Red Sox name Bradley Jr. Opening Day left fielder

Red Sox name Bradley Jr. Opening Day left fielder
March 31, 2013, 3:15 pm
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NEW YORK -- What had been widely assumed for the better part of the last week was made official by the Red Sox Sunday afternoon: Jackie Bradley Jr. has made the club's Opening Day roster.
     
"He improves our outfield defense," said John Farrell in explaining the move. "He showed a very consistent approach at the plate. A lot of people want to target the batting average in spring training, but in our evaluation, it goes much deeper than that and when you see the consistency of at-bats that he put up . . . I feel like the strength in his mental approach will handle some of the distractions that will ultimately be thrown his way.
     
"He was one of the better players we had in spring training. And the need we had because of David (Ortiz's) and Stephen (Drew's) situation, to add another lefthanded bat (was a positive). A number of things came together and he's earned that spot on the roster."

"I'm pretty excited,'' said a beaming Bradley. "I think it really hasn't hit me until my name is called (Monday) and then, I'm pretty sure I'm going to go numb a little bit. But it's great. It's an honor and I can't wait.''    

Bradley insisted "I really don't get nervous. I just try to relax. I'm a pretty easy-going guy, so nerves don't get to me too much.''
     
Bradley, 22, has played just 61 games above Single A in his pro career. But he hit .419 in Grapefruit League play, worked counts nicely and contributed strong defense in the outfield.
     
Farrell also cited the fact that Bradley had played at a "high profile level," while at South Carolina, reaching the College World Series in each of his three years there, as further evidence that Bradley can handle the spotlight.
     
"I don't want to say he's unflappable," said Farrell, "but at the same time, he's got a very consistent approach. He really focuses on the things that he can control. I know these are somewhat cliche and can be an old adage, but this is a young guy that seems very polished at a very early stage of his pro career. And because of what we know of the individual, it gives us a lot of confidence and comfort to put him in the position he finds himself in."
     
To make room for Bradley on the roster, the Red Sox designated Mauro Gomez for assignment.
     
Of course, the Sox had no intention originally to have Bradley make the team. But the injuries to Ortiz and Drew opened up a spot. Farrell helped start the speculation when, a week into games, he refused to rule out the notion of Bradley forcing his way onto the roster.
     
In retrospect, Farrell said when the Sox "got the the halfway point of games," the possibility of Bradley cracking the roster loomed as at least a possibility.
     
"As well as he played, the situations that started to emerge with injuries and guys being delayed coming out of the gate (all increased the chances)," said Farrell. "Even though our intentions all along, coming into camp, were for him to start in the minor leagues. But I didn't want to put a ceiling on a guy and feel like he's coming into camp feeling, 'Sure, I'm going to impress, but I'm just waiting to be sent out.
     
"I think it's always important to keep those situations alive and they'll probably settle in where they rightfully should. And in this case, it's New York."
     
Farrell said the issue of service time -- unless the Red Sox send him back to the minors for a minimum of 20 uninterrupted days, he will qualify for free agency after 2018 instead of 2019 -- wasn't a big factor in the decision.
     
"You look at a lot of different factors in a situation like this," said Farrell. "That's probably one of the lesser ones, even though there can be tangible differences down the line. But there's a lot that can happen between now and six years from now. It was one of (the factor), but his play and his performance, our need, the combination of those factors were the reasons he's here."
     
The Sox had prepared Bradley for the possibility of making the roster earlier in the week when they told him to prepare to travel to New York. But it wasn't until Farrell informed him, en route from Fort Myers to New York Saturday night, was it official.
     
"It's one of those rare opportunities you get to share with a young guy," said Farrell on delivering the news. "But much like he's handled everything else, he didn't jump up and down. He took it in stride. I think it speaks to the maturity of who he is as a person . . . At 35,000 feet he couldn't jump any higher. I think he kind of sensed it all along, and yet, we had to get through a number of things roster-wise to get to this point today."

"I was watching 'Life of Pi' (on the flight when Farrell came to talk to him),'' said Bradley, "kind of hanging out. It was kind of like closure. It's always good to have a little closure and finally, it's official.''    

When the plane landed, Bradley called his mother and father, his fiance, other family members and former coaches, "the people I'm really close with.''    

Looking back on the spring and how far he's come in the last two weeks, Bradley noted: "Anything's pretty much possible, apparently. Things have happened and I was fortunate enough to play well, show that I've improved from last year. The past is left behind now. I'm just looking forward and I'm ready to start this adventure.''