Here’s the dirt direct from JetBlue Park.
All the things we tell our young athletes are true. Stay on the balls of your feet. Keep your eye on the ball. Move with the ball. These are all things said to athletes from a young age, early in their training. Not surprisingly they are also great lessons for life, too. Reporters have stated that Jackie Bradley Jr. is a strong defensive player, a great all around player in the outfield, but they are not describing how he is a great defensive player.
How? He watches the ball from when the pitcher throws it to when it is caught. While that occurs, he anticipates where the hitter will place the ball. His feet are constantly in motion. He is not standing, but adjusting and engaging in some sort of foot work, whether it be big or small. If a ball is hit, pop-fly or line drive, he moves in that direction, ready to back up the infielders or to cover behind Jacoby Ellsbury. I saw him cover center twice when balls where hit in that direction. He knows to come in and back up the shortstop and third basement. He is the true definition of always being “on the balls of your feet.”
Jose Iglesias has a rocket of an arm. He throws the ball hard and accurately, without much effort at all. Great mechanics, and he is fast enough to get the variety of positions the shortstop needs to cover. His bat is decent right now. It is his time and shortstop is his position to call home. It was truly an honor to see him play, and look forward to seeing John Farrell give him a start this season in April.
Mike Napoli is a beast and performs well at first base. I feel a lot more confident in seeing him in person now than I have for the entire month of March. I think his offensive prowess is yet to be fully determined, but he can hit a hard ball. Whether he can perform that consistently is still a question.
Pedro Ciriaco is batting a .355 average right now. He is very speedy, but he too can be streaky when it comes to offense. .355 is a solid batting average, but I think where he really adds value is his speed and defensive work at third base.
After Friday’s game against the Twins, I feel even more confident about this year’s roster. I was especially concerned about defense, as this post clearly suggests, but now I feel my shoulders have relaxed to their normal positioning. There is promise in this team. I look forward to Saturday’s final Spring Training game, to Sunday’s official announcement of the roster and lineup, and finally to Opening Day in New York. Go Sox!