FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Eleven days before Opening Day, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington acknowledged that 22-year-old rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. still has a chance to make the major league team coming out of camp, and identified the elements he considered the most important in making that decision.
"There are all sorts of factors to consider," Cherington said while meeting with reporters in the Red Sox dugout here Thursday afternoon, "but the simplest ones are probably the most important: Is there an everyday role? Is a player really ready for it? What's our best team?
"If we use that to guide us, more often than not, we'll make the right decision, so we'll have to see how it plays out. It's hard to ignore what he's done this spring."
Cherington gave those factors more weight than how Bradley's promotion to the big league team would impact his service time and future clock for free-agent eligibility. Unless Bradley spends at least 20 days in the minor leagues this year (or any year in the next six), he would be eligible for free agency in 2018. Otherwise, he would remain under Sox control until 2019.
"We all know every year in Boston is pretty important," Cherington said, suggesting that 2013 carries as much weight as 2019. "We've got to consider all the data points, remember that every year in Boston is important. In a case like this, sometimes the simplest factors are the most important. Talking about a young player like this, is he really ready?
"There are alternatives, one way or another. We know he's going to be a good player. We're happy he's on our side. We'll see when that starts."
The Red Sox reduced their roster by four on Thursday, assigning four pitchers -- right-handers Terry Doyle, Chris Carpenter and Oscar Villarreal and left-hander Chris Hernandez -- to minor league camp. That reduces the number of players in camp to 42, including 32 players on the 40-man roster, nine nonroster players (including Bradley) and one player (Ryan Kalish) on the 60-man disabled list.
The Sox need to be down to 25 players on the Opening Day roster by noon on March 31, the first day of the major league season. The Sox open the next afternoon, April 1, against the New York Yankees.
Cherington all but said it was a certainty that DH David Ortiz and left-handers Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales would be on the DL when the season starts. Cherington admitted that with Ortiz on the DL, there would be an opportunity for everyday playing time for Bradley.
"There's more than one spot up for competition," Cherington said. ”There are a number of different avenues we can go down, but there's playing time to be won or had, and a number of guys here fighting for a spot, fighting for playing time. We have to see how it plays out."