing for Elle, and the other has Pokemon dragon Charizard for Nash.
“My kids instantly love them,” Longoria said in an interview with MLB.com’s Cut4. “They took a whole sheet for themselves and they’ve been sticking them all over their own things at home… This game is so tough, and my kids are always happy to see me. They don’t care how good I do. I don’t get enough of them, so that was kind of my thought. I thought it would be pretty special to be able to look at the end of my bat and think about my kids.”