Jackie Bradley Jr.

John Farrell on Jackie Bradley: 'He's the best [defensive] center fielder in baseball'

Rob Bradford
February 24, 2015 - 9:26 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was another long day for John Farrell, having brief meetings with every Red Sox position player. One of the more interesting get-togethers might have been the one with Jackie Bradley. With all the talk of an outfield competition, along with Farrell's recent proclamation that Shane Victorino (if healthy) would be the Sox's starting right fielder, Bradley has become somewhat of the forgotten man. (Hitting .198 in 127 games last season will do that.) But Tuesday Farrell brought Bradley's name back up to the surface with a vengeance. "There are three prime candidates in that spot," said Farrell when asked of the center field competition. "If you're pinning those two positions on Hanley and Vic, what's left over. That's where Mookie [Betts], Rusney [Castillo] and Jackie come into play. Individual strength that vary to each person, each player. That's what it begins to center around. And the durability and the dependability of the guys on the flanks will have some effect to the overall decision in the outfield." When asked if all three outfielders were starting on and even playing field heading into spring training, the manager responded, "I think every player is starting on an equal footing. But there are going to be some things that happen over the course of camp that we can't turn away from. And there might be some things that are unforeseen at this point. We have all of camp to arrive at that initial Opening Day roster." Then, in case anybody didn't realize, Farrell made it clear why Bradley is still in the mix. "He's working to establish himself more as an offensive player. In my mind, he's the best center fielder in baseball and I'm not afraid of saying that," the manager said. "He's an extremely talented guy. There have been some offensive challenges, but don't deny what he can do and he can play center field as good as anybody." And, now, in the organization's collective mind, there have also been steps in the right direction in regards to Bradley's issues with the bat. Having worked with assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez for the past few months at JetBlue Park, the outfielder has rediscovered a line-drive stroke that first put him on the big league map two seasons ago. "Probably a question better directed at him," Farrell said when asked about Bradley's confidence level. "But I can tell you this: the BP that has been going on, it's a more compact swing. He's not looking to pull the ball or try and lift the ball as I might have seen last year. Jackie might disagree with that, but I saw a guy who looked to hit the ball in the air a little bit more. He's back in the middle of the field, more of a line-drive approach. More to maybe his swing that's natural to him. "What we've looked to do is to streamline the message to him, as well, and eliminate the voices around him and have it come from one. That's where [hitting coach] Chili [Davis] steps in, and be the conduit to be the one who is delivering the message so there is consistency there." Other notes from Farrell's media session: - Every position player will be ready for full participation when workouts officially begin Wednesday. David Ortiz was the last participant to arrive, taking batting practice with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. - When asked if he had seen Dustin Pedroia hit yet, Farrell responded, "I've been getting video clips since November, so yeah." He elaborated on the second baseman's health, saying, "I think when a player speaks it's a window as to how he feels physically. And when they speak with more conviction or when they speak with a little more confidence, it's reflective of that." - Farrell also had high praise for starting pitcher Justin Masterson. "A 200-inning starter that has been a dominate type of right-hander most recently as two years ago," he said. "A guy who, in my estimation, has as much an ability to impact this team in a positive way as anybody in this clubhouse. He's famiiar with Boston and he's familiar with us. The potential to get back to that level of performance is well within reach in a short period."