NEW YORK -- Somewhere over the Eastern seaboard, on the flight carrying the Red Sox to New York Saturday night, manager John Farrell broke the news to Jackie Bradley Jr. that he not only had made the team but would be starting in left field Monday in Yankee Stadium.
“At 35,000 feet,’’ Farrell said, “he can’t jump any higher.’’
Actually, Farrell said, the 22-year-old Bradley, the first rookie to draw an Opening Day starting assignment for the Red Sox since Shea Hillenbrand in 2001, was not particularly demonstrative when he received the news.
“Like he’s handled everything else, he didn’t jump up and down,’’ Farrell said Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, where the Red Sox held a “voluntary” workout. “He took it in stride. I think it speaks to the maturity of where he is as a person.’’
Farrell did not reveal the rest of his starting lineup for Monday, other than to say that Jonny Gomes would serve as DH and that the man catching Jon Lester is “to be determined.’’ He did, however, explain what went into the decision to name Bradley his starting left fielder, a position occupied in Boston in the past by three Hall of Famers -- Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice -- and another man, Manny Ramirez, whose credentials are Hall of Fame worthy, though his suspensions for PED use figure to hurt his chances.
“He improves our outfield defense,’’ Farrell said. “He showed a very consistent approach at the plate. A lot of people might want to maybe target the batting average, but in our evaluation it goes much deeper than that, when you see the consistency of at-bats he put up.
“We feel like the strength in his mental approach will handle some of the distractions that ultimately will be thrown his way, and he was one of the better players we had in spring training. And the need because of the David [Ortiz] and Stephen [Drew] situations to add another left-handed bat, a number of things came together and he earned that spot in the roster.’’
Bradley hit .419 (26-for-62) for the spring with a .507 on-base percentage and .613 slugging percentage.