Farrell won't rule out Bradley Jr. making Opening Day roster

Farrell won't rule out Bradley Jr. making Opening Day roster
February 26, 2013, 10:45 am
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Maybe it doesn't mean anything. Maybe it was purely hypothetical.
     
But when John Farrell, meeting with reporters this morning, was asked about the possibility of Jackie Bradley Jr. making the Red Sox Opening Day roster, the manager didn't categorically rule it out.
     
"Good question,'' said Farrell after a long pause, when asked if it was entirely out of the question that Bradley could make the club.

"I guess the best way to answer that is, coming into camp we didn't have that as a strong possibility. But yet, we're four days into the game schedule and he could still be served well by getting more at-bats in the minor leagues before he comes up. But again, he's making a very strong impression in camp."
     
Bradley is a natural center fielder, and for 2013 at least, that's being handled by Jacoby Ellsbury. But the Red Sox are looking for a left-handed hitting outfielder to share playing time in left with Jonny Gomes -- a righty who crushes lefty pitching -- and Bradley could fit the bill.
     
It's not like the Sox have tremendous options to pair with Gomes. Ryan Sweeney is a terrific defender, but has next-to-no pop. Daniel Nava has improved in the outfield, but like Sweeney, lacks power. And Lyle Overbay and Mike Carp, two others in the mix, are primarily first basemen who would be asked to occasionally help out in the outfield.
     
Interestingly, Farrell said the Sox have plans to get Bradley some playing time in the corner outfield spots during games.
     
"That's planned," said Farrell. "When Shane (Victorino) goes to the WBC, we'll get some reps in right field for Jackie."
     
Farrell was also asked, in general terms, how comfortable he would be with a player skipping Triple A altogether. Bradley, for instance, has not played above Double A Portland.
     
"If you could draw it up," said Farrell, "sure, you'd like to see at-bats at every level. But there are a lot of examples around the league where guys came in a shortened path. Probably two of the most exciting players in the game today didn't have that path."
     
(Farrell is presumably referring to Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Trout played 20 games at Triple A last season before being promoted, while Harper appeared in 21 Triple A games.)
      
"That's not to sit here today and say we're going to bypass some steps," Farrell continued, "but we're fortunate we've got a very good looking young player."
     
Bradley is hitting .667 (4-for-6) early in camp and has impressed the Sox staff.
     
"Every time he steps on the field," said Farrell, "he's done something positive. For a young player, he's sound fundamentally. Defensively, he takes outstanding routes to difficult plays in the outfield and he's hit both lefthanded and righthanded pitching.
     
"For a young player looking to make a positive impression in camp, he's gotten off to a very good start."
     
The big test may come later in camp, when, should Bradley still be with the big league team, he'll face more established and accomplished major league pitchers. Early on, he's as likely to be facing other prospects as he is veterans.
     
"As we get deeper into camp and he (faces) quality, proven big league pitchers, how he fares against that type of stuff and the ability to (hit) different types of pitchers in certain counts. It's about taking advantage of every opportunity he gets."
     
One thing that Bradley has already shown is his defensive instincts.
      
"We talk about it in the staff room," said Farrell. "You'd think he's been working on this a long time. Your eyes are trained to follow the pitch and then you see contact and it almost seems like before contact's been made, he's already on the move. It's been impressive to see that.
      
"If you time the foot speed, it's not like he's a world class sprinter where he's going to outrun the baseball. (But) his instincts and his routes are exceptional."
      
On-field performance aside, the Sox will be watching to see how he handles things.
      
"Ultimately, you're finding out about the person," said Farrell, "and more so from the maturity factor. Is he going to handle some distractions and some failures. That's a checkbox along the way here as we've gotten to know him."