CLEVELAND — There have been times in his career when Jackie Bradley Jr. didn’t play because he was injured or it was decided that he needed a day off. But what has happened to the rookie outfielder lately is something else entirely.
Including Wednesday night’s game against the Indians, Bradley has been out of the Red Sox lineup in four of the last seven games because of poor play.
“This is different,” Bradley said. “I’ve pretty much played every day my whole life.”
Bradley is 3 for 31 this season and hitless in his last 20 at-bats, with 10 strikeouts. After playing a pivotal role in helping the Sox take two of three games from the Yankees in the first series of the season, the 22-year-old has looked overmatched.
“I’m taking it day by day. It’s a learning process,” Bradley said. “Keep working and my time will come.
“It’s still early in the season. I’m not going to let this — 30 at-bats or whatever — define me. . . . . This isn’t how my career is going to turn out.”
Bradley is almost certain to be optioned to the minor leagues once the Sox activate David Ortiz. That could be as soon as Friday.
“If I happen to go down, I’ll know I sucked my first go-around but I’ll be looking forward to the next time I get the chance,” Bradley said. “I’ve been through some tough times but I’ll keep grinding all season. It’s 10 or 11 games out of a season. There’s a long way to go.”
Manager John Farrell has been keeping an eye on Bradley.
“We’ve had a recent sit down. Not the first one and certainly not the last one,’’ said Farrell. “The normal conversations you would have with guys depending where they find themselves.
“It’s not just a read of body language or expression. That’s where those sit-down conversations become important just to get a sense of where he is mentally, what he’s feeling at the plate. You have the give and take of what you see versus what he feels.”
Farrell said one of the reasons the Sox decided to keep Bradley was the knowledge that he had the character to handle any setbacks.
“The potential of being challenged or struggling in this stage, we felt like this was something not only he could handle but could learn from if it turned out that way,” Farrell said.
Two Red Sox minor league pitchers were suspended for 50 games for drug use.
Gerson Bautista, a 17-year-old righthander in his first season in the organization, tested positive for metabolites of Stanozolol an anabolic steroid.
Lefthander Mickey Pena, 22, was suspended for a second positive test of a drug of abuse. Pena had a 2.95 earned run average for low Single A Greenville last season and was part of a combined no-hitter. He was 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA for Single A Salem this season.
Pena, a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft, is among the top 30-40 prospects in the organization.
Ortiz rehab continues
Ortiz went 0 for 4 against Lehigh Valley in his fifth rehab game for Triple A Pawtucket.
“Remember I haven’t played in eight months,” said Ortiz, who’s batting .200 (3 for 15) in his rehab stint from an Achilles’ injury. “It doesn’t matter how good a hitter I am. It’s not easy to come in and hit a homer.
“You work your way, you stay consistent and ‘boom’ it happens.”
Joel Hanrahan, on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain, played catch out to 90 feet. No date has been set to pitch off the mound, as Hanrahan would have to pitch from flat ground first.
“No symptoms are reproduced from flat ground,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be intensity-related and the angle of the mound when it’s incorporated.”
The Sox have said that Hanrahan would be sent on a minor league rehab assignment before he comes off the disabled list. That would serve the dual purposes of testing his health and allowing him to work on his mechanics.
Will Hanrahan be the closer once he returns?
“I don’t think we’re sitting here today ready to make that claim,” said Farrell. “I think we’ve got to get through some things first. Particularly how he responds with the hamstring. He’s going to need a couple of rehab appearances just to get himself going again.
“This is a bigger-bodied guy that is a power pitcher and we want to be sure that he feels comfortably physically before we bring him back to us. We’ll work through that at that time.”
Progress for Lackey
John Lackey, on the DL with a bicep strain, played long toss out to 130 feet. The plan is for him to pitch off a mound Thursday. From there, he would throw in the bullpen over the weekend and get in a game early next week. That could mean a simulated game or perhaps a minor league game. “He’s making very good progress,” Farrell said . . . Lefthander Franklin Morales started his rehabilitation assignment with three scoreless innings for Single A Greenville. He allowed one hit with two walks and one strikeout . . . Lefthander Craig Breslow (shoulder) pitched in an extended spring training game Tuesday and felt fine . . . The Sox and Indians combined for 25 strikeouts and 15 walks Tuesday. It was the first time in major league history that happened in a nine-inning game.
Globe correspondent Mike Scandura contributed from Pawtucket, R.I.