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Red Sox pregame notes: Sox look to rebuild Jackie Bradley Jr.’s confidence; why Brock Holt over Garin Cecchini; Shane Victorino returns

05.17.14 at 7:55 pm ET
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After Jackie Bradley Jr. endured an 0-for-3 night on Friday, the center fielder described his outlook in unusual terms. Yes, he acknowledged, he was frustrated. But he was something more than that as well.

“I’m lost,” he said after his average dropped to .128 with a .226 OBP and .170 slugging mark in May.

Bradley has emerged as the clear everyday center fielder for the Red Sox based on the profound difference he makes on the team’s defense. The team expected that, given his big league inexperience, he would endure more pronounced peaks and valleys than a veteran might. But once manager John Farrell saw how drastically Bradley was wearing his slump, it became clear that it was time to give Bradley — who had started 22 straight games — a night off.

“I saw the comment that he made. Anytime a player speaks that candidly about what he’s feeling, there’s an opportunity to give him a little bit of a breather and take a game in and catch his breath, so to speak,” said Farrell. “It’s not uncommon for players to go through the peaks and valleys we’ve seen. This is someone that in my view felt like throughout April was really making some strides with his approach. And yet, in this month things have kind of turned a little bit. We’re not down on his abilities. But I think we’ve got to recognize when some of that confidence gets a little bit shallow, we’ve got to give a chance to rebuild it.”

That the Sox are in this position does come as a bit of a surprise. At the end of April, the team saw a player who looked like he’d found a solid approach in the big leagues. A month-ending hot streak allowed Bradley to finish the month with a solid line of .244 with a .344 OBP and .372 slugging mark. But then . . . May, a turn of the calendar in which he’s struck out in roughly one out of every three (32 percent) of plate appearances.

“If a guy’s confidence is down, does he then begin to try a little harder? Does he try to hit for power more? Does his swing become a little bit longer? Those are all possibilities. Right now, Jackie might be pressing a little bit, and we’re seeing a little bit more length to the swing than we saw earlier in the season,” said Farrell. “Offensively, there’s been some times where he’s been challenged. We’re well-aware of the swing-and-miss that’€™s shown up here of late. A chance to regroup a little bit and see where we are [Sunday].”

Bradley was an unmistakable figure during his off-day, given that for the first time since his last haircut in 2012, he released the braids in his hair and embraced a full, audacious mane.

“If this sparks something, I guess I’ll have to wear my hair out more often,” Bradley joked.

He suggested that he’s treading in unfamiliar territory given the volume of strikeouts, but he anticipates improvement.

“It’s one of those things where I’m going through something I’ve never really been used to. I really prided myself on at least putting the ball in play. I normally didn’€™t strike out as much as I have the past few go-arounds,” said Bradley. “I’m still a work in progress. I’m going to continue to work and I’m going to get better.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

— With Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list for the second time this year, it is Brock Holt who (again for the second time) is receiving a summons to the big leagues, while Garin Cecchini remains in the minors.

Cecchini is off to a strong start to the year as the third baseman in Triple-A Pawtucket. He’s hitting .306 with a .400 OBP and .379 slugging mark. However, he’s endured defensive inconsistencies, making seven errors in 36 games this year.

Holt, meanwhile, has not only enjoyed considerable offensive success (hitting .315 with a .380 OBP and .454 slugging mark) but he’s also been the more big league-ready defender.

“The recommendation by all that have either gone through Pawtucket or are with the staff there, that was the recommendation made,” said Farrell. “Defensive work is still developing on [Cecchini's] part.”

Shane Victorino returned to the Red Sox lineup after missing two games with discomfort in his left knee. Victorino — who swiped 21 bases last year — has attempted (and been successful on) just one steal this year. The infrequency of his stolen base attempts is a byproduct of the Sox’ desire to force other teams to pitch to David Ortiz rather than opening first base and giving them some encouragement to pitch around their foremost slugger.

“As David has gotten into a hot streak, we don’€™t even want to tempt the opposition to put him on with an intentional walk,” said Farrell.

Xander Bogaerts has some tenderness on the knob of the wrist, where he was hit by a 96 mph fastball from Evan Reed on Friday, but came away otherwise unscathed and so entered the lineup on Saturday.

“Strength-wise, range of motion, everything’s fine,” said Farrell.

Read More: Brock Holt, garin cecchini, jackie bradley jr., Shane Victorino
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