Saturday, April 19, 2014
Jackie Bradley Jr., the best center fielder to play Hadlock Field, might not be coming back.
Bradley is in his first major league spring training camp with the Red Sox, and the Boston coaches are discovering what we in Portland already know - the immeasurably pleasant Bradley, who is mature beyond his years, can play major league defense already in the outfield, and could be ready in the batters' box, too.
Red Sox manager John Farrell spoke of Bradley Tuesday morning in Fort Myers. When the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo asked if Bradley could make the major league team out of camp, Farrell did not say no.
"He's making a strong impression in camp," Farrell told the reporters.
Is it likely that Bradley is in the majors in April? No. Unless there is an injury among Boston's starters (Jonny Gomes, Jacoby Ellsbury or Shane Victorino), there would not be enough playing time for Bradley in Boston.
Problem is that Sea Dogs fans hoped Bradley might be coming back to Portland. He may not drop farther than Triple-A.
When Ellsbury came to Portland for the second half of the 2006 season, he batted .308 (.821 OPS) over 50 games and 198 at-bats. Boston still sent Ellsbury back to Portland in 2007. He didn't last long (batting .452 in 17 games).
Bradley played 61 games last year after being promoted to Portland. He was slowed by a sprained ankle, batting .271 (.809 OPS) in 229 at-bats.
The speculation (mine) was that he would at least begin 2013 in Portland. But Bradley is impressing too much. Plus, with Ryan Kalish hurt, there is an opening in center field for Bradley.
Bradley could still come to Portland. Pawtucket has other players capable of playing center. Plus, there still may be some sorting to do with Boston's outfield depth. Bradley might come to the Sea Dogs in April, but with plans for a promotion soon after.
It sure would be nice to see him patrolling center field at Hadlock one more time.
If you want to read about Bradley while he was here last summer, read our JULY 1 STORY.
Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.
Follow his thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs on Clearing the Bases
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