Jackie Bradley Jr. bunted for a single against an infield shift in the first inning of Sunday’s intrasquad game, placing the ball precisely in the spot vacated by third baseman Rafael Devers.
That probably shouldn’t be news. But Bradley has only two bunt hits in his career despite being a fundamentally sound bunter with good speed. It’s just never been a big part of his game.
Part of it is that Bradley has 91 home runs in his career, so why settle for a single? But given how often opponents shift him and his frequent struggles against lefthanders, perhaps Bradley should try it more often.
If nothing else, an occasional bunt should cause teams to adjust their shifts and create an opening for when he does swing away.
“We’ve talked about him doing that,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “The thing that he was saying is usually when they shift off him, they usually keep the third baseman kind of at home . . . But any time they vacate that spot and move that third baseman to short, I think Jackie’s pretty comfortable doing it.”
Bradley swung away after his bunt. He lined a double off the scoreboard in the third inning, and drove in two runs with a single to left center in the fourth inning.
Bradley had a 1.141 OPS over 12 games before spring training was called off, and has hit well since the Sox reported to Fenway Park.
The Red Sox coaching staff on Saturday night discussed the idea of Tzu-Wei Lin playing first base.
Lin was in the field at 11:30 a.m. Sunday for a quick tutorial from infield coach Carlos Febles. Then he started at first base in the game.
Life moves pretty fast sometimes in baseball, but Lin handled the situation well, especially considering he had never played there before.
He was too quick off the bag on the first ball hit his way and had to scramble back to collect a throw from pitcher Brian Johnson. But he made the other plays with borderline aplomb, including digging a low throw out of the dirt to complete a double play in the fifth inning.
“I was really happy with the way he played today,” Roenicke said. “He made some good picks. I know he’s going to field the ball well. It’s a question of figuring out how to get to first base in a hurry and get your body turned around and your foot on the bag.
“Once he learns to do that, I think he’ll be really good there.”
Lin has started games at shortstop, second base, third base, and center field in the majors. Counting the minor leagues, he also has experience in left field and right field.
Major League Baseball’s new tiebreaker rule for this season is part of the reason why Lin is learning to play first base.
The rule puts the runner who made the last out in the ninth inning on second base to start the 10th inning. If that’s first baseman Mitch Moreland, the Sox would use Lin as a pinch runner.
If Lin can play first, Roenicke won’t have to make another move.
“We’ve been tinkering with this,” the manager said. “You don’t want to have to use another player.”
Lin is out of minor league options, so the more versatile he is, the easier it will be to keep him on the roster.
Roenicke said the Sox are leaning toward using an opener for the fifth spot in the rotation. They are building up several pitchers — Marcus Walden and Colten Brewer among them — to work multiple innings (preferably three) behind the opener’s two. They don’t have many candidates who could work four innings . . . Head athletic trainer Brad Pearson told Roenicke that righthander Collin McHugh is still in rehab mode coming back from an elbow injury and isn’t ready to face hitters. He won’t be available to start the season . . . Brandon Workman had another rocky outing, allowing two runs on four hits in his inning. “I’d be concerned if the ball wasn’t coming out of his hand well,” Roenicke said. “It’s location.” . . . The Sox are using white athletic tape to mark spots on the dugout and bullpen benches that can’t be used to sit to promote social distancing. The dugout railings also are marked to keep standees apart . . . Infielder Bobby Dalbec, who was cleared to play on Saturday, worked at Fenway Park for the first time and showed his customary power during batting practice, driving one ball onto the tarp covering the bleacher seats in center field. He did not play in the game . . . The Sox are planning to start evening workouts and intrasquad games Friday to better prepare for the season. Twelve of the first 14 games are scheduled at night . . . The baseball operations staff has a meeting set on Monday to discuss additions to the 60-man player pool. The Sox have 10 slots open and several prospects are likely to be added. The belief is lefthanders Darwinzon Hernandez, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Josh Taylor, who all tested positive for COVID-19, will be able to return in late July or early August.