Bradley lets hair loose, hopes bat follows

BOSTON -- The month of May has been nothing but unkind to Red Sox rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

However, never did the struggle seem more real than in the clubhouse before Saturday night's game against the Detroit Tigers.

"This isn't working!" Bradley exclaimed to several clubhouse attendants watching him as his teammates took the field for batting practice.

What's the "this," you may wonder? Getting his baseball cap to fit on over an afro that Bradley unleashed for the first time in public Saturday afternoon.

"It's [John] Lackey's day on the mound," Bradley said to explain why he let his typically braided hair loose. "He wanted it out last start; I told him I would do it this start for him. What the cowboy wants the cowboy gets, be careful what you wish for."

The afro has been a project nearly two years in the making as Bradley admitted that his last haircut was back in mid-June 2012, before he represented the Salem Red Sox in the Class A All-Star game. Since then, the 24-year-old has primarily kept his hair in cornrows until finally budging at the request of Lackey and his other teammates.

"They wanted me to do this for a while now, I kind of just shunned it off a little bit," Bradley said.

After getting his hat to stay in place, Bradley was asked about another hurdle he may face if he chooses to continue rocking his new look -- getting a helmet to stay on over his hair.

"I haven't gotten that far yet," he said.

For the time being, it appears Bradley won't get there Saturday night, as Red Sox manager John Farrell opted to give the rookie outfielder the night off as a way to catch his breath. Since the start of May, Bradley has hit .128 in 14 games while striking out in more than a third of his at-bats (17 K's in 47 ABs). Following Friday night's game in which he went 0-for-3, Bradley remarked that he felt "lost" at the plate.

"I saw the comment that he made," Farrell said. "I think anytime a player speaks that candidly about what he's feeling, there's an opportunity to give him a little bit of a breather and take a game in and catch his breath, so to speak. It's not uncommon for players to go through the peaks and valleys we've seen, but this is someone that, in my view, felt like throughout April was really making some strides with his approach. And yet, in this month, things have kind of turned a little bit.

"We're not down on his abilities, but I think we've got to recognize when some of that confidence gets a little bit shallow, we've got to give him a chance to rebuild it."

Bradley maintains that his confidence has yet to waiver during his May struggles and that he'll continue to "weather the storm" so long as he gets the chance to play every day while figuring things out. Is there any hope that perhaps the afro could serve as a catalyst toward getting himself and the team going offensively?

"Yeah, take whatever you can get," Bradley Jr. said. "Definitely trying to win, and if this sparks something, I guess I'll have to bring it out a lot more often."