PHILADELPHIA -- Older and wiser? Let’s not get carried away here.
After all, only 39 days have passed since Red Sox rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, a day after his 23rd birthday.
He remains the youngest player on the Sox active roster. Even infielder Jose Iglesias, the team’s other ‘90’s baby, has him beaten by 3 ½ months.
But, if experience is the teacher that it’s cracked up to be, then Bradley, upon his return to the Red Sox on Wednesday, sounded like a man who has profited from his first go-round with the club, as difficult as his initial exposure to the big leagues may have been.
“I feel confident as always,’’ Bradley said, “I accepted the failure before and know what it was really all about. I’m just making adjustments and moving on from it. It’s in the past.’’
Bradley made a great first impression in his big-league debut in New York on April 1, drawing three walks, scoring two runs, beating an attempted force at second base and making a terrific catch. But it wasn’t long before big-league pitchers figured him out, pounding him inside with hard stuff that he wasn’t catching up with. By the end, he was clearly overmatched, hitless in his last 20 at-bats before the Sox activated David Ortiz and sent Bradley down.
But Red Sox officials were united in their belief that Bradley would not be shaken by the experience, and his performance in Pawtucket offers compelling evidence that they were correct. After being sidelined a couple of weeks with biceps tendinitis, Bradley returns to Boston with a 12-game hitting streak, going 21-for-48 (.438) with nine extra-base hits, including his first two home runs of the season.
Overall, he has posted a slash line of .354/.457/.544/1.001, with 10 extra-base hits, 15 runs and 13 walks in 20 games with the PawSox.
“As a person, it’s OK to start to crawl before walking,’’ Bradley said, “learning you’re going to fail and have got to make small adjustments to get to be where you need to be.
“Nobody likes to fail. That’s just the way it is, especially when you’re a competitor. You can only get better from it. You can only stay down for so long.’’
Bradley said he is fully recovered from the biceps tendinitis that sidelined him at the start of the month, saying he could have returned sooner but the club opted to make sure his strength had returned.
Hitting again the way he did in March, when he was the sensation of spring training camp, was just a matter of getting his timing back.
“Once you find it, you find it,’’ he said, “and hopefully you keep it.’’
The Red Sox officially announced the roster move that created a spot for Bradley, optioning reliever Alex Wilson back to Pawtucket. While pitching primarily in low leverage situations, Wilson did some quality work with the big club, posting a 2.50 ERA in 16 appearances (18 innings). He was scored upon in just four of those appearances. He allowed 6 of 11 inherited runners to score.
With the Sox playing their first two games of the season in a National League park, meaning they cannot use a DH, manager John Farrell decided that the team would be better off with another position player instead of a 13th pitcher. Bradley figures to be here until at least next Wednesday, when outfielder Shane Victorino is expected to come off the DL.
Bradley has been playing all three outfield positions, and Tuesday night in Indianapolis cut down two runners on the basepaths. One was a runner trying to advance to third on a fly ball to the track; Bradley’s throw beat the runner so badly that he didn’t even bother to slide. The second cut down a runner trying to stretch a hit into the gap from a single into a double.
“I did a little shortstop impersonation,’’ Bradley said, describing how he cut the ball off. “I backhanded it, turned around, found a target,and threw it. I kept spinning after the throw, but I got him.’’