BOSTON — Jackie Bradley Jr. has a gift.
Few players across Major League Baseball have Bradley’s defensive aptitude. The Red Sox outfielder’s combination of range and instincts makes him a unique talent with so much potential.
“The instincts of Jackie in center field, to me, are God-given,” acting Red Sox manager Torey Lovullo said before Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. “Those are instincts where he is recognizing the sound, the sights of the ball as fast as anybody that I’ve seen.
“I’ve seen some really good center fielders in my time, as a player and as a staff member. He is one of the top center fielders that I have seen. A lot of that’s God-given. A lot of that is confidence. A lot that is hard work along the way and preparation.”
Bradley, who made another sensational play in Wednesday night’s win over the Cleveland Indians, is making the most of his current major league opportunity after failing to produce offensively during his previous big league stints. The 25-year-old perhaps always will be known for his defensive prowess, but the life he’s showing at the plate could go a long way toward helping him secure a job for next season.
Bradley entered Thursday leading the majors in total bases (36), slugging percentage (1.161) and OPS (1.704) since Aug. 9. His 11 extra-base hits in that span were three more than any other big leaguer.
“I think all these guys have been put on alert that they’re being evaluated for playing time now and playing time next year for the Boston Red Sox,” Lovullo said. “Jackie has been a consistent work in progress. He has been a guy that has been improving daily. And the week that he had last week was something that kind of gave him some internal confidence and put him on the map himself.
“We know what he’s capable of doing, but he has to prove it to himself what he can do and I think that (success at the plate) did a lot for him.”
The question regarding Bradley the last three seasons has been whether he’ll hit enough to allow his defense to flourish in the majors. He’s now answering that affirmatively, much to Boston’s delight.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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