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The Boston Globe

Sports

Jackie Bradley Jr. feeling the heat

FORT MYERS, Fla. — These are probably stressful times for center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. He was the talk of the Red Sox’ camp at his time last season and he worked his way into position to make the team out of spring training.

Where established veteran players need to work on things, young players need to make it based on their performance.

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So Bradley, who has struggled at the plate, has had to watch Grady Sizemore be the “talk of the camp” this season. That can’t be a comforting thought.

As of a few days ago, the Red Sox were still considering Bradley Jr. to be their starting center fielder, but then Sizemore, who has been out of baseball for two years and has seen limited action in the last four, throws this monkey wrench into the mix – three hits, two great catches in center.

Then manager John Farrell said he has talked to Shane Victorino about playing some center field if the need arose, and that Victorino was on board with it. That means the Sox could go into the season with Sizemore as their center fielder/leadoff hitter with Victorino filling in as needed.

That leaves Bradley Jr. not only fighting for his starting center field job, but fighting for a spot on the 25-man roster.

The Red Sox would like to keep Mike Carp around because of his proficiency to hit off the bench, though he’s in demand on the trade front and could be moved if the Red Sox got a good haul in return.

Bradley can definitely replace Ellsbury defensively.

But young players need to make the team based on spring training performance.

There’s still time for Bradley to be as spectacular as he was a year ago at this time. And Sizemore, as terrific as he’s been, needs to show he can play more than two consecutive days.

The competition is far from over.

But right now, the advantage has to go to Sizemore.

Can you imagine if the Red Sox let Jacoby Ellsbury head off to the Yankees for $153 million, and then picked off a player with similar skills in Sizemore for what could be a maximum $6 million (if he reached all of his incentives)? It would be the coup of coups for Ben Cherington, who was perfect with his free-agent acquisitions last season.

Scouts representing teams who gave Sizemore a brief consideration this offseason are now kicking themselves. Sizemore almost signed with the Cincinnati Reds.

Follow Nick Cafardo on Twitter at @nickcafardo.

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