March 24, 2013

Red Sox Notebook: Bradley rises to challenge

Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a three-run homer and finishes with four RBIs.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Boston Red Sox Manager John Farrell called it a test when he put Jackie Bradley Jr. in the starting lineup Sunday, playing left field and facing Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee.

click image to enlarge

Will Middlebrooks and Jonny Gomes greet Jackie Bradley after he hit a second-inning, three-run homer off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee in a spring training baseball game in Clearwater, Fla., on Sunday. Phillies catcher Humberto Quintero is at right.

The Associated Press

Drew Sutton, Jackie Bradley Jr.
click image to enlarge

Jackie Bradley Jr. is congratulated by his teammates after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning of Boston’s exhibition game Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies at Clearwater, Fla. Bradley finished with four RBI, and the Red Sox won, 7-6.

The Associated Press

After the game, Farrell smiled.

"He passed," Farrell said.

Bradley swatted a three-run homer in the second inning and added a sacrifice fly in the third inning of Boston's 7-6 victory.

Bradley, 22, keeps getting closer to making the major league roster for opening day April 1. He is batting .423 this spring while playing excellent defense.

"Always great to see a young kid on the brink," veteran outfielder Shane Victorino said. "He's put himself in a great position to be on the big league team."

While Bradley is normally a center fielder who can also play right, his placement in left field Sunday was significant. With designated hitter David Ortiz still injured, the Red Sox could use regular left fielder Jonny Gomes as the designated and put Bradley in left, joining Jacoby Ellsbury and Victorino in the outfield.

"Obviously that's a scenario," Farrell said. "That's an outfield that has a lot of range and can cover a lot of ground."

The left-handed hitting Bradley has shown he can hit left-handed pitching (.409 this spring), even when the lefty is a former Cy Young Award winner.

"I try to treat every pitcher the same," Bradley said. "He still has to throw it across the plate. I try not let the lefty-lefty thing get in my head."

With two runners on, Bradley worked a 2-1 count before smacking a fastball into a jet stream and over the left-field wall.

"You can say all you want about the conditions, wind-aided and all, he still put a good swing on the ball," Farrell said. "I thought he picked a good pitch the next time up for the sacrifice fly."

In the field, Bradley looked smooth except for a shallow fly ball that got caught up in the wind. He called off third baseman Will Middlebrooks at the last second but could not get under the ball, and it bounced off his glove.

"I was looking at the ball the whole time. I didn't see Will waving his hands," Bradley said. "I should have still made the play. Bad on my part."

But the bad is easily being overshadowed.

"He did a very good job," Farrell said.

JACOBY ELLSBURY played only one inning, leaving the game after rolling his right ankle on a pickoff play. He jumped back to first base, jamming his right heel into the bag.

He stayed in the game and was caught stealing, then played an inning in center field before leaving.

"It just got real tight. Nothing of a concern," said Ellsbury, who added he could have kept playing if it was a regular-season game.

VICTORINO MOVED to center from right field after Ellsbury came out. He almost hurt himself in the second inning, crashing into the wall as he caught a blast by Ryan Howard. Victorino stayed down momentarily before standing up.

"I was running out of center fielders," quipped Farrell.

BRANDON WORKMAN made the start for the Red Sox and pitched three innings. Workman, who is bound for the Portland Sea Dogs, allowed two runs on three hits and two walks.

Workman shows good command after he walked leadoff batter Ben Revere.

"It wasn't so much nerves as it was adrenaline," Workman said. "I was excited to be up there in a big league game. Big league hitters."

Catcher Ryan Lavarnway threw out Revere trying to steal. Workman retired the next six batters, striking out Chase Utley.

In the third, Workman allowed two ground-ball singles up the middle and a two-run single by Utley. He ended the outing by getting Howard to pop up.

Farrell said Workman would have pitched longer but, with rain threatening, he wanted to make sure relievers Andrew Bailey and Daniel Bard got into the game.

"He ran into a little bit of a stretch where he had a hard time getting the ball down," Farrell said. "Overall, a heavy fastball, good breaking ball. More importantly, you look at the body language and how they handle this environment, and it was good."

Workman was still excited after the game.

"I've watched (the Phillies) play in the World Series and all," he said. "Really cool to pitch and see how my stuff played against that quality of lineup."

MIKE NAPOLI and Jose Iglesias each had three hits. Bailey allowed no hits and no walks in his inning of work. Bard gave up two singles (one on a bunt) and struck out three. Utley and Howard homered off Class A pitcher Noe Ramirez in the eighth. Boston scored the winning run in the ninth on singles by Xander Bogaerts, Bryce Brentz and Shannon Wilkerson.

Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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