When the Boston Red Sox recalled outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. from Triple-A Pawtucket on May 10, he was batting .343 for the PawSox. With the Sox having lost seven of their previous eight games, the hope was that Bradley might make a positive impact on the team’s struggling offense.
Eleven days later, that hope clearly has evaporated. Bradley has started just three games since his recall, is hitless in 13 plate appearances and has been reduced to a role as a late-inning glove.
Thursday afternoon, when Shane Victorino was scratched from the original lineup because of soreness, manager John Farrell elected to play Daniel Nava in right field even though Nava has had just five plate appearances this season against lefties since becoming a full-time left-handed hitter. Nava reverted to batting right-handed against Wandy Rodriguez on Thursday night.
With Rusney Castillo due to be activated any day — he was back with Pawtucket on Thursday night after missing three games for the birth of his child — Bradley is a prime candidate to be returned to Pawtucket.
It hardly worked in Bradley’s favor that his three starts came against Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, Oakland ace Sonny Gray and Seattle ace Felix Hernandez. But Farrell obviously did not see enough there to keep running Bradley out and seeing what he would do with regular at-bats.
In his 13 plate appearances, Bradley only reached the outfield once, and that was a pop fly to short left field in his first at-bat against Gray. He grounded out four times, struck out four times, popped to short and popped up a bunt.
“They have been limited [at-bats]; there are other guys ahead of him,” Farrell said. “We’ve used him in spots where there have been some late-inning defensive replacements. That’s his role right now. It’s a difficult one, particularly for a young player, to try and stay sharp and gets his at-bats when they’re available to him. But the work remains consistent, and that’s the spot he’s in right now.”
The Sox had expressed the confidence that Bradley, who hit well in spring training and carried that over to the first five weeks in Pawtucket, had made significant progress from a year ago, when he batted .198 and finished with one hit in his last 36 at-bats.
That confidence has left the building, and cannot help serve as another blow to the self-regard of the 25-year-old Bradley, whose defensive virtuosity is unquestioned but will have little chance of regular employment in the big leagues until he shows he can hit.
At the time of his promotion, the Sox thought he was getting there.
“The swings are much more consistent,” Sox vice president and assistant general manager Mike Hazen said at the time. “He made slight adjustments physically --he and [batting coach] Chili Davis did in spring training. It translated from Day 1 in Triple-A and he carried it all the way through. His at-bat to at-bats are much more consistent. He’s impacting the ball on a more consistent basis. Hopefully, he’s a year smarter and a year more experienced. He has a good idea of what he needs to know on this level, and I think he’s shown over an extended course of time in Triple-A, he knows what doing here. Now it has to translate here.
“We’ve seen a lot of positives. The staff has raved about the way he’s gone out and played, especially offensively. We know what we’re going to get defensively. I think he’s ready to come up here and produce.”
Nobody seems to be thinking that now.