Two weeks ago new Mets manager Terry Collins said of Carlos Beltran: “When he walks in the first day, he’s the center fielder.”
Beltran may have walked into camp as the center fielder, but those plans have apparently already changed, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports that Beltran will be moved to right field full time and Angel Pagan will be the everyday center fielder.
While the time it took for the switch is quicker than expected, the move is anything but surprising. Plenty of outstanding center fielders ceased being assets defensively at Beltran’s age, and that’s without even factoring in his knee problems. Pagan is four years younger and showed last season that he’s a big plus in center field, with Ultimate Zone Rating pegging him as 11.8 runs above average in just 792 innings.
Pagan in center field and Beltran in right field is the Mets’ best defensive alignment, and if the switch also reduces some of the wear and tear on Beltran physically then that’s just a bonus. Beltran seems to recognize that, as Rubin suggests he actually went to Collins to initiate the move in the final season of a seven-year, $119 million contract that has seen him play exclusively center field.
The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.
In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.
The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.