Three thoughts after the first nine Red Sox games:
1) Jackie Bradley Jr. is human after all.
Bradley hit .419 in spring training and earned a spot on the Red Sox 25-man roster, becoming the youngest left fielder in the team's Opening Day lineup since Carl Yastrzemski's second season in the big leagues.
He's started every game but one, and other than a couple of misplays -- including an error in the fourth inning Wednesday night that led to an unearned run -- has been as good as advertised defensively.
That was highlighted again in the first inning Thursday when Bradley came racing in to snare a sinking liner for the final out.
Offensively, however, it's been a different story after the first four games. Bradley is in the middle of an 0-for-14 skid, an honest-to-goodness slump.
In those 14 at-bats, Bradley has fanned seven times and has been unable to get the ball out of the infield.
The more pitchers -- and major-league advance scouts -- see of Bradley, the easier it is to develop a way to pitch him. Increasingly, Bradley has been being pitched inside and he's yet to figure a way to adjust, hitting mostly weak ground balls.
In all likelihood, Bradley's time on the major-league roster is coming to an end. When David Ortiz comes off the DL and is activated next week, that will in turn result in Bradley being optioned to Pawtucket.
As he struggles at the plate, this isn't necessarily an indication that the Sox erred in putting Bradley on the roster in the first place. The experience will prove invaluable to his development. And he did help defensively.
But Bradley's 2 1/2-week stint in the majors proves that few players indeed can successfully make the jump from Double A and dominate right away.
2) Thursday night was a reminder of how much the Red Sox miss Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales.
The Sox were supposed to start the season with three lefties in the bullpen -- Breslow, Morales and Andrew Miller.
But Breslow developed shoulder inflammation and Morales had lower back issues in spring training and neither was ready to start the season.
That's left Miller as the lone lefty option, and he's once again experienced difficulty with his command. On Thursday night, he was called on to get Nick Markakis in a key spot in the seventh - and walked him. That moved Manny Machado to second, from where he scored what proved to be the game-winning run on a double by Adam Jones off Koji Uehara.
Miller has made four appearances this season, and in three of them, has failed to retire the first batter he faced -- walking two and hitting another.
There are times that Miller needs a few batters to find himself mechanically, but as a situational lefty he seldom has that luxury. Usually, it's one (or at most, two) batters for him.
Contrast what Miller did for John Farrell with what Baltimore lefty reliever Brian Matusz did for Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. Matusz inherited a first-and-second jam in the sixth. He then struck out switch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia and lefty Stephen Drew to turn back the threat.
That, in turn, proved to be the ballgame.
3) It will be interesting to see how Jose Iglesias responds to his demotion to Pawtucket.
Iglesias did everything he was supposed to do -- and more -- when he began the season at short in place of the injured Stephen Drew. He played his usual flawless defense, and more to the point, he contributed at the plate (9-for-20, .450) with two doubles.
(In a in a somewhat disconcerting development, he didn't draw a single walk over six games and 21 plate appearances, but that's a topic for another day.)
He took to heart what the Red Sox had preached to him during the winter and spring training: standing more upright at the plate, driving the ball more, and showing off his bunting skills.
Now comes the hard part: in the past, Iglesias has sulked some in the minor leagues. Over the winter, he voiced his displeasure to the organization when it signed Drew to become the starting shortstop.
If Iglesias goes to Pawtucket and continues his development offensively, the Sox will know that they have a major league-ready shortstop just 50 miles away if something happens to Drew. He actually hit a home run Thursday night in his PawSox debut (though he also strick out twice as he went 1-for-4).
The week he spent in the majors should convince him that he's not far from establishing himself as the team's shortstop of the (near) future. After all, with Iglesias, Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero in the pipeline, the Sox are highly unlikely to re-sign Drew after this season.
If, on the other hand, he goes and pouts, or feels sorry for himself that he couldn't change the team's opinion of him in a half-dozen games, he'll be doing himself a great disservice.