FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have decided on 24 of the 25 players who will be in New York to face the Yankees on Monday. The final spot is being held for Jackie Bradley Jr., but it’s not quite his yet.
Bradley is not on the 40-man roster, so the Red Sox would have to clear a spot for him before he can officially join the major league team. That could come by designating a player for assignment or trading one.
Until then, the charismatic outfielder remains in limbo.
“It’s fine with me,” said Bradley, who turns 23 on April 19. “I’m sure when the time is right, they’ll tell me what to do.”
There is not another healthy position player in camp. So, if it’s not Bradley in the final spot, the Sox will be springing a surprise on everybody.
The rosters are not due until Sunday. It is likely that the Sox hope to trade a player to create a spot for Bradley rather than putting one on waivers. There is no disadvantage to waiting.
With roster decisions being made around baseball, the Sox are remaining flexible in case opportunities arise.
“We’re at the point where we’re working through some final roster situations,” manager John Farrell said. “We’re at 40 currently, so any changes to that are going to require a process in which to go through. We’re not at the final 25 or the final 40 yet.”
Bradley started in left field in Thursday’s 8-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins. He lined out to right field and drew a walk. Bradley is hitting .433 in spring training with a 1.154 OPS.
“He deserves to be with us,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “He has great instincts and he has impressed everybody. He’s going to be good. I mean, he is now.”
Bradley took advantage of the opportunity created when David Ortiz proved unable to play because of a lingering right Achilles’ tendon injury. Based on recent lineups, the Sox will use Bradley in left field and Jonny Gomes as the designated hitter.
“That’s what winning teams do, you find guys who can fill in when guys go down. He gets the opportunity and we have confidence in him,” Pedroia said. “I don’t care what his age is, he can play the game. He brings a lot.”
Pedroia came up to the majors for the first time at age 23 and struggled in 31 games, hitting .191. He returned in 2007 and was named Rookie of the Year.
“Just be yourself; don’t be somebody that you’re not. That’s what I would tell him,” Pedroia said. “He knows what he can do. He had a great spring, just keep playing.”
If Bradley opens the season with the Sox, that would start the clock on his service time in the majors. Once Bradley reaches six full seasons, he can become a free agent. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Sox can delay that for a year in two ways: by leaving Bradley in the minor leagues for 11 days to start the season or for 20 days later in the season.
Farrell said the main criteria for Bradley would be whether there is regular playing time for him. Until Ortiz returns, that would seem to be the case.
As the Sox moved carefully with Bradley, other spots fell into place. Farrell told Mike Carp that he had made the team.
“He’s going to come off the bench, pinch hit, occasional start, the flexibility to go to first and left field if we do pinch hit or have changes in other areas,” Farrell said. “That hasn’t changed from the day he walked in.”
Carp, 26, was obtained from Seattle on Feb. 20 for future considerations. He has not hit well in camp (.182 with a .529 OPS) but has a track record that includes a solid 2011 season (.276 with 12 home runs) with the Mariners. Carp was injured much of last season.
“I knew I was in a good position, especially playing first base and having the experience there. But you never know until you get the final decision from the skipper himself,” Carp said. “It was nice this morning to come, get pulled in the office and told. It’s a good feeling. You can have a good day and get ready for tomorrow and that flight to New York.”
Starting first baseman Mike Napoli, who has a degenerative hip condition, was healthy and productive throughout camp. But Napoli could need games off or days as the designated hitter to rest his legs. That makes Carp a potentially important player.
“The ability to go to first base weighed heavily in this. You can say it was a deciding factor, defensive versatility,” Farrell said.
Farrell also said Daniel Nava was “likely” to be on the roster. Nava is the reverse of Carp in that he is more of a left fielder who can also play first base. Nava has hit .243 over parts of two seasons with the Red Sox. This would be the first time he is on the Opening Day roster.