Bradley, Jr. lives up to the hype in MLB debut

Bradley, Jr. lives up to the hype in MLB debut
April 1, 2013, 6:30 pm
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NEW YORK -- Before the season opener Monday morning, John Farrell was asked by a report what Jackie Bradley Jr. would bring to the Red Sox.
     
"What we've seen in spring training so far is a very good defender," said Farrell. "He's a mature young player at 22 years of age, a very consistent appoach at the plate. He clearly makes our outfield defense better today. What he produces offensively remains to be seen."
     
Hours later, Farrell's impromptu scouting report appeared positively prescient.
     
In the Red Sox' 8-2 victory over the New York Yankees, Bradley, making his major league debut, sparkled in the field and showed remarkable patience at bat.
     
Bradley tracked a twisting fly ball to the warning track in the third inning of the bat of Robinson Cano, making a grab over his head to take extra bases away from the second baseman and save Jon Lester a run.
     
In five plate appearances, Bradley worked three walks, and on base, his hustle in the fourth wiped out a potential force play at second base, leading to a four-run inning for the Sox.
     
Toss in two runs scored and an RBI in the seventh inning to produce an insurance run, and Bradley made his debut a special one.
     
His ability to control the strike zone was apparent from his first major league at-bat when Bradley fell behind CC Sabathia 0-and-2 before working the count back full and earning a walk.
     
That kind of patience didn't go unnoticed.
     
"You're definitely anxious," said Bradley. "You want to swing the bat, but I wanted to stick to my approach and make him work a little bit and see some pitches.
     
"I just try to work and not chase anything. That's the thing -- when a pitcher gets ahead like that, he's looking to put you away and get you to swing at something out of the zone."
     
Once on base, Bradley used his speed to reach second safely when Jose Iglesias hit a ball to the shortstop hole. As Bradley beat the throw, Jarrod Saltalamacchia scored the first run of the game. Three more would score that inning.
     
In the third, it was Bradley's time to shine in the outfield.
     
With speedy Brett Gardner on first and two out, Cano hit a ball the opposite way. Bradley twisted and retreated before hauling the ball in in front of the left field wall for the third out.
     
"I knew right off the bat, it was going to be over my head," said Bradley. "So it was one of those balls where you run back, pick a spot where you think it's going to land. I work on that quite a bit and I happened to look back up at the right time and there it was, coming right at me."
     
But Bradley wasn't done. He walked to load the bases with two outs in the fifth, drilled a ball off reliever Boone Logan's leg that caromed to Cano, hit hard enough to deliver Will Middlebrooks from third.
     
"That was big," said Bradley. "I got a big lead because nobody was really holding me on because people were in front of me. I was not assuming anything. I knew it was hit in the hole and I knew (shortstop Eduardo Nunez) had a chance at first, so I had to keep busting and try to make it close as I could."
     
Finally, in his fifth and final plate appearance of the day in the ninth, Bradley worked his third walk of the afternoon, becoming the first major leaguer to walk three times in his debut since Minnesota's Danny Ardoin in 2000.
     
"Being able to see that many pitches and work the count," explained Bradley, "I really pride myself in trying to make the pitcher work and not swing at his pitches. That way, I'm able to get on base and give the guys behind me a chance to run a bit and score for them."
     
Surely, though the hoopla of making one's debut in Yankee Stadium, in the middle of the game's most storied rivalry, was something that made him nervous?
     
"I'm never really nervous, to tell you the truth," said Bradley. "I was ready. I was excited to just try to do whatever I can to help the team win."
     
Which, on Monday, including contributing in the field, on the bases and at the plate and had Bradley itching for more.
     
"I can't wait to get back on the field again," he said. "We have an off-day tomorrow, so I'm pretty bummed about that."