It’s not often that a player makes their major league debut on Opening Day. In fact, the last time it happened for the Red Sox was in 2001, with a young Shea Hillenbrand. That is, until Jackie Bradley, Jr. came around.
Bradley had an unbelievable spring training and landed himself a starting spot in left field on the Opening Day roster. He started out hot, and Boston fans loved him instantly, as they are so prone to do when things are going well. It was JBJ-mania.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
But then, because he was a 23-year-old kid who had skipped right past Triple-A into the majors, he fizzled out quickly, and was almost forgotten. Almost.
Bradley has been doing well since the Sox sent him down to Pawtucket. He’s hitting .276/.376/.496 with 34 extra-base hits in 61 games with Pawtucket this season. And before you point out that those aren’t the best numbers, they’re better than his .271/.373/.437 and 24 extra-base hits in 61 games with Double-A Portland last year. Bradley’s numbers show that not only is he improving, but he’s also hitting with more power.
“Obviously, I’m still a pretty young kid. I’m going to get stronger. That’s just maturation, working out,” said Bradley according to WEEI. “I do think it has something to do with knowing your swing and picking your spots as well. I feel like it’s been something that’s being developed into my game. It might not be there in a large quantity, but it keeps pitchers honest.”
Bradley just came off the seven-day DL stint for elbow inflammation, but not even that is holding him down.
“My body feels great. I’m not tiring out like I did last year,” Bradley said according to WEEI. “I was definitely tired out at the end of the year. I think that had to do with the power-shagging. I kind of adjusted that, had to make adjustments. I had to learn that from experience. The power-shagging I did in college and high school, I wasn’t playing as many games, so I kind of had to settle down. That’s something that I did this year. Maybe take it a group or so. Kind of get my body into shape to be able to perform at a high level every single day.”
It looks like Bradley is improving with a lot of self-discipline. If he keeps that up, he really could be the next big thing, as was prematurely expected of him this season. Maybe 2014 will be JBJ-mania all over again.