PAWTUCKET – Jackie Bradley Jr. is no longer on the disabled list. However, the promising outfielder remains in a holding pattern.
At least for the foreseeable future, Bradley will be subjected to a schedule that the Red Sox put together in an effort to ease him back into full-time duty. He missed nearly two weeks earlier this month due to tendinitis in his right bicep, an injury that he first noticed during Pawtucket’s road trip to Rochester and Buffalo late last month.
“The doctors found some restrictions in my [throwing] arm and felt like it was mandatory for me to take it easy and get fully recuperated,” Bradley was saying on Monday afternoon while seated in the PawSox dugout.
Bradley was reinstated last Friday, though as far as the player and the organization are concerned, it’s far from full speed ahead. Monday night marked the second time in four days that he served as Pawtucket’s designated hitter. The Red Sox have him on a program where he’ll play nine innings in center field one day and possibly DH the next day. There will also be built-in off days.
The 23-year-old, who has drawn rave reviews from professional scouts for his outfield defense, has always been a complete ballplayer who takes pride in fielding the ball as well as hitting it. He admits it’s been a difficult adjustment to being involved in only one half of the game as the designated hitter.
“I feel like my defense goes hand in hand with my offense. I feel that I’m my best at the plate when I’m in center,” said Bradley, who blasted his first Triple-A home run Monday night, a two-run shot as part of a 2-for-4 night against Indianapolis. “Some people think that it shouldn’t be a difference and that you should be able to separate it, but I’m trying to get where I’m comfortable out there.
“You don’t have anything to balance you out. It’s just offense, offense and offense. I like to have a little 50-50,” Bradley said of the experience.
Of course, sitting out the game completely is an even more challenging hurdle for the prospect, who before this season had never visited the disabled list as a professional. He didn’t play this past Saturday, the day after he was deemed clear to return to action.
“When they tell you those days where they don’t want you doing anything, you check out almost,” said Bradley. “You’re like ‘I can’t do anything,’ so you try and find ways to make yourself better on days you know you can’t do anything physically, whether it’s watching pitchers you may see down the road or working on some mental aspect of the game.”
Bradley’s manager says that despite Bradley’s eagerness to return to full all-around duties, he knows the player comprehends the merit behind the DH-OF-off-day rotation.
“He understands that he has to get his shoulder stronger and that he’s going to benefit from it. His attitude and makeup have been great,” stated Gary DiSarcina. “For the next week or two, we’re going to progress him and get his strength built up. If you explain something to a player and give them a plan, they may (fuss) about it in the beginning, but they understand that it’s best for them.”
As far as Bradley knowing ahead of time what his in-game activities will or will not entail, DiSarcina mentioned that he has sat down with PawSox trainer Jon Jochim and discussed the mapped-out strategy. The only request on the skipper’s part is to have knowledge of Bradley’s availability one day ahead of time.
“For him personally, I don’t want to look too far ahead,” said DiSarcina.
The player himself expressed quite clearly the desire to not have things kept under wraps.
“I prefer to know; I don’t want to live in mystery, especially when it comes to baseball,” Bradley remarked. “I want to know the truth up front and be honest.”
The idea of compensating by taking fly balls on the days Bradley is strictly a hitter is something he’s refrained from.
“Nothing extra. It’s called a routine for a reason, you know. You don’t want to deviate from it,” Bradley expressed. “My routine is pretty simple. I do the same thing every single day and that’s what prepares me mentally and physically.”
Since he’s still in the process of getting back in the swing of things, Bradley hasn’t given much thought to when he will become a two-way contributor on a regular basis. Until further notice, he’s subjected to a mending program that can be described as “baby steps.”
“I feel great and glad to be back out there and get in the rhythm of things,” said Bradley – even if that rhythm is a bit slower than he’d like.