BOSTON — Jackie Bradley Jr. insisted at the end of spring training that we hadn’t seen the real Jackie Bradley Jr. If the real Jackie Bradley Jr. was the man patrolling right field Monday at Fenway Park, the Red Sox have themselves quite a player.
Bradley, who batted .158 with 17 strikeouts in 19 spring training games, collected three hits, drove in two runs and played sensational defense Monday as the Red Sox snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. It was the most encouraging sign yet that Bradley is ready to make an impact with the major league club this season.
“It’s just good to see him get in the flow of things and get in the mix,” manager John Farrell said after Monday’s win. “It’s been a different first 10 days of the year for him. I think we’ve talked so many times (about) the importance of right field here and the defense out there, and tonight he was very good.”
Bradley produced two RBI singles in Monday’s win, and he also helped Boston score its third run in the eighth inning with a well-placed bunt up the first base line. But as impressive as Bradley was offensively, he was just as good defensively.
The graceful outfielder prevented a run from scoring in the second inning with a sliding catch in right-center field. He actually lost the ball in the lights but managed to recover in time to make the nifty grab.
“I saw it from the start and then I kind of went into it and I had to get down to try to get under the lights to be able to pick it back up,” Bradley explained. “If it didn’t go into the lights, I probably would have just caught it standing up, but I had to get down there.”
Bradley made another excellent play in the third inning when J.P. Arencibia lifted a towering fly ball toward the warning track. It looked initially like the ball might sail over Bradley’s head, but he knew exactly what he needed to do to flag it down.
“That’s one of those plays that I definitely try to work at during BP,” Bradley said. “When there are balls hit over my head, I just take my eye off of it and kind of guess where I feel like the ball is going to be. I happened to run a pretty good route and there it was waiting for me.”
There’s no telling how long Bradley will remain with the Red Sox, as Shane Victorino’s return eventually could send the 23-year-old back to Triple-A Pawtucket. Bradley said Monday he’s only focused on what he can control, though, and the approach clearly is working.
“Any time a player comes to the big leagues, I don’t think they’re looking over their shoulder on when the exit date is,” Farrell said. “So many things can change daily — as we’ve seen already this year — so I don’t think he’s walking on the field thinking when someone comes back off the DL.”
It appears the real Jackie Bradley Jr. has joined the party with some extra comfort and growing confidence.
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