Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 7-6 loss to the Orioles in 12 innings on Sunday.
1) If Jackie Bradley could only hit a little more....
Bradley put on a clinic in the outfield in Sunday's extra-inning loss to the Orioles. He made three nearly-perfect throws to the plate from center -- one was dropped by David Ross; one was a split-second too late to nab the runner, and one caught Manny Machado trying to tag from third on a sacrifice fly.
Bradley now has 10 assists this season, twice as many as any other American League center fielder, and he's been part of five double plays, the most for any A.L. outfielder, period
His defensive WAR is 1.3, the highest of any regular American League center fielder and his range factor is also first among regulars.
Bradley showed his athleticism in the top of the ninth when he went back on a ball hit by Machado, turned and twisted as he tracked the ball, and made a spectacular catch as he crashed into the wall.
It's games like the one he had Sunday in which Bradley proves the value of his defensive brilliance. Even as he struggles at the plate, Bradley can help win games with his glove (and arm). In an era in which scoring is down and one-run games are the norm, those defensive skills become even more valuable.
If the Sox were getting more offense from their corner outfielders -- a platoon of Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava in left and a healthy Shane Victorino in right -- then Bradley's offensive shortcomings would be far less egregious. Even in the American League, a team can carry an offensively-challenged player who is well above average at a key defensive position.
Some forty or so years ago the Orioles routinely won pennants with Mark Belanger at short. Belanger had a career average of .228 and a career OPS of .580, and while nobody is ready to compare Bradley to Belanger in terms of longevity and impact, the comparison is worthwhile.
Then again, there's always the hope that Bradley has broken through a bit at the plate. Over the last four games, he's 6-for-14 and "lifted" -- a relative term to be sure -- his average to .218, the highest it's been since May 18, nearly two months ago.
Either way, Sunday was a reminder that it's way too soon to give up on Bradley as an everyday player and the team's center fielder of the future.
2) Is it time to start thinking about sending Xander Bogaerts back to Pawtucket?
Bogaerts had a better day at the plate Sunday, with two hits and an RBI. But the first hit snapped an 0-for-27 skid and since June 8, almost exactly a month ago, Bogaerts is hitting just .093 with exactly one extra-base hit and only three RBI in his last 23 games.
For whatever reason, Bogaerts has looked completely lost in the batter's box. Many have theorized that the funk is tied to his move to third base to accommodate Stephen Drew's return, and even if you don't believe there's a causality there, it's tough to ignore the evidence.
For Bogaerts, the problems haven't been limited to his bat. He made one error Sunday, leading to an unearned run, a day after committing another error in the first game Saturday, which led to two unearned runs.
Over his last 13 games, he's committed five errors, and they've come in bunches. He made an error in three straight games in Oakland last month, then the two against the Orioles in as many days this past weekend.
There's little doubt about Bogaerts' ability. That's been on display at times, including a stretch in late May and early June, when he grew more comfortable at short and was stinging line drives all over the ballpark.
More recently, in addition to his spotty play at third, he's looked uncharacteristically jumpy at the plate -- swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, taking pitches that are obvious strikes.
The latter is a mark of a player unsure of himself and lacking in confidence.
It's no shame for a young player -- and it's easy to forget that Bogaerts is one of the youngest in the majors at 21 years and nine months -- for a player to get sent back to Triple A to regain his confidence.
John Farrell dismissed the notion out of hand last week, saying it was something the Red Sox haven't even considered.
But perhaps they should.
3) Jake Peavy has value.
Forget that Peavy has now gone 13 straight starts without a win, and hasn't picked up a victory since April 25.
Sunday's start, in which he allowed just one earned run over six innings against a good Baltimore lineup, was further evidence that he can deliver quality starts. He turned in a similarly impressive start against the Cubs earlier this week, too.
There have been plenty of scouts watching Peavy in recent weeks, with the expectation that he might be dealt. He'd be particularly worthwhile for a National League team. In four starts against National League lineups this season, Peavy sports a 3.46 ERA and a WHIP of 1.231.
Those are more than respectable numbers. Peavy could help any number of N.L. teams fighting for playoff spots, including the Pirates, Braves, Marlins and Reds.
Not that the Red Sox would reap some huge return for Peavy. But if they offered to take back a chunk of his remaining salary, they could get a mid-level prospect in return, or a depth player that could help down the road.
Dealing Peavy would not be tantamount to waving the white flag. As a free agent this fall, his career with the Red Sox is winding down either way. He's not part of their future.
And Peavy's departure would serve the dual purpose of creating a spot for Rubby De La Rosa - or another young starter -- the rest of the way, giving the Red Sox a head start on 2015.