BOSTON -- Jackie Bradley Jr., delivering the words less with bravado than matter-of-fact conviction, said at the end of a disappointing spring training that we hadn’t seen the real JBJ.
Presumably, this was more in line with what he had in mind.
Bradley had two run-scoring singles plus a bunt hit that served as catalyst to the three-run eighth that broke open Boston’s 5-1 win over the Texas Rangers. He also made two terrific catches in back-to-back innings, spearing a line drive by Donnie Murphy that he’d temporarily lost in the lights in the second, then outrunning J.P. Arencibia’s liner over his head and catching the ball with outstretched glove in front of the low bullpen wall in the third.
Which gave him more satisfaction, the hits or the catches?
“I’ll take both,’’ he said. “Whatever helps the team win. [John] Lackey pitched a great game and I was very fortunate to make those plays for him.’’
Bradley, who was sent back to Pawtucket after Grady Sizemore beat him out for the center-field job in spring training, is here only because Shane Victorino strained a hamstring in the last exhibition game. Victorino’s injury has been complicated by a bout with the flu that is finally ebbing, according to manager John Farrell. By the end of the week, Farrell said, Victorino should be able to begin baseball activity, at which time the Sox will be able to better judge when he might return.
Both Bradley and Farrell said the rookie outfielder is not worrying about when the time runs out on his recall. Nor should he: There have been numerous cases of a guy turning what was supposed to be a short-term assignment into a permanent job in the majors. The Sox still are more likely to prefer Bradley playing in Pawtucket every day when Victorino returns than sit on the Boston bench, but Bradley’s performance will ultimately dictate what the team does.
If he consistently has nights like he did Monday, he isn’t going anywhere.
“It’s a start, definitely a start,’’ Bradley said. “It’s a work in progress. I’m continuously trying to get better every single day.’’
Both of Bradley’s RBI hits were line drives, the first to center field, the second a hit-and-run single to left. Farrell said Bradley is at his best at the plate when he is using the middle of the field.
As for the catches? Bradley described both plays.
Murphy’s liner: “I saw it from the start, then I had to get down, get under the lights to pick it back up. I wasn’t anxious. I kind of knew the vicinity of where the ball would land and hopefully it would come out from the lights.’’
Arencibia’s drive: “It’s one of those plays I definitely try to work on in batting practice. The ball hit over my head, I take my eye off it and kind of guess where the ball’s going to be. I happened to run a pretty good route there, and it was waiting for me. I was reading off the bat and got a great jump.’’
After both catches, Bradley said, Lackey expressed his appreciation.
“He had a great night,’’ Lackey said. “He made a couple of nice plays, got big hits for us. It’s kind of what we expected, that he’d come up here and be in this lineup. You’ve got to be pretty good to be on this field.’’