|Ben Cherington discusses factors that will play into Jackie Bradley Jr. decision||03.21.13 at 7:53 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s been a relatively calm year in Red Sox camp, the day-to-day drama relatively limited. Perhaps that explains the constancy of speculation and discussion about the fate of Jackie Bradley Jr. come the start of the regular season, and whether or not he should be on the Opening Day roster.
For now, according to GM Ben Cherington, Bradley remains in the mix with several other players who remain in camp.
“We haven’t made any decisions,” said Cherington. “We’ve got spots still up for competition. Anybody who is in big-league camp this late in spring has a chance to make the team. There’s nobody that’s in camp now that isn’t somehow in the mix. Obviously we’ve got some paring down still to do. But those decisions are going to come as we get into next week. There’s still two or three spots up for competition.”
But while Cherington was unable to say definitively whether Bradley would or would not make the Opening Day roster — during a spring in which the outfielder has hit .444 with a .545 OBP, a homer, eight walks and five strikeouts — he discussed some of the factors that will weigh into the decision.
There are plenty of ancillary considerations, Cherington acknowledged. Among them: The team must weigh the idea of starting Bradley’s service time clock, potentially allowing him to reach free agency a year earlier than if he were to spend the first 12 days of the year (nine games) in the minors; it must clear a spot on the 40-man roster for him; etc.
But at its heart, the decision is fundamentally one about opportunity, talent and where Bradley is in terms of his player development.
“The standard for a really talented young player like him, someone who we feel strongly is going to be a really good everyday player in the big leagues at some point, the standard for a player like that should be that the opportunity in the big leagues is an everyday opportunity,” Cherington explained. “I don’t know that it makes much sense for a guy like that to be on the team if he’s not in an everyday or close to an everyday role. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. There’s competition, and we’ll sort it out over the next week to 10 days or so.
“There’s all sorts of factors to consider. But the simplest ones are probably the most important, and those are: Is there an everyday role? Is the player really ready for it? And what’s our best team? If we use that to guide us, we’ll more often than not make the right decision. We have to see how it plays out. Yeah, there are other factors, but those that I mentioned are the most important.”
With David Ortiz sidelined for the start of the year, it would seem that, at the least, an everyday role could be created, with Jonny Gomes hypothetically moved to DH and Bradley assuming an everyday role in the outfield. As for the questions of whether Bradley is ready and whether he represents the best option for the team, that still appears to be a work in progress to evaluate.
Cherington acknowledged that spring training represents a challenging environment for talent evaluation, particularly while facing minor league pitchers or big leaguers who are working either on arm strength or to hone their arsenals for the regular season. Still, even with those asterisks, it’s been difficult to overlook what Bradley has been able to do in virtually every facet of the game.
“It’s hard to ignore what he’s done this spring,” said Cherington. “Every step in a player’s career is another step. We knew he was a good player coming off last year. We knew he was going to get his first experience in a big-league camp this year. Until it happens, we don’t know how it’s going to go. It’s hard to ignore what he’s done. Every time something like that happens, it’s a next step, and it’s one less thing he has to prove. It’s been fun to watch. There’s a number of young guys who have looked good this spring. It’s been very encouraging from that standpoint.”
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Jackie Bradley Jr. will join WEEI’s “Down on the Farm” on Sunday morning to discuss his rapid rise in the Red Sox farm system and the lasting impression that he’s making in his first major league camp. Ryan Lavarnway will also join to discuss his view of player development at a time when his path to the big leagues isn’t necessarily clear. Tune in on Sunday morning from 8:30-9 a.m. on WEEI 93.7 FM or WEEI.com, or listen to podcasts of the show at weei.com/podcast.
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