Then the 23-year-old outfielder batted .419 with a 1.120 OPS in spring training and was a surprising addition to the club’s Opening Day roster, making his Major League debut before appearing in Triple-A.
Once he stepped to the plate in games that counted, Bradley discovered that Major League pitching was not so easy to face, which is a lesson that many top prospects discover in their initiation on the big stage.
A supplemental first round selection in 2011 out of the University of South Carolina, Bradley scuffled with the Red Sox in April, going 3-for-31 (.097) and struggling to hit the inside fast ball.
The Red Sox optioned their center fielder of the future to Pawtucket, where he started slowly, spent time on the disabled list and then started raking. The left-handed hitting Bradley, who is a plus defensive outfielder with the ability to play all three spots, batted .354 (28-for-79) with two home runs, nine RBI and a 1.002 OPS in 20 games for the PawSox.
When Boston needed an outfielder after Shane Victorino was placed on the DL and Ellsbury suffered a groin strain, the charismatic Bradley was summoned to the Red Sox for another chance. This time, he has delivered.
On Tuesday, Bradley belted his first Major League home run, a two-run shot off Texas right-hander Justin Grimm, in Boston’s 17-5 rout of the Rangers. He later knocked in a run on a ground out and made solid contact in every at-bat, though he finished 1-for-5. Since returning to the Red Sox, Bradley is 5-for-17 with three extra-base hits. He has struck out three times in those 17 at-bats compared to 12 strikeouts during that first stint in April.
Red Sox manager John Farrell believes that Bradley’s struggles in April helped him regroup at Pawtucket and return with a better approach and mindset.
“I think this second time back with us, there’s certainly – from his point of view, there’s more knowing what the big leagues are about. Maybe a little bit better idea of knowing what the scouting report could be on him and what opposing pitchers are trying to do” Farrell said. “I think just through those struggles early on, he’s learned from it, and he’s come back as confident as he was Opening Day and when he started with us.”
Ellsbury is expected to return to the starting lineup today, and Victorino could begin a rehab assignment at Pawtucket later in the next couple days and be activated from the DL next week.
If Ellsbury and Victorino are healthy, Bradley will likely be optioned back to Pawtucket, barring an injury to another outfielder. He will rejoin the PawSox brimming with confidence, though, knowing that he will likely return to Boston at some point this summer.