PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Though he’s had a season for the ages offensively -- and not in a good way -- Jackie Bradley Jr. swears it hasn’t adversely affected his confidence.
“Confidence is great. Same as it always has been,” the Red Sox outfielder said after going 0-for-5 with two K’s in his debut with Pawtucket on Monday night, a 2-0 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. “I guess you all want me to change my answer, but I feel great. Confidence is still up. Head is still up.”
He was hitting .313 (5-for-16, all singles) over the week prior to Monday's demotion from the Red Sox, but Bradley was still at just .216/.288/.290 for the season with 45 runs scored, one homer, 30 RBIs and eight stolen bases. In 348 at-bats over 112 games, he struck out 111 times (tied for ninth most in the majors entering Monday night, among qualified hitters) and walked just 31 times.
As ESPNBoston's Gordon Edes has noted, Bradley’s .216 batting average was the lowest by a starting center fielder in the American League (minimum 300 at-bats) since Mike Cameron batted .210 in 1998.
Bradley said he’s never had a stretch like this before in his baseball life, but he’s trying to keep it in perspective.
“No, but, hey, it happens to everybody who plays the game long enough,” he said. “They’ll go through stints where things just aren’t going their way. You’ve just gotta continue to work, and that’s what I plan on doing.”
He squared up a ball in his second at-bat of the night, against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starter Manny Banuelos, flying out to center field. But he also lost his grip on the bat on one swing, sending it flying toward the visitors’ dugout.
Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles said he saw some good signs from the 24-year-old on Monday, and the plan going forward is to work on some fundamentals.
“I just think that there’s some timing issues that, it wasn’t apparent tonight, but there’s been some timing issues, possible length to the swing path that we’re gonna take a look at as far as the lower half, getting the lower half established and on time,” Boles said. “But I think with his athleticism and the way he goes about his business, it’s a good first step. He came in today ready to play, had a real nice workout, and just knowing him in the past and the way he goes about his business, those adjustments will be made. I really believe and have a lot of confidence in him.”
Bradley’s paltry offensive performance has offset the profound defense he has played in center, where he led the Red Sox and ranked tied for ninth in the majors in defensive runs saved with 14 according to FanGraphs.
Asked about the center fielder’s confidence level, Boles said he hopes Bradley Jr. remembers he’s not just a one-trick pony. He was a career .297 minor league hitter entering this season.
“He shouldn’t forget what kind of player he is and how he can impact a baseball game, not just on the defensive standpoint,” he said. “He’s had a history of production all throughout his career. Things were a little bit tough on him this year up at the major league level, but knowing the athlete and the work habits that he has, I think that he’s gonna make those improvements.”
Bradley Jr. said he hopes that when he finds those fixes, it will help him into the future.
“I’m gonna keep swinging away,” he said. “I’m not gonna let baseball define who I am. Who I am is a person who just happens to play baseball. So it’s not gonna affect me as a person, emotionally. Yes, you get frustrated, but that just comes with the competitive edge that we have.
“We’re frustrated because we put in the work every single day and sometimes you might not get the results that you want. That’s why you have to continue to work and keep grinding,” he said.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.