Bradley seeking consistency a year after splash

Bradley seeking consistency a year after splash
February 25, 2014, 12:00 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jackie Bradley Jr. has been through this before.
    
A year ago, Bradley was the surprise star of spring training. On a team coming off a last-place finish and with its third manager is as many years, Bradley constituted the spring's feel-good story.
    
It didn't last for long, however. In his first few weeks, Bradley appeared overmatched against big league pitching, and by mid-April, he was back in Pawtucket.
    
Bradley was recalled three more times, but finished the year hitting just .189 in 37 games.
    
This year, there's more at stake. Bradley isn't sneaking up on anyone. In fact, with Jacoby Ellsbury now with the Yankees, Bradley is projected as the team's starting center fielder.
   
This spring, it's different for Bradley. But in other ways, it's the same.
    
"As far as my routine,'' said Bradley, "there's really no changes between this year and last year. I'm still doing the same fundamental things, working on the same things.''
    
Bradley knows that while there are expectations for him, nothing is guaranteed.
    
"You're always trying to earn your spot and earn your stripes,'' he said. "I'm constantly in that battle. I'm trying to compete -- that's the best way to explain it. I'm not trying to replace anybody. I'm trying to be myself (and to) work hard, play hard.''
    
A year removed from his rookie initiation, Bradley is more at ease and less overwhelmed this spring.
    
"I feel more comfortable,'' he said, "knowing the routines and knowing what you're going to go through. I feel that I got that experience last year and I'm looking forward to being more comfortable as the year goes on.''
    
Bradley now knows that struggles are part of nearly every young player's early career, and the sooner he can handle failure, the quicker he can be a success.
    
"That way,'' explained Bradley, "I can overcome it and gain some confidence from it. I feel like going through those battles and those fights can only make me better.''
    
But dwelling on what happened in 2013 isn't something that Bradley cares to spend much time on.
    
"I'm focused on what I can do now and what I'm going to do now,'' said Bradley. "I'm going to be a better ballplayer from it and I'm ready to move on.''
    
Asked to cite areas in which he'd like to improve, Bradley mentioned "bunting, stealing bases and being consistent at the plate.''
    
There's competition for Bradley, too, since the Sox signed Grady Sizemore in January. Sizemore has his own issues, having missed the last two seasons (and much of the previous two before those), but Bradley is eager to watch and learn from an accomplished veteran.
    
Even in a mostly disappointing season in Boston, there were flashes of Bradley's talent. He showed good instincts in the outfield, ran the bases smartly, and exhibited patience at the plate.
   
Now, he's got to show more consistency. Most of his adjustments are physical, since, mentally, he's strong enough to bounce back.
    
"I know I can take my bumps and bruises,'' he said. "I'll be fine. I promise you. I'm going to get things back on track. I've been able to hit at every single level, so I'm ready to prove that I can do it at this level, too.''
    
He knows, though, that people will be watching his game carefully, seeing if he's learned from last year.
    
"It's a little hard to be under the radar when you're in Boston,'' he said smiling. "I guess it's all relative. There's not (as much) hoopla this time, but best believe, I'm being watched. I know I am. That's a good thing, though. That's a good thing, though. I'm ready to embrace it and move on from it.''