The emerging power of Mookie Betts allowed the recently installed cleanup man to reach a special place in Red Sox history on Monday night.
When Betts clubbed his 30th homer run, a towering shot off of a sign behind the Monster Seats in the bottom of the second inning against the Rays, he became just the third Boston player to reach that number in a season before turning 24 years old.
The others? Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who did it in 1939 and 1941, and Tony Conigliaro, who achieved the feat in 1965.
Betts turns 24 on Oct. 7, five days after the regular season ends. At that point, the right fielder hopes to be participating in the postseason for the first time.
When the Red Sox drafted Betts as a middle infielder in 2011, it was hard to envision he would develop this type of power. His career high in the Minor Leagues was 15 in 2013. Betts used to be known more for his speed than his power. But his lightning quick hands have helped turn him into a home run hitter.
If the Pirates need further rotation help in Cole’s absence, they could turn to Triple-A, where their options include top prospect Tyler Glasnow, prospect Trevor Williams and right-hander Drew Hutchison, acquired in the Liriano trade.
The Dodgers tried all this before, of course, having Quakes batters face Kershaw at Dodger Stadium on July 16, but a setback that day caused Kershaw to restart his rehab all over again. But where that start was 20 days after he last pitched, Tuesday’s outing will come 45 days after he last faced hitters.
“Kersh is still on track,” manager Dave Roberts said Monday from Denver, where the Dodgers were set to open a three-game series against the Rockies. “We’re encouraged, so we’ll see what happens after that.”
Kershaw actually flew with the team to Colorado on Sunday night but returned to Los Angeles on Monday. Other injured pitchers such as Scott Kazmir, Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy did the same, and all four played catch at Coors Field on Monday afternoon before returning home. Those players made the trip to take part in the draft for the team’s annual fantasy football league.
McCarthy and Brett Anderson are also expected to participate in Tuesday’s simulated game.
Assuming all goes well, Kershaw could pitch in a minor league game on the upcoming weekend. If he does, it would be his only regular-season minor league game since the schedules at Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A end next Monday. Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Triple-A Oklahoma City are playoff eligible.