The Boston Red Sox might be out of playoff contention, but they haven’t stopped using these games to improve the team.
That’s why Jackie Bradley Jr. is no longer in Boston. He’s in Pawtucket now, trying to get his swing together. A swing that has failed him most of this season.
The timing of his demotion Monday might seem strange. Bradley had two hits in Sunday’s game against the Houston Astros. This is a move that had been in the works for a while, one that was made with the intent of getting Bradley back to being a productive member of the lineup in September.
“This move has been talked about for a while now,” said Manager John Farrell, who said it was made so Bradley could work on adjustments the Sox have asked him to make at the plate.
Taking Bradley’s spot in center field Monday night was Mookie Betts, back after hitting .346 in the minors this season. Betts has shown the improvements the Sox hope to see in Bradley before too long.
In addition, Betts has improved dramatically in the field.
“We’ve seen more range, more efficiency in the routes, he’s been much better going back on balls,” said Farrell.
This is what happens when a team relies heavily on young players. You get days like Sunday when Xander Bogaerts threw a ball before tagging the bag, which cost the Sox a double play and led to a six-run second inning for Houston.
Young talent can dazzle. It can also frustrate. Bradley has done both this season, wowing us with his glove but disappointing with his bat. His offense just isn’t major league ready. So he’s back in the minors.
Farrell was quick to point out that Bradley’s work ethic has been consistent and that they still believe in him. They’ll watch if that work ethic survives the demotion to Triple-A.
Now, Bradley has to prove he’s part of Boston’s future. That process begins with three weeks of at-bats with the PawSox and an attempt to correct a swing that had gotten too long, too easy to pitch to.
And Betts, who blew through Portland before lighting it up in Pawtucket, gets his moment to shine.
We’ve seen young pitchers trying to make the most of their opportunities with the Sox. Those auditions continue. Now the lineup has come into focus. This team expects to compete in 2015. The young players on the roster are competing for a spot on that team.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.