FORT MYERS, Fla. — The news that Bryce Harper agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies did not make much of an impact on Mookie Betts.
“He deserves it. That and more,” Betts said Thursday. “Great player, so good for him.”
It was the latest in a series of megadeals. Manny Machado signed with the San Diego Padres for 10 years and $300 million in late February and on Tuesday third baseman Nolan Arenado agreed to an eight-year, $260 million extension with the Colorado Rockies.
Betts, who has two seasons before free agency, would seem to have a road map to his future. But he disagreed.
“Not really,” he said. “We’re all different players. We all have different things that are important. Like I said, good for those guys. They deserve it. I’ll just continue to worry about what’s going on now.”
Harper has played 283 more games in the majors than Betts, but their statistics are comparable and Betts is only nine days older.
Red Sox ownership said at the start of spring training that retaining Betts was a priority. It’s since become clear just how significant that investment would have to be.
It was 13-5 in the ninth inning when righthander Jenrry Mejia came in to pitch before the sparse remnants of a sellout crowd. He struck out the side in his first game of the spring, relying on a cutter and slider.
Two of the Washington hitters he faced were low-level minor leaguers. The third was journeyman Brandon Snyder, who has played parts of six seasons in the majors.
“Still got that movement, that natural cut. Good slider,” manager Alex Cora said. “For his first one, it was good. He was able to compete.”
Mejia, 29, played for the Mets from 2010-15 and was suspended three times after positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs. After Major League Baseball lifted a lifetime ban last season, the Mets released Mejia. The Sox then signed him to a minor league deal.
Mejia had 28 saves for the Mets in 2014 but has appeared in only seven major league games since.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity. I feel pretty good about it. I wanted to go out there and do my job,” he said.
Mejia, who pitched well in winter ball, said he’s willing to take on any role the Sox offer and feels he can improve on how he pitched for the Mets.
“It might be better,” he said. “I’ve been working hard for it.”
Mejia also understands this represents a last chance. Test positive again and he’s through with organized baseball.
“It’s very important now,” he said. “It’s been four years since I’ve been here. It’s very important.”
Cora suggested Mejia’s next game would be against the Mets at Port St. Lucie on Monday.
Ace on the road
It takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to drive from The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches to JetBlue Park. As an accomplished veteran player, Max Scherzer could have stayed behind and pitched in a minor league game.
But Scherzer drove here Wednesday night, got some sleep, and then pitched three shutout innings. Scherzer allowed one hit and struck out four without a walk.
“I want to come over here and face the Red Sox,” he said. “These guys are champs. I know if I come here I’m going to face their [regulars] because they want to play here at home. I’ll drive anywhere to get a chance to face these guys.”
Jackie Bradley Jr. had the only hit off Scherzer.
Matt Barnes, Nate Eovaldi, Rick Porcello, David Price, and Chris Sale have yet to appear in a game and it will be at least a few more days before they do.
Cora and pitching coach Dana LeVangie are being cautious with the pitchers who did the heavy lifting in the postseason. The bulk of their work will come in the bullpen or on one of the practice fields.
What the Sox call “aggressive bullpens” or “controlled games” are ways to build up arm strength while lessening the risk of injury.
“We are right where we want to be as far as the effort,” Cora said.
Barnes said his first live batting practice would likely be on Saturday. The others will start to ramp it up next week.
Cora said the goal would be to have the starters ready for five or six innings or 90 pitches.
Brasier back at it
Ryan Brasier is back to playing catch after missing eight days with an infected toe on his right foot. He doesn’t believe he will have to start over as far as a throwing program but that is a decision head athletic trainer Brad Pearson will make. “I need to get ready for one inning. I should be fine,” Brasier said . . . Steve Pearce, recovering from an illness, missed his third day of workouts . . . Nationals third baseman Jake Noll, who is from nearby Punta Gorda and attended Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, had a large group of fans at the game. He doubled off the wall in left field in the second inning . . . Hang in there, Bill Titus. The longtime NESN camera operator took a foul ball off the side of his head and needed four stitches near his eyebrow to close a cut. Titus, who had a heart attack in the offseason and worked hard to return, said he was fine . . . Porcello, who had a three-run double off Scherzer last July 2 at Nationals Park, was somehow left out of the lineup. “I’m still resting,” Porcello said.