It could be Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s time to shine in 2014.
Bradley got his first taste of major league action in 2013, and if Jacoby Ellsbury signs elsewhere this offseason, there’s a chance that the 23-year-old could be thrust into the Red Sox’ starting lineup on a full-time basis. If that ends up being the case, manager John Farrell is confident that he’ll be deploying an outfielder who made great strides in 2013.
“I think defensively he’s an everyday major leaguer now,” Farrell said Monday when asked about Bradley. “And I think we all recognize that the first year for most players, particularly position players, there’s a transition he’s going to go through, and along the way comes some bumps in the road. And I think Jackie went through those.
“The one thing that we did see was that when pitchers attacked him a certain way, it wasn’t as evident — or they being able to attack him wasn’t as evident — as when he first came up. He’s a better player today for what he’s gone through this year. The overall evaluation of him has not changed from the time he entered the organization. We just know that this is kind of a natural progression that he has to go through and feel like he’s very capable of being an everyday guy.”
Bradley hit .189 (18-for-95) with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 37 games over four separate stints with the major league club this year. He was the Red Sox’ Opening Day left fielder following a red-hot spring training, but was eventually sent back down after hitting .097 (3-for-31) to begin the regular season. Bradley appeared to be much more comfortable in subsequent call-ups, though, and he even made a bid to make the Red Sox’ postseason roster before Boston instead opted to carry 11 pitchers in October.
Bradley could find himself on the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster in 2014. The extent of his role will be dictated largely by Ellsbury’s decision in free agency, but Bradley will certainly help lessen the blow if the Red Sox’ starting center fielder does walk away this winter.