April 2, 2013

On Baseball: A calm rookie creates more excitement

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Could there have been a better hitless debut in major league baseball?

Jackie Bradley Jr.
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Associated Press

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Jackie Bradley Jr., the Portland Sea Dogs sensation last year, is now the rookie wonder for the Boston Red Sox.

His box score on Monday: 0 for 2, three walks, two runs, one RBI.

We can add heads-up base-running that gave Boston three extra runs early.

Plus the catch in left field that saved at least one run.

"Jackie impacted the game in a number of ways today," Red Sox Manager John Farrell said.

And to think there was actual debate whether to put Bradley on the major league roster.

Bradley-mania can be felt everywhere. When Will Middlebrooks was asked about the excitement of opening day, he said, "It's going to be a lot of fun It's going to be a lot of fun to see what Jackie can do."

As Sea Dogs fans know, Jackie can do a lot. And it starts before the game. Soon after he took his hacks in batting practice Monday, Bradley hustled out to left field for his version of "power shagging" – fielding every ball as if it's a game situation.

That would come in handy.

What Bradley also does so well is remain calm, a picture of poise.

"He doesn't let his emotions get to him," said starting pitching Jon Lester. If you recall Lester's debut in 2006, he was quite demonstrative and emotional, fist pumps and all.

Bradley?

"I'm never really nervous, to tell you the truth," Bradley said. "I'm a pretty relaxed guy."

Bradley, a left-hander, made his first plate appearance in the second inning of a 0-0 game – one out, two runners on. Lefty C.C. Sabathia quickly got ahead 0-2 on Bradley.

"I think he saw some things today from a left-hander who can sink the ball in on him that he didn't see in Portland last year," Farrell said. But Bradley "has a very good awareness of the strike zone."

Bradley, the rookie, did not try to do too much – even with that right-field foul pole only 314 feet away. He focused.

"I was definitely anxious. You want to swing the bat," Bradley said.

"But I wanted to stick to my approach, make him work a little bit and see some pitches."

Bradley took two balls, fouled off one, and then took two more for a walk to load the bases.

Standing on first, Bradley noticed first baseman Kevin Youkilis playing back, "so I got a big lead."

Jose Iglesias hit a grounder that shortstop Eduardo Nunez fielded to his right. His only play was to second base, but a sliding Bradley beat the throw. It was 1-0 Boston, still bases loaded, with only one out.

Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a groundout that would have ended the inning if Bradley had not been safe on the play before. Boston then scored three more runs for a 4-0 lead.

"That was the key to that inning," Farrell said of Bradley's base-running. "It allowed us to put up a crooked number."

In the bottom of the third, New York put a runner on second base with two outs. Robinson Cano sent a long line drive to left field. Bradley's fielding practice came into play.

"I knew right off the bat it was going to be over my head," Bradley said. "One of those balls where you run back and pick a spot where it's going to land. I work on that quite a bit.

"I looked back up at the right time and it was coming right at me."

Bradley, still getting used to playing left field, made the catch.

Offensively, more walks would follow, as well as a ground-out RBI in the seventh.

Before the game, Bradley was asked about batting eighth. He had never batted so low in any lineup.

"I'll be glad to wait my turn," Bradley said.

And the Red Sox are glad they gave him a turn.

The future for Bradley? Hard to say. Whenever David Ortiz comes off the disabled list, Bradley supposedly will go to the minors – maybe.

"It remains to be seen," Farrell said. "We can't predict past (Monday). More than anything we want Jackie just to go out and play this game and be himself.

"If he performs well, these things work themselves out."

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

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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