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John Farrell: ‘Obviously a scenario’ where Jackie Bradley is Opening Day left fielder

03.24.13 at 2:29 pm ET
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CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Red Sox are nearing the point where they will set their roster, with plans to define something akin to the group of 25 with whom the team will open the year after Tuesday’s off-day. And the fact that Jackie Bradley Jr. not only remains in camp but continues to be presented with new challenges — on Sunday, starting against Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee and playing left field in an alignment that features both Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino — makes it glaringly apparent that he’s still very much in consideration for a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster.

Farrell acknowledged that an outfield alignment of Bradley, Ellsbury and Victorino would give the team an outfield comprised of three players with the range of center fielders. Given that the team’s lineup will be diminished on Opening Day by the absence of David Ortiz and likely Stephen Drew, the idea of having an alignment that could impact the game through run prevention is certainly being considered as a potential blueprint for early-season success.

“That’s all being thought of and factored in,” said Farrell. “If there’s a scenario — obviously there’s a scenario; that scenario is out there on the field today. That’s an outfield that has a lot of range and can cover a lot of ground.”

Farrell described Bradley’s opportunity to play left on the road (in an unfamiliar park) against Lee as something of “a test.”

“This is probably the best environment we could put him in on the road, away from our ballpark, going up against a very good pitcher,” said Farrell. “This will be a good day for him.”

It took little to get the Sox manager to heap consistency on the 22-year-old’s spring. Farrell noted that Bradley has never slumped and has demonstrated a strong approach against both lefties and righties while forcing pitchers to work in the strike zone.

“He’€™s hit some good lefthanders. I keep going back to [Mike Dunn] over with the Marlins, a good lefthanded reliever that he handled and put a good swing on some pitches,” said Farrell. “Today is another day, another opportunity to do just that.”

Meanwhile, though Sunday represented Bradley’s first start in left, his two innings of work in that position on Friday against the Blue Jays included a number of fine plays, convincing Farrell that Bradley will be comfortable regardless of outfield position.

“He passes the eye test,” said Farrell. “He plays the game pretty damn well.”

So, Farrell was asked, is Bradley major league-ready?

“Could be,” said Farrell.

Farrell, of course, possesses particularly far-reaching perspective when it comes to prospects who show that they are major league-ready before they were projected to be. He saw it in Toronto, when Brett Lawrie was outstanding in spring training of 2011 and seemed like an upgrade to the big league roster; but Lawrie was sent down for service time reasons, had his hand broken by a stray fastball and didn’t come up into late in the season.

On Sunday, Farrell also mentioned another player who arrived in big league camp as a non-roster invitee with the intention of simply exposing him to the big league environment, but whose spring play convinced his team that he was ready sooner than expected. That took place in Cleveland, where Farrell was the Indians director of player development in 2005 when Grady Sizemore showed tremendous talent during the spring. The Indians had optioned Sizemore back to the minors at the end of spring training, but an injury to Juan Gonzalez left Cleveland in need of an outfielder and opened the door for Sizemore to come up on Opening Day. He never went back.

“He was pretty good after that,” Farrell smirked with understatement about the three-time All-Star. “He was OK.’€

The Sox appear to be reaching a similar assessment about Bradley this spring. Whether that means that, as was the case with Sizemore, an injury (in this case, to David Ortiz) opens the door to a season-opening call-up remains to be seen.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

Jarrod Saltalamacchia had been scheduled to play on Sunday, but an area on his back from which he had a growth removed opened up. And so, to prevent infection, Saltalamacchia is sitting out a day or two until the incision fully heals, but the issue appears to be minor.

Stephen Drew had another day of full workouts on the field, and Farrell said that the team thinks he might be able to get into minor league spring training games “hopefully soon,” and ideally before the team breaks camp on Saturday. He’s still experiencing some lingering concussion symptoms, but according to Farrell, Drew describes those as now being “minimal.”

David Ortiz had another day of conditioning indoors, and he hit once again in a batting cage. Farrell characterized it as a positive work day. However, it appears likely that Ortiz will remain behind the team in extended spring training to start the year.

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