December 3, 2013. Jacoby Ellsbury signs with the Yankees, a mega deal for seven years and $153 million. Suddenly Jackie Bradley Jr. is the Red Sox everyday center fielder. That off-season Ben Cherington made no moves to think otherwise. Grady Sizemore was brought in on an incentive laden deal that barely lasted until June. This offseason, Hanley Ramirez was brought in and now Bradley is lost in the shuffle.
With a season of struggles at the plate and being optioned to Pawtucket multiple times, Jackie Bradley Jr., now 25 years old, is in camp just trying to make some noise for a backup roster spot. His defense is not the question, he was making highlight reel plays in Fenway nightly. The question is will he hit enough? Hitting .198 and striking out once every three at bats is not going to cut it with this Red Sox team.
Jackie Bradley Jr. came to spring training “going all Marshawn Lynch,” coming to take care of business, not talk much and let his play do the talking. We have not heard much about it with all of the attention on if the team needs an ace. Bradley did start in right field on Tuesday in the spring opener against Boston College. Most would argue the “B” team Sox started against the Eagles, while the likely opening day lineup started against Northeastern earlier in the day. Bradley was 0-2 with a strikeout and slid over to center field for a few innings as well.
The battle for the backup outfielder spots likely won’t be solved until the team breaks camp with a trade likely needing to occur. Daniel Nava’s versatility is something John Farrell likes, although he is abandoning in switch hitting. Allen Craig is a player the Red Sox hope can revert back to 2012-2013 with the Cardinals where he was one of the most feared hitters with runners in scoring position. It is believed both are battling for one job. Shane Victorino is the starting right fielder, according to John Farrell, and could also be traded. Bradley’s defense is something this team values highly, but his offense might set him back when it comes to competing against the likes of Nava and Craig.
With news breaking that Rusney Castillo has an oblique strain this might open the door for more at-bats for Bradley to make a name for himself this spring. Mookie Betts jumps up to starting center fielder with the “A” team. Castillo likely out a week, probably more, is a huge investment for the team so, it is hard to believe they would send him to Pawtucket to start the season unless he is there for a rehab assignment.
The Braves have been rumored to have interest in Bradley and, with the injury to Melvin Upton, the Red Sox could match up for a trade. The Braves are a team in rebuild and would be able to give Bradley more regular at-bats, as the Sox are clearly in win now mode with all the money they spent this off-season.
With a month for Bradley to prove himself at the plate it is time for him to let his play do the talking. His defense is exceptional, but he cannot come around on the high inside fastball and was a bit stubborn about changing his swing. Barring a barrage of injuries Red Sox fans will have to drive down 95 to see Bradley’s great defense, in Triple-A Pawtucket.