SOUTH PORTLAND — So much has been written about Jackie Bradley Jr. being the whole package.
Talent, poise, confidence, humility …
And a sense of humor.
So when a wise-guy reporter asked Bradley if he heard that Jacoby Ellsbury left the Boston Red Sox, he deadpanned, “I saw that.”
But Bradley, 23, wasn’t overly focused on Ellsbury’s negotiations during the offseason, which eventually ended with Ellsbury signing with the New York Yankees.
“I really didn’t hear about it at first until I started getting a lot of phone calls and texts,” Bradley said.
The attention toward Bradley is natural. A star center fielder like Ellsbury leaves the Red Sox. Who is going to replace him?
Only one name has surfaced. Bradley, one of the featured guests Friday night at the Portland Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner, appears to be the man.
Bradley doesn’t believe his name is inked into the Boston lineup yet.
Even if you are considered the next in line,” Bradley said, “you’re not given the job. You’re not given spots. You have to earn them.”
If you looked only at the numbers, there might be doubt about Bradley assuming the center-field job. While he tore up spring training last year and began the season on the major league club, Bradley batted only .189 in 37 major league games over the year. In Pawtucket he batted .275.
But the Red Sox appear confident in Bradley. They didn’t sign anyone to replace Ellsbury, appearing comfortable with their rookie.
Portland fans in 2012 saw what the Red Sox are excited about. Bradley joined the Sea Dogs in mid-year and batted .271 (.809 OPS), while amazing the Hadlock Field fans with his fielding.
“He’s a Ferrari,” quipped then Sea Dogs manager Kevin Boles.
Current Sea Dogs manager Billy McMillon had Bradley in Class A ball. He saw the talent.
“He’s the best outfielder that I’ve seen, including my time as a big league player,” McMillon said.
Before the 2013 season, the talk was whether Bradley would return to Portland. That idea vanished when Bradley batted .419 in major league spring training. Bradley did some things well, including his stellar defensive play, but it was obvious he had work to do.
“Slow,” is how Bradley described last season. “Up and down. So much going on. It was a trying time. You learn a lot about yourself.
“It only makes you better by going through it.”
Other rookies have struggled at first, notably Dustin Pedroia. He seems to have worked out.
Bradley was also hampered by a couple of injuries but he appears healthy now – and ready. All joking aside, Bradley knows full well that Ellsbury is gone and what that could mean for him.
“I’m happy for (Ellsbury) and his opportunity. He was a great teammate,” Bradley said. “Now I get the opportunity to keep working hard and see what happens.
“They haven’t found anybody yet (to play center field). I’ll come into spring training ready to play, competing for a spot.”
Bradley took a break this offseason to get married (to the former Erin Heiring, who accompanied him to the dinner). They’re looking to move to southwest Florida, which is where the Red Sox conduct spring training.
It’s there that Bradley plans to show the Red Sox that their faith in him is well-founded.
THE DINNER drew about 450 fans, along with guests Bradley, pitcher Brandon Workman, Boston third-base coach Brian Butterfield, McMillon and the Red Sox director of player development, Ben Crockett.
THE WORLD SERIES TROPHIES are coming to Portland. At the dinner the Sea Dogs announced that all three of the Red Sox’s recent World Series trophies will be at Hadlock Field next Saturday, Jan. 25. More details will be announced later.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: