FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jackie Bradley Jr. was only supposed to spend a few weeks in spring training with the Red Sox. Now it appears he will be facing the Yankees on Opening Day.
The Red Sox informed outfielder Ryan Sweeney on Thursday night that they would not be purchasing his contract. That would appear to clear the way for the 22-year-old Bradley to be added to the roster.
“Nobody has told me anything,” Bradley said after driving in a run to help the Red Sox beat the Minnesota wins, 6-1. “I’m just going to show up tomorrow.”
The Red Sox had a hole to fill when it became apparent designated hitter David Ortiz would not be ready to start the season as he recovers from an Achilles tendon injury. Bradley made himself the best option, hitting .444 with seven extra-base hits, nine walks and 12 RBIs over 71 plate appearances. He has a .521 on-base percentage and a .644 slugging percentage.
“I’ve tried to play hard and show them what I could do,” said Bradley, a supplemental first round pick in 2011 out of South Carolina. “I had no idea what to expect. It has been fun.”
The Sox would not keep Bradley on the roster without the intention of playing him. He could start in left field on Monday with Jonny Gomes filling in as the DH.
Bradley is an outstanding defensive player and has an advanced approach at the plate. He had a .423 on-base percentage in his first two seasons in the minors.
Sweeney’s departure also means that outfielder Daniel Nava and first baseman/left fielder Mike Carp will likely be on the team. The Red Sox would need to create a spot on the 40-man roster for Bradley.
Red Sox manager John Farrell was tight-lipped after the game about the roster. But he praised Bradley earlier in the day, saying the Sox believe he can handle the unexpected promotion.
“You always want to get the best feel you can for the makeup of the individual. Looking at all sides, so in the event of something that doesn’t turn out well or as he’s challenged, how does he respond to those? That’s a projection," Farrell said.
"Until you get to that point, you don’t fully know. How strong mentally is he? If struggles occur at the major league level, what would his response be? Yet at the same time, you look at the spring training he’s had, the talent that he is and you try to put together the best team with the best players that you can. We’ve allowed him to go this deep into camp, so we’re not afraid and not unwilling to break with him. If that were the case, we would have sent him out four weeks ago.”
By promoting Bradley now, the Sox are starting his service-time clock, which could lead to his becoming a free agent in six years instead of seven. That would change if he returns to the minor leagues for 20 days at some point during the season or in subsequent years.
“We can’t control tomorrow, let alone six years from now," Farrell said.
Sweeney was told when he signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox in January that a spot on the roster was his to lose. He lost it by hitting .217 in 46 at-bats with one extra-base hit.
After meeting with Farrell, he called his agent, Larry Reynolds, to decide what to do. Sweeney has the right to opt-out of his minor league deal and become a free agent.
“I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “Now we’ll see what happens. … It’s definitely a weird situation, the first time I’ve gone through it.”
Sweeney hit .260 over 63 games for the Red Sox last season.