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Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts offer ‘glimpse into the future’ for Red Sox

02.21.13 at 7:28 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It is spring, and the games are meaningless. But there are moments when players — particularly young players — demand the attention of a major league staff and remind it of what is coming.

Such was the case on Thursday, when a group of Red Sox prospects cruised to an 11-1 victory over Boston College. It was the first opportunity for the organization’s top two prospects, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., to hint at the extraordinary talent that earned them spots in big league camp as non-roster invitees, a rare and special distinction for homegrown prospects in the system.

Neither disappointed. Instead, both tantalized, with manager John Farrell calling the game “a little bit of a glimpse into the future somewhat.”

After taking groundballs at third base for the last two days, Bogaerts played at that position in a game for the first time in his life, part of his preparation for playing for Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. He displayed athleticism and the necessary quick actions to make routine plays of both grounders that were hit to him.

“I just had two days of getting grounders at third. Not yet comfortable, but it’€™s just for the meantime, for the WBC. Then I’€™ll be back at short,” said Bogaerts, who will play in a Grapefruit League game on Saturday before he flies to Taiwan (via New York) for the WBC. “It went good. I didn’€™t make an error, so I’€™m pretty happy about that. It went good, great experience.”

Of course, it is offense that has defined Bogaerts as one of the most impressive Red Sox prospects in years, and against mostly older college opponents (it’s worth noting that, as someone who turned 20 in October, the Aruban might only be a college sophomore, a year away from his draft year, if he’d been born in the States), he gave flashes of the special bat speed that has established him as the top prospect in the system.

Though he went 1-for-4, Bogaerts rifled a liner to deep left field on which he was robbed by a leaping catch from Boston College left fielder Travis Ferrick. Then, in his final at-bat, Bogaerts worked the count to 3-1 before ripping a fastball into the gap for a double.

“He’€™s an exciting young player. Regardless of if he’€™s standing at third or short, he’€™s a presence in the box [who makes] hard contact,” said Sox manager John Farrell.

Bradley, meanwhile, went 1-for-3, with line outs to center and left as well as a double off the base of the wall in right-center. He also traveled on skates to catch a ball in center.

“We were able to quickly see what everybody has raved about and the precision to his routs and jumps, that’€™s impressive,’€ said Farrell.

Yet perhaps the most impressive thing, to Farrell’s eyes, was the fact that on a wind-blown pop-up down the third base line, Bradley sprinted out of the box and was standing on second when it hit the ground. Though the ball was ruled foul (perhaps erroneously), the 23-year-old’s hustle out of the box was noted.

“He ends up standing on second base, not taking anything for granted. It’€™s exciting to see that kind of polish for a young player,” said Farrell.

That impression, in turn, represented the success of the approach Bradley is trying to take this spring. The 2011 first-rounder acknowledged that he’s “very” aware of the opportunity to make an impression on the big league coaching staff and to position himself for a potential call-up, and he’s trying to send the right message about how he’s using his opportunity in big league camp.

“You always want to do the right thing, especially hustling at all times. You don’t want to take any plays off. That time you take a play off, they’re going to see it,” said Bradley. “Hustling, backing up plays and just showing them that you want to play hard.”

As players who have limited experience in Double-A — Bogaerts spent the final month of 2012 there, while Bradley had about two and a half months in Portland last year — both are destined to be sent back to minor league camp at some point in the coming weeks. Even so, both can underscore their big league aspirations, and the notion that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, after playing up the middle as teammates in Salem and Portland last year and Fort Myers this spring, they may be united at Fenway Park as well.

“If we’re both on the same field at the same time in the future that would be great,” said Bradley. “He’s a great player and I’m honored to be playing on the field with him.”

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