Jackie Bradley Jr. is looking forward rather than dwelling on the past.
Bradley was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday — Mookie Betts was called up — after struggling offensively with the Boston Red Sox for much of 2014. The outfielder acknowledged some dissatisfaction with the situation but noted he understands the Red Sox’s decision.
“I wasn’t disappointed — not disappointed in the sense of going down,” Bradley said Monday before Pawtucket’s game against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, according to WEEI.com’s Alex Speier. “I was just disappointed in myself, not necessarily about the move, because if you play better, then they won’t send you down. It’s one of those things where you get the news and you just move on. That’s what I was able to do — move on and then get back to playing ball.”
Bradley has failed to take the next step in his first full season with Boston, hitting .216 with a .288 on-base percentage, .578 OPS and 111 strikeouts in 387 plate appearances over 112 games. He showed signs of improvement before the All-Star break, but, for the most part, it’s been a year-long struggle at the plate.
“It’s frustrating because I do feel like I’m putting good swings and not making contact,” Bradley said, according to Speier. “I think it’s just over time it will change. Obviously, your strikeouts are going to go up once you get there, but I obviously don’t want it to be to where it has been. I’m working on improving that.”
Sending Bradley to Pawtucket wasn’t a knee-jerk move. Red Sox manager John Farrell said Monday the club had been discussing a demotion for a while. The timing still was somewhat surprising, though, as Bradley went 5-for-16 with two walks, two RBIs and four runs scored in his last five games before being shipped out.
“I was definitely caught off surprise a little bit, especially with it being two weeks left (in Pawtucket’s season). But you know, (the) move had to be made. I’m down here, getting better,” Bradley said. “I’ve got to be accountable for myself and for the season, and I didn’t perform at the level that I feel like I’m capable of performing. Like they told me, it’s a performance-based league.”
The decision to demote Bradley is further complicated by his stellar defense. He already is an impact defender, which carries value, and it looked like he might even enter the Gold Glove discussion if he garnered consistent playing time for the remainder of the season.
Bradley’s playing time dipped during a recent 0-for-35 slump, however, and the Red Sox’s hope is that he’ll use the next few weeks at Pawtucket to maintain the necessary offensive adjustments before rejoining the major league club as part of September call-ups.
“My confidence will never waver as long as I’ve got a breath in my body,” Bradley. “Talent is talent. You see the numbers, they don’t necessarily reflect talent. There’s talent all throughout the minor leagues that can play in the major leagues. It’s all about refining your talent and making the best and bringing out the best of your talents, being able to use it to the best of your abilities.
“This is pretty much the first time that I’ve really had to go through a true struggle in my baseball career. But you’ve got to keep persevering and keep playing. It’s far from over. I’ve just got to keep playing and enjoying myself and having fun.”
For Bradley, this season might someday represent a minor blip in an otherwise successful major league career. There are things that need to be ironed out, though, and he sure sounds prepared to put in the work amid a difficult time.