You can count former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling among those on the Jackie Bradley Jr. bandwagon, but he’s the guy in back pumping the brakes and urging caution.
In an ESPNBoston.com Hot Button video segment, Schilling made a case for why the Red Sox should start the soon-to-be-23-year-old Bradley at Triple-A instead of on the big league roster.
Schilling’s argument? Spring training success is not an indicator of major league readiness, no matter how impressive.
“I can remember every single spring, somebody having a super spring,” Schilling said. “This is not a knock on Jackie Bradley because I think he’s going to be a very good big league player.”
Bradley has an on-base percentage better than .500 and 11 RBIs in 24 Grapefruit League games.
“It means nothing when you try to correlate it to having a great season; there’s just so many things going on in spring training from a pitcher’s perspective,” Schilling said. “You’re not seeing anybody’s plus-plus stuff. That doesn’t come out until Monday.”
How would Schilling handle Bradley, who looks in line to make the major league roster out of camp even though he has never had an official at-bat above the Double-A level?
“This is not the time and this is definitely not the market to experiment,” Schilling said. “He’s going to be ready for the big leagues, it might be May, it might be June. But let him be ready when he gets up there.
“And again, he’s had a monstrous spring. He’s done everything they’ve asked of him. This is not punishment; this is just a normal course of bringing a legitimate talent to the big leagues. Let him go to Triple-A. That’s a big step. That’s where you start to see big league pitchers, big league patterns. Spring training is not it. The last 10 days of camp is the only time, to me, you can judge a hitter versus a pitcher. ... The rest of it is eyewash."
Where would you like to see Bradley start the season? We’ll lay out the cases below.
* Start him on the major league roster: Bradley has given Red Sox fans something to get excited about this spring, and the injury to designated hitter David Ortiz opened up a starting spot for him in left field. The best possible Red Sox team includes him in the everyday lineup, at least until he shows he can’t cut it in the bigs just yet. If he struggles, the Red Sox can always demote him and ensure he doesn’t hit free agency until 2019.
* Start him at Triple-A Pawtucket: The reasoning here is twofold: (1) Starting him in the majors now could mean he becomes a free agent a season sooner (in 2018 as opposed to 2019) than if you keep him in the minors at the start of April; and (2) You risk stunting his progress if he falls flat at the major league level (remember Craig Hansen?). Will Middlebrooks started last season at Triple-A, and the Sox promoted him after he tore it up at Pawtucket. The Red Sox should put Bradley on that same course.
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