Cherington: Bradley Jr. optioned to build momentum

Cherington: Bradley Jr. optioned to build momentum
August 19, 2014, 6:30 pm
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(AP Photo)

BOSTON - Jackie Bradley Jr.'s stint in Pawtucket didn't get off to a great start Monday night when the outfielder went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts batting leadoff.

One day later, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington met with the media in the Red Sox dugout to discuss a number of Sox-related issues, but first and foremost the decision to demote Bradley to Triple-A in order to fix his swing and gain some confidence going into 2015.

Bradley Jr. has struggled mightily this season in the Majors, striking out at an alarming rate and looking lost in the batters box. Cherington and the Sox had hoped Bradley Jr. would come around in the summer, but it was just more of the same.

"With Jackie I think we have gone through several phases through the year," Cherington said. "Obviously it looked like before the All-Star break that there were some things that were starting to take hold, some momentum, so we certainly wanted to- we hoped and expected that that might continue after the All-Star break. He started to struggle again. And I think as we got past the trade deadline, as the direction of the team changed I think we started to think about how do we give him the best chance to build some momentum going into the offseason knowing that he's a really important guy for us going forward."

Cherington hopes that Bradley Jr. can find a routine and approach that works for him in the minors, and bring that back with him to Boston, where he "fully expects" him to be in September once rosters expand.

"There were lots of conversations obviously," Cherington said, "we talked to Jackie about that at the time we sent him down. That was the intent. That's the hope is to give him a chance to build some momentum."

That momentum can't be built with the Red Sox, but in a less publicized setting.

"You're seeing that every at-bat is scrutinized a little bit more and there's more focus on it," Cherington said of Bradley Jr.'s struggles.

Meanwhile, Mookie Betts has dazzled in the minors at the plate and now gets a consistent chance to prove he's ready for the Big Leagues. Betts shot through the minor leagues this year, tearing up both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. It's also his first season in the outfield, having previously played second base.

Cherington likes what he's seen from him in the field, and isn't worried about him making the transition.

"Absolutely he has the potential [to be an outfielder]," Cherington said. "He's a terrific athlete, he's performed at a high level offensively at the minor league level, he's already shown progress defensively in the outfield compared to when he was here the first time. Someone who has this kind of athleticism and overall instincts for the game, you'd expect that the defensive side would continue to improve and that learning curve would be fairly quick I would think for him."

Of course with Bradley Jr. being sent down and Betts being called up, the big question is who plays next season? John Farrell has already said that both players can't co-exist on the team. Cherington wasn't ready to get into the fact that the Sox have about six capable starting outfielders, including their young guys in Bradley Jr. and Betts for next season. He's just trying to gauge what he has in both of them at the Major League level. It goes without saying that this is a big tryout for Betts.

"We're not making any proclamations about anything other than these are young players we're trying to put in a position to improve and get better and get to know," Cherington said. "And I'm glad we have all of them in the organization."

There will come a time where a decision does have to be made, not just between Bradley Jr. and Betts, but with other prospects in this organization as well. The Sox have hung onto their best ones over the recent years, and they're just now starting to scratch the surface of Major League ability.

Boston also has a couple holes it will need to fill (starting pitching, power bat). Cherington is open to a trade if it makes sense.

"I don't think we've ever been unwilling to trade prospects," Cherington said. "I think it's just entirely contextually, for the right player, yeah of course we would consider trading prospects. Clearly there are some areas we'd like to add to this offseason and we have to figure out what we feel makes the most sense, whether that's trying to add through free agenciy or trades and weigh the cost and the expected return. There are definitely times where a trade makes more sense than free agency, and there's the times when it's vice versa. So I think we just have to get in the offseason and see what those opportunities are."