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Jackie Bradley Jr. gets reintroduced to an old position with busy day in left field

03.22.13 at 4:18 pm ET
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Two days ago, Red Sox manager John Farrell was asked about the possibility of playing Jackie Bradley Jr. in the same outfield as both Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino before the end of spring training. The manager gave an intriguing response.

“Where would you like them to play? Is that to feed the Jackie Bradley fire?” said Farrell. “I can’€™t say that we wouldn’€™t. You know, if we were to do it, we’€™d probably take a look at it on the road somewhere. We want Shane to get as accustomed to right field in our dimensions as possible. I wouldn’€™t say we wouldn’€™t put Jackie in left but I don’€™t see Jackie Bradley as a left fielder.’€

Two days later, Farrell put Bradley in left.

“We reserve the right to change our mind and our plans,” Farrell mused to reporters after Friday’s game. “That’€™s where he was at today.”

In a spring training game on the road in Dunedin (home of the Blue Jays), Bradley moved from center to left field for the bottom of the seventh inning. The 22-year-old received immediate action there, catching an Adam Lind flyout on the first play of the seventh and then seeing all kinds of action in the eighth. The first two hitters of the inning singled to Bradley, and the third batter fouled out to him. With two outs and runners on first and second, an error by third baseman Drew Sutton permitted one run to score, but Bradley jumped on the play and started a relay to cut down a second run at the plate for the third out of the inning.

“We’€™ve had some discussions and want to take a look at him in left field. First hitter he’€™s in left field with, he gets challenged pretty good and makes a heck of a play. The relay throw, you know, hits the cutoff man, goes against the wall to catch another foul ball out,” Farrell told reporters. “He’€™s a very good defensive outfielder, regardless of the position.’€

Bradley also went 1-for-4 with a double against Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ and a strikeout. According to Ian Browne of MLB.com (via twitter), it was the first time since high school that Bradley had played left field.

Farrell told Browne and other reporters in Dunedin that the defensive experiment did not necessarily mean that Bradley would make the Opening Day roster.

“I wouldn’€™t read anything into it other than getting him some exposure in left field in the event if certain things fall a certain way, we want to be sure to cover all our bases,’€ said Farrell.

Nonetheless, it does open another potential path to the big leagues for him — most notably, his seamless day of work at the position suggests that he could flank Ellsbury and Victorino if the Sox decided to go that route for the start of the season.

Bradley is hitting .429 with a .525 OBP, four doubles and a homer this spring, and has shown such dazzling on-field acumen that he’s kept himself in contention for a roster spot on Opening Day.

On Thursday, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington outlined the factors that will play into the decision of whether to keep Bradley in the big leagues. Rob Bradford outlines five reasons why Bradley should be on the Opening Day roster.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Jackie Bradley Jr. will join WEEI’€™s ‘€œDown 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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