Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley rejoins Red Sox, says he's better equipped to 'take punches'

John Tomase
April 28, 2015 - 1:30 pm

If Jackie Bradley has learned anything over the last difficult year, it's that he can take a punch. Bradley arrived to spring training in 2014 as the heir apparent to Jacoby Ellsbury and left the season a few months later as an afterthought in an organization that had already moved on to Mookie Betts, with outfielders Rusney Castillo and Hanley Ramirez added for good measure. But with the Red Sox in need of a bat -- and late-innings defense in the outfield -- Bradley returned to Fenway on Tuesday afternoon feeling better equipped for the big leagues than he was a year ago. "I'm mentally stronger," Bradley said before the Red Sox played the Blue Jays. "I've been through a lot. I continue to grind. You really find out who you are as a person and a man when you're able to constantly take punches and be able to press forward. "I'm just thankful to be playing baseball. I'm glad to be here right now." The abuse Bradley absorbed was certainly earned. He hit just .198 in 127 games and left the Red Sox no choice but to demote him late in what could've been a Gold Glove season. But Bradley arrived in Fort Myers around New Year's for workouts and cage sessions with assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, and the result has been a player swinging the bat much more in line with his rise through the minors. Bradley was hitting .315 with a .383 on base percentage in Pawtucket. He may never be a dynamic big league hitter, but there's no reason he shouldn't be able to swing well enough to keep his glove in somebody's lineup. And if he absorbs criticism along the way, he has developed a thick skin. "You'€™ve got to continue to grind," he said. "Nobody's going to feel sorry for you, so you'€™ve got to continue to work, and the hard work will pay off. Life, you'€™ve got a lot of tough lessons. You'€™ve got to continue to grow and continue to work."