The Red Sox received contributions from all over the place en route to winning the 2018 World Series, and it’s quite possible Boston’s roster will remain mostly intact for 2019.
So, who is manager Alex Cora looking forward to seeing take the next step when the Red Sox defend their title?
Jackie Bradley Jr., of course.
Cora revealed such Tuesday when asked the aforementioned question at the Major League Baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas. Bradley had an up-and-down 2018 campaign offensively, but he still provided excellent defense and produced several clutch hits in the postseason, even earning MVP honors for the American League Championship Series after the Red Sox defeated the defending champion Houston Astros to punch their tickets to the Fall Classic.
“Looking forward to Jackie the whole season. That’s going to be cool,” Cora told reporters in Las Vegas, per WEEI.com. “We had a conversation at (Red Sox catcher) Christian (Vazquez’s) wedding, and that’s when he said he’s going to go to L.A. (to work with hitting guru Craig Wallenbrock). I told (my girlfriend) Angelica, this is going to be good.
“(Bradley) felt it and he understands who he is now and I don’t think the whole — like the roller-coaster Jackie Bradley will happen again. He understands who he is. And with that offensive approach over 162 games, we’ll see what happens.”
Bradley finished the 2018 regular season batting .234 with 13 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .717 OPS. It’s a far cry from his 2016 All-Star campaign, in which Bradley hit .267 with 26 homers, 87 RBIs and an .835 OPS, but the second-half improvements were obvious.
Bradley was batting .198 as late as July 1 but hit .272 with seven homers, 36 RBIs and an .823 OPS over his final 69 regular-season contests. The momentum carried over into the playoffs, where the 28-year-old played an extremely important role in Boston’s championship triumph.
There were rumors Tuesday the Red Sox were fielding offers for Bradley, who is projected to earn a $7.9 million salary in 2019 and become a free agent after the 2020 season. Boston might be best served keeping the Gold Glove center fielder, however, especially if Cora truly believes the last few months of the 2018 season were a sign of things to come.
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