"Humbled" Bradley ready to compete for job

"Humbled" Bradley ready to compete for job
February 15, 2014, 10:00 pm

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For most of the winter, Jackie Bradley Jr. had every reason to believe that he would be the Red Sox' regular center fielder in 2014.
    
But in January, out of the blue, the Red Sox signed veteran Grady Sizemore to provide competition at the spot.
    
Bradley is undeterred by the challenge, however. In fact, he welcomes it.
    
"Competition in general is very beneficial,'' he said. "You're competing and that brings the best out in all players. That's what we do -- we compete and we enjoy competing it and we take pride in it. I just see it as another teammate who's going to help toward the ultimate goal and that's to win a championship. We're all here for the [very same] reason -- compete, have fun and try to win a championship.''
    
Sizemore, of course, has missed each of the last two seasons with a variety of injuries and the Sox are taking it slow with him, not wanting to ask too much of him, too soon.
    
Manager John Farrell has watched Sizemore go through some early workouts and has been impressed.
    
"He's moving well,'' said Farrell. "We'll probably reserve any kind of evaluation on him until we get into games and see how he tolerates the volume and what kind of recovery time he's going to need. This is a guy who hasn't been in game-action for a couple of years, so we have to be open-minded to the needs that he's going to have and the repitition he's going to need (before getting) a more accurate read.
    
"He's not restricted in any kind of drill work we would put him through. But I think he's learned that crashing into walls and the things he was known for before injury, he's got to control that a little bit better. I think it's important that we just let things play out a little bit in spring training first.''
    
If Bradley is successful this spring, he'll take over a position vacated by the departure of free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. But Bradley isn't fixating on that.
    
"I don't feel any pressure,'' he said. "I 'm not replacing Jacoby. I'm just going to be myself and enjoy it and have fun.''
    
A year ago, Bradley had a terrific spring training, and broke with the team as it began the season. But within a couple of weeks, as some injured players got healthy and Bradley struggled against better pitching, he was returned to Pawtucket.
    
He returned to Boston several times during the year, and throughout the season "learned pretty much how to be a professional and what every single day entails as a big leaguer -- and that goes for on- and off- the field stuff. I kind of know what's ahead of me, going forward. I have more experience. I know what's going on and I'll be able to deal with things accordingly."
    
"He's aware, a little bit more, of what to expect,'' said Farrell of Bradley. "Whether it's some familiarity with pitchers he had never seen before...I thought when he came back in September, I thought there were more consistent at-bats that he put up.
    
"I think what he went through last year was very common for a young player - to struggle for the first time and how they respond to that is key. He was humbled, but at the same time, he came out of it and finished the year on an upswing.''
    
With at least some experience under him, he's set some modest goals for his second season.
    
"Being more consistent at the game -- defensively, offensively, just as a whole,'' Bradley said. "To be more prepared coming into games and have a better mindset.''