Bradley's second visit a smoother ride

BOSTON -- Jackie Bradley Jr. was one of just three Red Sox starters Tuesday night who failed to record more than one hit. But that one hit was a doozy.

Bradley crushed a 2-1 offering from Texas Rangers starter Justin Grimm over the bullpens in right field for his first career home run, a two-run shot that had plenty of distance. It was the first of four home runs in Boston’s 17-5 win and perhaps the most emotional.

“Felt great,” Bradley said of his trip around the bases. “Got a pitch I could handle. It felt good coming off the bat. I’m glad to get the first one out of the way.”

Although he was retired his next four trips to the plate, including an RBI groundout, it was another night of solid contributions from the revitalized rookie. Bradley may soon be the odd man out again in a constantly shuffling Red Sox outfield, but his recent play has drawn rave reviews.

While playing a pretty solid center field in Jacoby Ellsbury’s absence, Bradley is 5-for-16 in his past five games. Two of those hits were doubles, and the home run Tuesday was a no-doubter, further evidence that the lack of punch Bradley exhibited in his early audition in April may have been a mirage.

“I felt like I was in the zone [in April] but was fouling pitches off and just missing pitches,” he said.

The man who makes the decisions has seen a better approach in Bradley’s second stint with the Sox.

“He put some good swings on balls in New York, as well,” manager John Farrell said. “I think this second time back with us, there’s certainly, from his point of view, there’s more of a known, of what the big leagues is about, maybe a better idea of what the scouting report quickly circulated on him, and what opposing pitchers are trying to do. And I think just through those struggles early on he’s learned from it, he’s come back as confident as he was Opening Day when he started with us.”

That was back when Bradley was all the rage; the young star was ready to take the spotlight from some of the holdovers and be a big part of the team’s turnaround this year. It did not go as planned, but the second effort, which has seen much less fanfare, has been a significantly smoother process.

Ellsbury may return to the starting lineup Wednesday, and Shane Victorino could come off the disabled list within a week or so. Daniel Nava and Mike Carp are playing exceptionally well, and Jonny Gomes, while struggling in some areas, was brought in as a big part of the team’s vision for 2013.

So where does that leave Bradley, especially if he continues to show the maturity he has in the past week?

“I haven’t thought about it. I live in the day,” he said.

For Bradley, Tuesday was a good one.