March 23, 2013

Bradley gives Red Sox a major dilemma

Jackie Bradley Jr. has made a huge push to open the year in Boston, but would it be the right move?

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Jackie Bradley Jr.
click image to enlarge

Jackie Bradley Jr. will turn 23 in April – the same age as three other recent Sox players when they hit the majors.

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THE RED SOX KIDS

Jackie Bradley Jr. is being considered for a major league roster spot despite his relative inexperience as a pro. Below are three other young players who zipped through the minor league system, stopping in Portland on their way to Boston. Will Middlebrooks spent the longest time in the minors because he was drafted out of high school. The others came out of college.

DUSTIN PEDROIA

Total minor league at-bats: 1,040

Double-A at-bats: 256

Triple-A at-bats: 627

Age at major league debut: 23

JACOBY ELLSBURY

Total minor league at-bats: 1,017

Double-A at-bats: 271

Triple-A at-bats: 363

Age at major league debut: 23

WILL MIDDLEBROOKS

Total minor league at-bats: 1,551

Double-A at-bats: 371

Triple-A at-bats: 149

Age at major league debut: 23

JACKIE BRADLEY JR.

Total minor league at-bats:  499

Double-A at-bats: 227

Triple-A at-bats: 0

Current age: 22 (23 on April 19)

Suddenly there's an opening. Gomes, not the most gifted fielder, could move to DH and Bradley could grab a glove.

Farrell initially said he doesn't foresee Bradley in left field. But on Friday against the Blue Jays, Farrell shifted Bradley from center to left.

There are other issues, such as adding Bradley to the 40-man roster, which means taking someone off it and risk losing them to another team.

There's the issue of free agency. Bradley could become a free agent sooner (by 2019) if he played too well in the majors and stayed with Boston, which is what Will Middlebrooks did last year.

But if Bradley plays too well, isn't that a good thing?

THE DECIDING FACTORS

Cherington said roster moves are a factor, as well as making too much of spring statistics.

What it comes down to, Cherington said, are three factors:

Is there an everyday role?

Is the player really ready for it?

What's our best team?

"We'll use (these questions) to guide us," he said.

The answer to the first question appears yes, as long as Ortiz is out. When Ortiz comes back -- and there's no timetable for his return -- then Cherington can figure it out.

The answer to the second question appears obvious. As Bradley faces major league pitchers for more at-bats this spring, he's still producing. And his defense offers such an upside, especially compared to Gomes.

The third answer also appears to be a yes. Bradley brings the kind of energy and talent that can ignite a team. And Boston could use a rare good start to the season. Remember 2012 (4-10 start), 2011 (5-11) and 2010 (6-10)?

I might add a fourth factor. With Ellsbury becoming a free agent after the season, and with agent Scott Boras to guide him, Bradley likely will be Boston's starting center fielder in 2014. Throwing Bradley into the major league fires this year sounds like a good idea.

And how is Bradley handling all this hype? The same way he did in Portland: with humility and common sense.

"I kind of brush it off," Bradley said. "Keep playing and stay focused. And stay humble. That will keep you even keel.

"I think that's the kind of guy I am, whether I'm going through the goods or the bads, I try to be the same exact person. Just keep putting in hard work.

"I can only control one thing -- play ball."

Bradley is doing his part. Now the decision is up to Boston.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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