ST. LOUIS — Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. hit .307 with a .358 on-base percentage in 27 games from June 19 to July 25. It wasn’t much of a sample size but it suggested he had adapted to major league pitching after looking overmatched earlier in the season.
Bradley still struck out too often and didn’t hit for much power. But there was obvious progress.
“He had made some adjustments,” general manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday. “He went on a nice run . . . Our expectation was the way he went into the All-Star break he would come out of it and just pick up where he left off and keep going.”
But Bradley since has taken a step back. Through Tuesday, he was hitless in 24 consecutive at-bats with 12 strikeouts. That dropped his batting average to .218.
“His defense has been elite,” Cherington said. “We know at some point there has to be a little bit more offense. He knows that, too.”
Bradley was not in the startting lineup Wednesday night for the second consecutive game, although he entered as a pinch runner in the ninth of the Sox’ 2-1 victory over the Cardinals. Mookie Betts started in center field.
“We’re trying to focus on some early work. We’re trying to shorten up his approach at the plate,” manager John Farrell said. “We felt there was a need for some maintenance.”
Bradley said his focus has been on staying back and driving the ball to the opposite field.
“I don’t really think it’s something from a mechanical standpoint. It’s more of a rhythm thing,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been late on pitches that I normally wouldn’t be.
“The swing has felt good. You can look at video and analyze it but you still have to go out there and do it. You can think you’re fixing it and still not getting results. I know I feel good, my body feels good and I feel strong. I’m looking forward to getting back to doing what I was doing.”
Bradley hit .297 with a .404 on-base percentage and 20 home runs in 218 minor league games. Ten of those home runs came for Triple A Pawtucket last season as he posted an .842 OPS.
He acknowledged being surprised at how difficult it has been to hit in the majors.
“Yeah, obviously,” Bradley said. “I’ve never struggled like this before. It’s frustrating because I know what I’m capable of. People might get down on prospects because they’re not getting immediate gratification.
“The talent hasn’t changed. My talent is still my talent. It’s just honing it in.”
Shane Victorino underwent surgery on his lower back in Marina Del Ray, Calif., Tuesday, getting two bulging disks repaired by Dr. Robert Watkins.
Cherington said the right fielder, who turns 34 in November, should be ready to participate in spring training.
But Cherington was careful not to say whether Victorino would necessarily be ready to play in games.
“He’s got a long road to go, but given the findings and the surgery, and the history of surgeries like this, I think we feel like it’s realistic that he’ll be out there in spring training,” Cherington sad.
“But we’ll have a better idea when we get closer.”
Craig off to specialist
Allen Craig, who went on the disabled list Tuesday with a sprained left foot, is tentatively scheduled to visit a specialist, Dr. Robert Anderson, in North Carolina later this week.
Craig jammed his foot on first base on Friday night, the first game he played for the Red Sox.
“We just want to make sure we get it right. He feels good. He doesn’t feel he’s that far away from playing. We’re going to try to be methodical on this one because he’s new to the organization,” Cherington said.
Craig ended last season with a torn ligament in his foot and has hit poorly this season, well below his previous career numbers. But Cherington said the medical reports the Red Sox examined before the trade showed no red flags.
Craig, unable to play in his return to Busch Stadium, took the lineup card out to the plate before the game and received a cheer from the fans.
Johnson on the way
Veteran utility player Kelly Johnson, acquired from the Yankees last week in exchange for Stephen Drew, has played two rehabilitation games with Double A Portland and could be activated Thursday.
Johnson was on the disabled list with a groin strain at the time of the trade. He was 0 for 6 with two walks and three strikeouts in two games for the Sea Dogs.
Johnson hit .219 with a .677 OPS in 77 games for the Yankees. His arrival will allow the Red Sox to option Betts or outfielder Corey Brown to Pawtucket.
Rain on the way
Wednesday’s game was delayed by rain for one hour and three minutes. Heavy rain is expected on Thursday. If the game is rained out, the teams have a mutual off day Sept. 15. The Red Sox would have a short trip from Kansas City then play at Pittsburgh the next day . . . The San Diego Padres hired Texas assistant GM A.J. Preller as their new GM. Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen was one of the finalists for the position . . . Cherington was asked whether the Red Sox would consider having 22-year-old lefthander Henry Owens pitch in the majors this season. Owens was 14-4 with a 2.60 ERA in 20 starts at Double A before throwing 6⅔ shutout innings in his Triple A debut Monday. Cherington said the plan is for Owens to remain with the PawSox through the end of their season but he did not discount the idea of a promotion at that point . . . Will Middlebrooks, out of the lineup Wednesday, is penciled in to start Thursday . . . With Craig out, the Sox have abandoned the idea of playing Yoenis Cespedes in right field. That will wait until next season.
Pawtucket has put playoff tickets on sale. Call 401-724-7300 or go to pawsox.com. The International League playoffs start Sept. 3. Seats will be priced as they are for the regular season: $12, $8 and $5 for children and senior citizens . . . Portland will put Eastern League playoff tickets on sale Monday (full strips for all games) and for individual games on Aug. 18. Call (207) 879-9500 or visit seadogs.com. The playoffs start Sept. 3. Tickets range from $10-$5 for children and seniors.