Jackie Bradley Jr. technically is replacing Jacoby Ellsbury if he becomes the Boston Red Sox’s starting center fielder in 2014. But that’s not how Bradley is approaching the situation.
“You can’t replace a Jacoby Ellsbury,” Bradley said in Fort Myers on Wednesday, according to the Boston Herald. “He’s an All-Star.”
The Red Sox certainly were dealt a blow when Ellsbury left in free agency to join the New York Yankees. While Ellsbury had some bumps and bruises over the years, he’s undoubtedly a dynamic center fielder and leadoff hitter who is capable of impacting games in several ways. Ellsbury played a pivotal role in the Red Sox’s 2013 World Series run despite his impending free agency.
Bradley, who is expected to compete with veteran outfielder Grady Sizemore during spring training, has plenty of potential, although he struggled last season during four separate stints at the major league level. Bradley showed improvement later in the year, but the 23-year-old finished the season with a .189 average (18-for-95) with 31 strikeouts in 37 games.
“It’s the big leagues,” Bradley said. “It’s the best of the best. It’s baseball. You’re going to have your ups and downs and adjustment periods. That time up there, I got to learn a lot. The way this organization is, they’re trying to win right away, and that’s what you want. I had my time to go down there and develop, and that’s what I needed. Hopefully it will all pay off this year.”
Ellsbury swiped a major league-best 52 bases in 2013 and recorded a career-high 70 thefts in 2009. The Red Sox are going to have a hard time overcoming his loss, but Bradley is focused on providing what he’s capable of providing, which is steady defensive outfield play with good plate discipline and some occasional power.
“Everyone just needs to focus on being the best they can be,” Bradley said. “Be the best you are, and don’t try to be anyone else.”
In other words, don’t try to be a $153 million outfielder during your first full season in the majors.