Jackie Bradley offers reminder that his arm isn’t close to slumping
|06.13.14 at 1:48 am ET|
The ball was well struck off the bat of Indians center fielder Michael Bourn, but Jackie Bradley Jr. initially did not see it that way. In fact, from Bradley’s vantage point, a shade toward left-center field, the center fielder thought that the 92 mph fastball from Jon Lester jammed Bourn.
Bradley took a step in, thinking that the ball would end up short of him in center. But he quickly realized that he made a mistake.
The ball was going to end up near the Green Monster. The territory was familiar for Bradley: Just two weeks ago, the 24-year-old took a ball off the face in nearly the same spot, with the play ultimately ending up as an inside-the-park home run for the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier. Despite the misread, and his recent history with fly balls near the Green Monster in left-center field, Bradley did not panic.
Instead, he began to count.
“I pretty much counted my steps before going up for it,” Bradley said. “I didn’t think I had too much to worry about.
“It was one of those plays where I didn’t want to give up on it. I was going to make the best attempt I could, even if I had to get hit the face again.”
Once Bradley made the leaping catch against the wall, the outfielder saw, out of the corner of his eye, second baseman Dustin Pedroia waving his arms like a giant windmill fan. Immediately, Bradley knew he had a chance to get Mike Aviles at first base. Bradley glided into the Monster, bounced back off the wall and uncorked a Bo Jackson-esque throw that looked like a cannonball flying toward first baseman Mike Napoli.
Immediately, Napoli knew that the throw was not heading toward Pedroia, the cutoff man.
“I thought he was going to try to hit the cutoff,” Napoli said. “I know he has a good arm and he can reach me, but for me, I’m always just reading the throw no matter what, so when I saw the height of the ball, I made the reaction to it.”
Said Bradley: “I thought about throwing to [Pedroia], but I figured that he’s pretty far off the base. I’ll let the big dog eat.”
Suddenly a hit that looked as if it was going to bring the Indians within two runs in the seventh inning was an inning-ending double play and a guaranteed web gem for Bradley en route to the Red Sox‘ 5-2 win over the Indians. Manager John Farrell did not believe Bradley had a chance at doubling off Aviles once the outfielder made the catch.
“Not from that part of the ballpark,” Farrell said. “To one-hop the first baseman when he’s got his back running away from the play, to turn and fire a strike, an impressive play all the way around.”
Considering his offensive struggles through the first two months of the season, Bradley takes pride in the fact that he continues to make an impact with his defense in the outfield. Bradley, who once set the Perfect Game (a high school baseball showcase) record with a 101 mph throw from the outfield, separates the offensive and defensive aspects of the game, not allowing his struggles at the plate to spill into his defense in the outfield.
“You’ve got to be able to separate them, get the job done,” Bradley said. “If you’re not getting the job done on offense, then you definitely need to be getting it done of defense, and that’s a saying that me and [Shane] Victorino say that I kind of got from him. If I ain’t getting no hits, they aren’t getting any hits either if it comes out towards me.”
Bradley and Victorino often throw together during warmups because the pair can keep up with one another during long toss. While the team was in Baltimore, the duo played long toss together from the left-field line to the right-field warning track at Camden Yards. Bradley and Victorino work together to maintain and improve their arm strength and accuracy.
“[Jackie] definitely has [a great arm],” Victorino said. “We go out there and work on it. [Chris Capuano] was teasing me because him and I were throwing [Wednesday] in Baltimore and him and I were throwing from the left-field line and he was standing out by the warning track in right field and Capuano goes, ‘I was pretty impressed by what you guys were doing yesterday, but I was more impressed by what Jackie was doing, not you’ — jokingly.”
Victorino and Bradley go through specific routines throughout the week to work on their arm strength and accuracy.
“To keep my arm what it is, I have to work on it,” Victorino said. “Don’t overthrow to bases or don’t long toss like that. That’s the thing the pitchers were saying, that we look like pitchers who are long tossing. If you don’t work on it and people don’t consistently do it, you’re going to lose that strength, you’re going to lose that consistency. One, he already has a plus arm, but two, you have to work it there.”
Bradley’s throw from center field is reminiscent of the throw Athletics left fielder Yoenis Cespedes made this week after juggling a Mike Trout line drive against the Angels. Cespedes made the throw after kicking the ball away and gunned down Howie Kendrick at the plate. While Bradley’s throw may not receive as much airtime and public praise as Cespedes’ throw, Victorino was equally impressed.
“Both were great throws, and I’m not going to take anything away from anyone,” Victorino said. “I don’t think he’s going to get the credit that Cespedes got that night and we’ll see where it goes, but I think that’s the part, that was an unbelievable play. I don’t know how far that throw was, MLB Network is going to find the measurements and how far it was, but I think that was just as equally impressive as the Cespedes throw.”
Even though Bradley has struggled at the plate so far in 2014 (although he went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored in Thursday’s contest), he continues to take pride in his defense and hopes the consistency in the outfield begins to carry over at the plate.
“I want to come in here every single day, working and knowing that the past is the past and I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team out today,” Bradley said. “I think if you focus mainly on that, then you don’t really get too far down and you don’t get too far up.”
Rob Bradford contributed to this report.
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