Jackie Bradley Jr. at least deserves playoff consideration.
In all likelihood, Bradley’s 2013 campaign will end Sunday, when the Red Sox close out their regular season in Baltimore. But Bradley has looked much more comfortable during his current major league stint, and he could force the Red Sox to think long and hard about giving him a playoff roster spot if he plays well over the final week.
If Jacoby Ellsbury returns and shows no ill effects of his foot injury this week, the Red Sox will likely decide between keeping Bradley or Quintin Berry. Bradley is the better all-around outfielder, but Berry’s speed gives him an edge. The Red Sox have shown a willingness in the past to keep fast players for the sole purpose of pinch running in the postseason — with Dave Roberts representing the most classic example — and Berry certainly fits the speedster mold.
If the Red Sox have concerns about Ellsbury, however, their mindset could change. Shane Victorino has also been banged up this season, and Boston could ultimately decide that it’s better off having a complete player like Bradley, especially with the rookie showing progress of late. Bradley is 5-for-10 with a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored over his last three games, and he’s hitting .241 (14-for-58) with seven extra-base hits since May 29. He has showed great range in center field.
There’s also a chance — albeit an outside one — that the Red Sox opt to carry both outfielders. John Farrell said recently that everything points toward Boston carrying 11 pitchers on the postseason roster, but beyond Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Brandon Workman, there is some question as to how the bullpen will be filled out.
Ryan Dempster will likely stick around because of his ability to go multiple innings or start in the event of a major emergency, and Franklin Morales’ swing-and-miss potential could be enough for Farrell to keep him in the mix. That means that Matt Thornton and Felix Doubront are vying for the final bullpen spot. Doubront doesn’t have much experience out of the ‘pen, and Thornton has been mostly ineffective since being acquired from the White Sox. One could make the case that the Red Sox are better off carrying an extra position player, especially given Farrell’s willingness to use his entire bench throughout the course of a given game.
“Just be professional every single day. You’ve got to be ready to play, come in,” Bradley said after Sunday’s game at Fenway Park. “If you’re not in the starting lineup just come in and be able to help out any way you can. It’s been great to be able to see the team still win anyway no matter who’s in the lineup.”
There will undoubtedly be a whole bunch of conversations behind closed doors before the Red Sox’ playoff roster is finalized, and Boston also has work to do, as home-field advantage still hangs in the balance. This week presents an opportunity for Bradley, though, and he just may control his own destiny.