FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Evaluating spring training performance is notoriously difficult, but Jackie Bradley Jr.'s play in the last month has, unsurprisingly, changed how the Red Sox view him.
"When camp began, he had no shot -- none -- of making the team,'' said a club source.
And now, the person was asked, with the regular-season opener just 11 days away?
"I'd say it's 50-50,'' said the source, who added that the organization's decision-makers are keeping an open mind on the subject and won't make the call on Bradley until the middle of next week at the earliest.
Bradley's chances for breaking with the major league team have been buoyed by a number of other variables, including injuries to David Ortiz and Stephen Drew that have robbed the projected starting lineup of two left-handed bats. Bradley himself hits left-handed.
Beyond his readiness to compete at the major-league level -- he's yet to spend even a full season at Double A -- there's also the matter of his major-league service time.
If Bradley were to spend more than 172 days in the big leagues, the Red Sox would run the risk that he could be eligible for free agency after 2018 rather than after 2019. He would also be eligible for salary arbitration a year sooner than projected, but the latter is not nearly the concern that the former is.
Should Bradley be on the Opening Day roster, the plan would be for him to serve as the everyday left fielder, with Jonny Gomes taking Ortiz's spot as the regular DH -- certainly against lefties, and likely against some right-handers, too.
A possible scenario would be to have Bradley break camp with the team, play left field until Ortiz is ready and then be returned to the minor leagues -- at least briefly -- so as to not impact his service time.
General manager Ben Cherington, meeting with reporters Thursday afternoon, said three factors would be critical to the decision-making process.
"The simplest ones are the most important,'' he said. "And those are: Is there an everyday role? Is a player really ready for it? And what's our best team? If we use that to guide us, more often that not, we'll make the right decision. We just have to see how it plays out.
"It's hard to ignore what he's done this spring (.444/.545/.578). Every step in a player's career is another step. We knew he was a good player. We knew he was going to get his first big-league experience in camp this year and until it happens we don't know how it's going to go. But it's hard to ignore what he's done. Every time something like that happens, yeah, it's a next step. It's one less thing he has to prove. It's been fun to watch.''
If nothing else, Bradley has put himself into the mix to contribute at the big-league club this season -- even if he's not on the roster on April 1.
"One way or another,'' said Cherington, "we know he's going to be a good player. We're happy he's on our side. We'll see when that start for him. We haven't made any decision.''