NEW YORK — For many young players, confidence can be fleeting. Teams carefully evaluate their prospects before promoting them to the majors in the fear that returning to the minors will prove dispiriting.
That was never a concern with Jackie Bradley Jr. One of the reasons the Red Sox were comfortable putting Bradley on the roster to start the season was knowing he had the personality to handle whatever transpired.
“You can get frustrated by an at-bat or a game. But you can’t let that change what kind of player you are,” Bradley said. “I’ve tried to remember that this season.”
The Sox had a spot open on their roster when David Ortiz was unable to play in spring training. Bradley’s performance during camp merited an unexpected promotion and he opened the season as the starting left fielder.
He had three hits, scored four runs, and drove in three runs in the first four games of the season. But the 23-year-old soon looked overmatched. By April 20, when Bradley was demoted to Triple A Pawtucket, he was hitting .097 and had struck out 12 times in 31 at-bats.
“As a hitter, you’re looking for a certain pitch that you want. Or not even a certain pitch, maybe a certain location. I was trying to pick my pitch only and not really fighting around the strike zone,” Bradley said. “I was being too fine, too picky. These guys up here know what they’re doing. You might not get your pitch. You’ve got to go with the flow a little bit.”
Manager John Farrell noticed it getting to Bradley.
“There was a time just prior to him being sent out the first time that you could tell he was getting challenged,” Farrell said Sunday before Red Sox beat the Yankees, 3-0, Sunday night in game called after five and half innings and two rain delays. “There might have been some body language, some frustration that started to emerge. But nothing more than the norm you would expect from any young player.”
Bradley hit .354 with a 1.002 OPS in 20 games for Pawtucket.
“I stayed with my approach and got myself into a rhythm again,” he said. “I knew it was a matter of time.”
Bradley returned to the majors Wednesday to provide depth. When center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury strained a groin Thursday, Bradley started all three games at Yankee Stadium.
Bradley was 3 for 5 with two doubles and two runs scored in Saturday’s 11-1 victory.
“I was able to fight off some inside pitches, a few with two strikes as well,” Bradley said. “I’m feeling pretty good.”
That Bradley bounced back from a disappointing first taste of the majors came as no surprise to Farrell.
“Until he goes through and experiences it first hand, then you have a better read on it,” he said. “We saw some things that it was time for him to go back and regroup.”
With the Red Sox off Monday, Ellsbury will get four consecutive days to recover.
“It improved, yet not ready to go today. We’re shooting for Tuesday,” Farrell said.
But if Ellsbury cannot return then, Bradley is ready.
Victorino on hold
On Friday, the Red Sox were confident that Shane Victorino would come off the disabled list on Wednesday, the first day he is eligible. But that will not be the case.
Victorino did some short sprints in the outfield before the game and said he was running at only 60 percent. Victorino said his strained left hamstring has healed but he needs time to build up to game speed.
“I can’t play running at 60 percent,” he said. “My legs are a big part of my game. I need to get back to the point where I can run normally.”
Farrell was on the field to watch Victorino run.
“At times he was [tentative]. He’s not running at 100 percent,” Farrell said. “The one thing that we’re being cautious with here is that based on experience of having him come back and play successive games and he’s had a couple of those setbacks prior to going on the disabled list, we want to be sure that there’s a gradual improvement, which he’s showing.
“To say he’s going to go on a rehab assignment [Monday or Tuesday] is probably a little premature at this point. We’re just being a little bit more overly cautious.”
Victorino said he would need at least a few minor league games before returning.
“There’s been no setbacks; there’s been no re-aggravation of it,” Farrell said. “It’s just a matter of when he tries to get to that explosiveness; he doesn’t have quite the confidence. We’re honestly telling him to more gradually get into it. What we don’t want to do is turn this into an extended period.”
Victorino also had a back injury last month. But that is no longer an issue.
“It’s all the leg,” he said. “But it’s getting better.”
Sunday’s game was the 906th Dustin Pedroia has played at second base for the Sox, tying Marty Barrett for third in team history. Only Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr (1,852 from 1937-51) and Hobe Ferris (983 from 1901-07) have played more at the position.
Pedroia has started the first 58 games of the season. The last Red Sox second baseman to do that was Barrett in 1988. He started the first 66 games that season.
The Yankees had catcher Chris Stewart in their original lineup. He was scratched after batting practice because of issues related to the dehydration that forced him to leave the game Saturday night Stewart was sent to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital to be examined . . . Red Sox relievers entered with a 2.30 earned run average on the road and a 5.53 at Fenway Park . . . Sox pinch hitters entered 9 for 29 (.310) with three doubles, three homers, and seven RBIs . . . Mike Napoli has two grand slams. The last Red Sox player with three in a season was Manny Ramirez in 2005 . . . With the Sox off today, team officials are holding a workout for draft prospects at Fenway. The draft starts on Thursday and the Sox have the seventh overall pick . . . Righthander Daniel Bard has not pitched for Double A Portland since May 15 because of control problems. He has been throwing in the bullpen and remains on the roster. “Yes, for the time being,” Farrell said.