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

04.28.15 at 5:30 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

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.”

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Red Sox injury updates: Mike Napoli out ‘couple of days,’ Shane Victorino targeting at-bats early next week

04.28.15 at 4:32 pm ET
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First baseman Mike Napoli missed Monday’s game with the Blue Jays with an illness, and that illness will keep him out at least a few more days.

Manager John Farrell said prior to Tuesday’s game Napoli would be out “probably next couple of days.” His illness is contagious, so the team is being careful.

Daniel Nava has started at first base both nights in Napoli’s absence.

After being placed on the disabled list April 25 with a hamstring injury, Shane Victorino is taking the steps needed to make a return as soon as next weekend. He’s eligible to return next Friday (May 8) in Toronto.

“Vic’s running will increase with intensity today,” said Farrell. “Would anticipate that he continues to ramp up through the weekend and hopefully early next week would be able to go out and get some at-bats.”

The only issue of coming back next Friday is playing on the new artificial turf in Toronto for a weekend series, which has caused some issues to some players already. Farrell said the team will monitor the situation and know more as next Friday gets closer.

“The reports coming out of teams that have gone through there have been — it’s a new turf. It’s extremely long, the blade of artificial grass, the depth of the crushed rubber is deep,” Farrell said. “It looks like some guys have had some negative effects on their legs after playing up there. Whether or not Vic is ready to be activated, next Friday is the day, we’ll determine that when we get closer to it.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

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Read More: John Farrell, Koji Uehara, mike napoli, Rusney Castillo

Jackie Bradley recalled, Steven Wright optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket

04.28.15 at 4:07 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

For the third straight day the Red Sox made a roster move, this time to get back to standard 12 pitcher, 13 position player roster.

Outfielder Jackie Bradley was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket and pitcher Steven Wright was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket. Wright was called up Monday, but wasn’t needed in the game.

“We needed to add another position player,” manager John Farrell said. “Mike Napoli is still day-to-day and with last night’s outing of Joe Kelly and where we came through last night, felt like our bullpen was caught up enough to go back to 12 pitchers. Jackie will be in a reserve role coming off the bench.”

Bradley got the call around 1:15 this afternoon, and received plenty of congratulatory hugs from his teammates upon arriving in the clubhouse.

“Just coming off the bench,” Bradley said of his role. “Maybe late inning and just I have to be ready to go in at any notice.”

After not making the Opening Day roster, Bradley has enjoyed a lot of success at Triple-A, as he was hitting .315 through his first 18 games with an on-base percentage of .383.

“He’s maintained the swing he showed in spring training, which I think he’s back to the stroke he had as an amateur and in the early days of his pro career,” Farrell said. “I thought last year there was maybe some length added to his swing. Opened up some holes. But it’s more of a line drive all fields approach that he’s maintained.”

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Red Sox lineup: Pablo Sandoval starts after leaving Monday’s game, Mike Napoli out again

04.28.15 at 2:48 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval

After leaving Monday’s game against the Blue Jays with neck soreness, Pablo Sandoval returns to the Red Sox lineup Tuesday. Sandoval went 2-for-2 in the game with 3 RBI before leaving in the top of the sixth. He stiffened up after making a diving catch on a pop up bunt in the fourth.

Mike Napoli is out for the second straight day. He missed Monday’s game with an illness.

Daniel Nava will play first in Napoli’s place, and Brock Holt gets the start in right field.

Ryan Hanigan will catch Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, as the Red Sox lineup goes up against Drew Hutchison.

For an extensive look at the matchups, click here.

1. Mookie Betts, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Hanley Ramirez, LF
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
6. Daniel Nava, 1B
7. Brock Holt, RF
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS
9. Ryan Hanigan, C
Clay Buchholz, RHP

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Tuesday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Drew Hutchison

04.28.15 at 12:00 pm ET
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The Red Sox opened up play against the Blue Jays on Monday night with a comeback, walkoff win on a Mookie Betts RBI single, making it Boston’s seventh straight series in which it came away with a victory in the first game.

Looking to parlay that momentum into another win on Tuesday night, the Sox will send Clay Buchholz to the mound to face off against Drew Hutchison.

Buchholz’s most recent start on Thursday ultimately spelled a loss for the Red Sox, but it was hardly because of the righty’s outing. In six innings pitched, Buchholz allowed just one earned run on two hits and struck out 10.

“Best I’ve felt all year,” Buchholz said after his start. “I felt that way warming up. Getting here today, I felt really good. My mindset was to build off the last time out. I just about had all of my pitches working the way I wanted to.”

Of all teams in the majors, Buchholz has seen the Blue Jays more than any other, with 23 starts and 24 overall appearances. In 151 2/3 innings logged against Toronto since his career began in 2007, Buchholz has recorded a 3.20 ERA and posted a WHIP of 1.213. His all-time record against the Jays is 11-8, and he has managed to keep Toronto batting at a .221/.301/.313 clip. With 123 hits allowed in that span, just 28 (15 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs) have gone for extra bases.

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Brock Holt on MFB: Playing many positions ‘something I enjoy doing’

04.28.15 at 11:44 am ET
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Brock Holt

Brock Holt

Red Sox utility man Brock Holt joined Middays with MFB Tuesday to talk about the start of the season, and also what it’s like to play as many positions as he does. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Holt was traded to the Red Sox in December of 2012 along with closer Joel Hanrahan. Before coming to the Red Sox he was primarily a middle infielder, but the team turned him into a super utility man last year, as he played every position on the field besides pitcher and catcher.

Playing the number of positions that he does is something he enjoys, and knows how valuable it is to the team.

“I feel like I could start at a lot of different positions,” said Holt. “I am starting to feel more comfortable. The more playing time I get at different positions the more comfortable I’ve become. A lot of people will tell you they’d like to have one position where they go out and work on and play every single day, I’ve actually enjoyed moving around. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise.

“Last year I didn’t expect to move around and play. Obviously I didn’t expect to play — if someone would have told me growing up I would play first base in the big leagues I would have smacked them in the face. It’s something I enjoy doing and it’s helpful. It’s helpful to the team and I understand how valuable it is to have a guy who can move around and help out guys when they need days off and get our big guys some rest when they need it. It’s been a thrill for me.”

Holt has now started at six positions this year — shortstop, center field, third base, second base, right field and left field. He hasn’t committed an error in his last 42 games (40 starts) dating back to August 3, 2014, combining for 145 total chances.

He credits manager John Farrell with giving him advance notice as to where he will be playing in a given game.

“I’ve conditioned myself, but John [Farrell] does a good job of letting us know either the night before, or he’ll send us a text that morning saying where we’ll play or whenever we get to the field before the lineup gets put up he’ll let us know,” said Holt. “He does a good job of keeping us informed and letting us know when and where we’ll play.”

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Step in right direction for Koji Uehara

04.28.15 at 5:30 am ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

It was perhaps one of the more worrisome early-season signs for the Red Sox.

Not only the image of Koji Uehara blowing the save in Baltimore Saturday night, but doing so with an 85 mph fastball that he clearly didn’t feel comfortable throwing. The result was an ineffective primary pitch (split) and outing.

Monday night, Uehara doused some of the concerns.

The Red Sox closer needed 16 pitches to turn in a perfect ninth inning, which included a pair of strikeouts.

But beyond just the result, Uehara’s optimism stemmed from the actual pitches he was presenting. This time there were four fastballs (3 strikes) which lived in the 88 mph area, allowing for significantly different reaction from the Blue Jays hitters.

“With the pitch selection, I told Hani [catcher Ryan Hanigan] that I wanted to throw a lot more fastballs in this outing,” Uehara said through a translator after the Red Sox’ 6-5 walkoff win.

The reliever added, “I recognize the importance of the fastball after the last outing. That’€™s what I took out of that outing.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell, for one, took notice of the difference in the two appearances.

“Second night in Baltimore was first time he’€™s gone back to back all year so hopefully he’€™s gaining some arm strength,” Farrell said. “A couple of days off seemed to be a little bit rejuvenated. Better finish to not only the fastball but to the split. Encouraging night from him as well.”

Uehara knows there is more to prove, having still thrown his fastball just 17 percent of the time compared to the 40-plus percent he had totaled the last two seasons.

“I still don’€™t know if it’€™s good or not because I haven’€™t thrown a lot of the fastballs this season,” he noted. “I think I still need to work on it.”

How Xander Bogaerts has helped Mookie Betts: ‘I talk a lot to Mookie’

04.27.15 at 11:36 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts has helped Mookie Betts get through the first three weeks of his first full big league season. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Xander Bogaerts has helped Mookie Betts get through the first three weeks of his first full big league season. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts entered Monday 0 for his last 10, and hitting just .171 after going 2-for-4 on Opening Day.

For a 21-year-old outfielder in his first full big league season, this might be reason to get frustrated and continue to scuffle.

But not Betts, as he went 3-for-4, including a walkoff single, giving the Red Sox a 6-5 comeback win over the Blue Jays Monday night.

Fortunately for Betts, he has a teammate and good friend Xander Bogaerts to help guide him through his first full season in the league, and help him when things get tough.

Bogaerts had many ups and downs in his first year last year, so he knows first-hand what Betts is going through.

“I talk a lot to Mookie,” Bogaerts said. “I’ve kind of been through whatever he’s going through now, and probably a bit more. So I really just pass on my advice and my experience to him for sure.”

“Just a lot of the struggles I’ve been through,” he added on what he’s said to Betts. “It’s a long season. No matter what just keep your head up and don’t lose your confidence.”

Monday’s walkoff hit was the first of Betts’ career, as he lined a Miguel Castro offering up the middle, which scored Bogaerts (evidently) capping the come-from-behind win, snapping a two-game losing streak in the process.

“€œIt was short-lived. It was fun,” said Betts. “I kind of knew how to process it. It was fun.”

In the Red Sox‘ 18-7 loss to the Orioles Sunday, Betts had one of his worst games of the season committing an error in center field and going 0-for-5 at the plate. Instead of hanging his head Monday, he went out and had one of his best games of the season, something that drew the attention of manager John Farrell.

“The one thing we’re seeing in the early going here is after a tough day he’s able to put it behind him,” he said. “Even after getting thrown out in the first inning, which [Russell] Martin makes a great throw on, he’s able to put it behind him and put up quality at-bats.”

Just like his ability to put the previous game behind him like a major league veteran, Betts also spoke like one after the walkoff win, knowing it’s just another win in the standings.

“A win is a win. Anytime we win it’€™s important, especially with this division,” he said.

Read More: mookie betts, xander bogaerts,

Even with up-and-down outing, John Farrell has faith in Joe Kelly: ‘He’s got big-time stuff’

04.27.15 at 11:06 pm ET
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Joe Kelly allowed five runs in six innings, while striking out 10 in a no-decision against the Blue Jays Monday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Joe Kelly allowed five runs in six innings, while striking out 10 in a no-decision against the Blue Jays Monday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Red Sox starter Joe Kelly hit 100 MPH with his fastball a few times in Monday’s game against the Blue Jays.

With most pitchers that would be their go-to pitch, but not Kelly on Monday.

The Blue Jays hitters pounced on Kelly’s fastball and jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the fourth. Kelly’s big mistake was to rookie Devon Travis in the second inning when he took a Kelly offering into the Monster seats for his sixth home run of the year.

Kelly managed to settle down (despite 33 first inning pitches) and went six innings, allowing five runs on five hits, while walking three and striking out a career-high 10 batters. He’s recorded at least seven strikeouts in three of his first four starts this season. This comes after not striking out more than six in a game prior to coming to the Red Sox last year.

“I was shaky the whole night with my fastball command,” Kelly said. “It’€™s something that we’€™d call fastball away down and away to righty and it was something that I was missing over the middle or missing in. So from then on out I basically had to go to my off speed, which is the only thing that kept me in that ballgame.”

According to Brooksbaseball.net, Kelly relied on his slider after seeing his fastball wasn’t getting the results he was looking for. He threw the slider 27 times (24 strikes) in the game. This comes after throwing the slider 18, 15, and 12 times respectively in his first three starts of the year.

Even with the up-and-down outing, Kelly drew some praise from his manager afterwards, as through his first four starts of the season, the right-hander has shown he has the “stuff” to be the pitcher the Red Sox need to lead their rotation.

“The positive is you’re not going to find better arm strength, better velocity,” manager John Farrell said. “At times he may over throw occasionally and mis-locate such as the 0-2 pitch to [Devon] Travis (home run). It’s electric stuff and as he begins to harness it and understand when he’s most effective. And that is when he’s using his secondary pitches as well, he’s got big-time stuff.”

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Closing Time: Mookie Betts’ walkoff single leads Red Sox to come-from-behind win over Blue Jays

04.27.15 at 9:33 pm ET
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Monday night’s Red Sox game might be a glimpse into what most games will be like for the rest of the season.

The Red Sox got an average start from Joe Kelly but were bailed out by their offense, as they rallied to beat the Blue Jays, 6-5.

After tying the game at 5 in the eighth inning following deficits of 3-0 and 5-2, the Red Sox capped the rally in the ninth with a walkoff base hit by Mookie Betts.

With one out, Xander Bogaerts and Ryan Hanigan singled back-to-back, and moved up a base on a wild pitch. Bogaerts then scored the game-winning run on Betts’ hit.

“Once again, aided by a couple of wild pitches to advance 90 feet, Mookie with a key base hit late,” manager John Farrell said. “There were so many things inside of this game. Bogey [Bogaerts] makes a great play with two outs in the hole on [Devon] Travis when [Alexi] Ogando was on the mound. Two big innings from Ogando. Much more spark from Koji [Uehara] tonight. A number of key contributors here.”

Toronto scored quickly against Kelly with three first inning runs, and forced the Red Sox right-hander to work hard early on.

Despite allowing three first inning runs on 33 pitches, Kelly settled down and made it through six innings. He allowed five runs on five hits while walking three and striking out 10. The 10 strikeouts were a career-high.

“The positive is you’re not going to find better arm strength, better velocity,” Farrell said. “At times he may over throw occasionally and mis-locate such as the 0-2 pitch to [Devon] Travis. It’s electric stuff and as he begins to harness it and understand when he’s most effective and that is when he’s using his secondary pitches as well. He’s got big time stuff.”

Pablo Sandoval paced the Red Sox offense, going 2-for-2 with three RBIs, but was forced from the game in the top of the sixth inning with neck soreness, which likely occurred after making a diving catch on a pop up bunt in the fourth.

It was the Red Sox’ seventh straight series opening win to begin the year and it’s the third time in franchise history it’s been done (1917, 2013).

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Betts. He gave the Red Sox their second walkoff win of the year. It was his first career walkoff hit. He finished the game 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. It was his fourth multi-hit game of the year.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ win:

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Joe Kelly, Pablo Sandoval, Toronto Blue Jays
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