BOSTON -- In a move startling only for its timing, the Red Sox have optioned center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to Triple-A Pawtucket and recalled outfielder-infielder Mookie Betts, who will join Boston for the third time this season.
Betts started in center field for the Red Sox on Monday night and singled, walked and scored a run in four plate appearances in a 4-2 loss to the Angels. Bradley played center field and went hitless in five at-bats for Pawtucket.
Manager John Farrell explained the timing of Monday's moves.
"Felt like right now it was an opportunity to take advantage of the remaining three weeks left in the minor league season [for Bradley]," Farrell said. "Hopefully to gain some confidence and some momentum when he comes back here. That's the reason for now."
Despite his season-long struggles at the plate, the Sox had resisted demoting Bradley, whose .216 batting average is the lowest by a starting center fielder in the American League (minimum 300 at-bats) since Mike Cameron batted .210 in 1998.
Bradley also had an 0-for-35 drought -- the longest hitless streak in the majors this season -- and his slugging percentage (.290) is the lowest among all major leaguers with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.
"The move to send Jackie back to Pawtucket has been talked about for a little while now. I think it's important to note that this wasn't reactionary," Farrell explained. "Had it been reactionary you might suggest it [would have] been done a while ago. We felt like some of the adjustments that were being worked on had some evidence inside of given games but we're sending him out to maintain some of those adjustments. That is to try to shorten down that swing a little bit more and have a more distinct two strike approach."
However, Bradley had played stellar defense, and his 13 assists lead all major league outfielders.
"The defense is an impact defender and a premium center fielder," Farrell said. "We don't view him as an extra outfielder. We need to regain some of the consistency he showed through the minor league level and the performance history that's there. We're doing what we can to get back to that."
Since the club returned home, Bradley had four singles in 13 at-bats against Houston, including two Sunday prior to being informed that he was being optioned. Bradley had one home run -- and 111 strikeouts -- in 387 plate appearances with the Sox.
Betts was batting .386 (17-for-44) in his last 10 games for the PawSox. Since his promotion from Portland, Betts was batting .335 with 19 extra-base hits (12 doubles, 2 triples, 5 homers) and 31 RBIs in 45 games.
In his previous two stints in Boston, Betts played in 13 games and hit .244 (10-for-41) with two doubles, one home run, two RBIs, a walk and six runs scored.
"I'm just happy to get the opportunity again," Betts said. "I think I had a good, productive three weeks learning some more in the outfield and getting some more at-bats. I feel like it was good."
Information from ESPNBoston.com contributor Kyle Brasseur was used in this report.