Bradley Jr. still learning ropes on basepaths

Bradley Jr. still learning ropes on basepaths
March 16, 2014, 3:15 pm
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Just because he profiles as the player likely to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in center field -- either this season or soon after -- doesn't mean Jackie Bradley Jr. is expected to be a base stealer.
     
As the Red Sox are careful to emphasize, the two may play the same position but they're far from the same player. Bradley is shorter, with better defensive instincts and a stronger arm. Ellsbury is taller, a more graceful runner and, certainly, a superior base stealer.
     
Last year, Ellsbury's final season with the Red Sox, he stole a league-high 52 bases and was caught just four times. Even more incredibly, two of those caught-stealings were pickoffs, meaning opposing catchers nabbed Ellsbury twice in 54 stolen-base attempts.
     
The Sox know that Bradley isn't that kind of threat. Bradley is thought to have just average or slightly better than average speed. But there's still room for improvement.
     
A year ago, Bradley was successful in his only two stolen-base attempts in the big leagues. But he was a disappointing 7-for-14 at Triple A.
     
Part of it, as Bradley readily acknowledges, is confidence. He wasn't asked to run much in college, because at South Carolina, Bradley jokes, they played "gorilla-type baseball'' -- with an emphasis on big innings and the long ball.
     
Now, as he attempts to win an everyday spot in the lineup, Bradley is trying to run more. But he needs confidence to do so, and can't get the confidence without the success, creating a vicious cycle for himself.
     
"I guess I really haven't had the opportunity too often," he said. "I'll be able to work at it more when I'm on base. They feel I can be more aggressive, but I think that comes from confidence and just doing it. I have to go out and show 'em."
     
Bradley had a successful 2012 in the minors, stealing 24 bases in 33 tries. But that represents something of an outlier, given his struggles on bases before and after.
     
"I think it's a little mixture of everything," explained Bradley. "You have to get the opportunity (to run) and not being able to afraid to make a mistake. You have to be smart about it -- what certain guys are at the plate or what pitchers are good at holding runners on, with good pickoff moves or being quick to the plate. It's tough to force something and I don't want to do anything stupid."
     
The Sox have stressed to Bradley that getting thrown out in spring training won't be held against him and that now is the time to experiment. But still Bradley appears tentative and reluctant.
     
The first inning Sunday proved that point again. Bradley edged off first after being hit by a pitch, but was caught leaning the wrong way by David Price, who picked him off.
     
"I definitely want to work on it," said Bradley. "I don't feel like it's a huge need, so to speak. But it's definitely it's something that I want to address and do something about it."
     
Beyond learning pitchers' moves, catcher's arm strength and the right time to win, Bradley knows he has to develop a basestealer's mindset.
     
"Definitely," he said. "It definitely stands with the mindset. You have to be aggressive and take chances. That way, you can put pressure on the defense and that forces plays and creates opportunities."