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Red Sox Notebook

Jackie Bradley Jr., back with Red Sox after trying year, carrying big belief north

Jackie Bradley Jr. was 1 for 3 with a home run on Sunday against Atlanta, running his spring numbers to .240/.321/.640 in 25 at-bats.Steve Helber/Associated Press

NORTH PORT, Fla. — What did it mean to see Jackie Bradley Jr. turn on a 96-mile-per-hour, 2-and-2 fastball from Atlanta starter Huascar Ynoa and send it screaming down the right-field line at CoolToday Park for his second homer in as many days?

Maybe nothing. After all, the relationship between spring performance and games that count is tenuous at best. And yet.

With the Brewers, Bradley did not hit a single homer in 2021 on a pitch faster than 95 m.p.h. Moreover, in two-strike counts, his at-bats were forgone conclusions, as he hit .102/.160/.178 while striking out in 54 percent of the plate appearances.


And so, after a dispiriting season, the late-spring swings have offered Bradley a source of optimism.

“I’m in a great place,” said Bradley. “I’m looking forward to it continuing during the season.”

The Sox reacquired Bradley in a December trade, sending Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee in a deal that also netted the Sox two prospects. While many viewed Bradley as part of the cost of landing the prospects, the Sox wanted to acquire an elite outfielder to pair with center fielder Kiké Hernández, while hoping that Bradley’s return to his longtime baseball home might provide a setting for a rebound season.

Bradley — who is expected to start against righties — believes he can deliver just that.

“All I need is belief in myself. What I have is good enough,” said Bradley. “Obviously you can have seasons happen like last year that are just trying, where it seems like everything that you do doesn’t work. But I’m continuing to put my head down, keep grinding, keep working. That’s what I do. I’m going to keep pushing forward.”

Trying to stick the landing

One day after reliever Matt Barnes raised eyebrows working at 92-93 m.p.h. with his fastball, the Red Sox believed an answer might be found from … Nathan Chen?


The Sox felt Barnes had become too open when lifting his left leg in his delivery, creating one less compact and that required more movement in his lower body. That left Barnes rushing his arm to try to force velocity.

Reliever Matt Barnes has struggled at times this spring.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

“Last year, he was a lot tighter. Now, he’s loose. If you want to use a reference, it’s like a figure skater,” said manager Alex Cora. “When you’re open [in a jump], it slows [you] down. When you’re closed, you’re actually faster, quicker. So hopefully that’s what gets him going and kind of engaged in his delivery, and he doesn’t have to create [velocity with his arm].”

Barnes threw an inning in a minor league camp game, focusing on his leg lift. He expressed satisfaction with the increased power and life to his pitches, while remaining optimistic about where his stuff would be when the season opens in New York on Thursday.

“Physically, I feel fine,” said Barnes. “We’re going to be just fine.”

Taking care of Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts has not played in a Grapefruit League game since March 30, with Cora suggesting the Sox are “just taking care of him” while he deals with general soreness. “His feet, his hands — it always happens in spring training,” said Cora. Bogaerts has been hitting in minor league camp games, and he’ll do so again on both Monday and Tuesday while also returning to the Red Sox lineup in the team’s final two Grapefruit League games. “He’ll be ready for [Opening Day],” said Cora . . . Righthander Hansel Robles, who worked at 95 m.p.h. in a camp game on Saturday, will pitch in his first Grapefruit League game Monday — an important gauge to see if he’ll be ready to pitch in the big leagues to start the season or if he’ll open the year with Triple A Worcester . . . Righthander Frank German, likely ticketed for the Worcester bullpen, opened eyes while working at 98-99 m.p.h. in a pair of spring training games. German, 25, was acquired from the Yankees in the salary dump by New York that brought Adam Ottavino in 2021. “He’s a guy that we’re gonna keep watching,” said Cora. “With time, he might be part of this” . . . While Cora said that reliever Ryan Brasier’s arm strength has been trending in the right direction through camp, Brasier was working at 91-92 m.p.h. in a camp game on Sunday.


Darwinzon Hernandez starting over

Darwinzon Hernandez, who was optioned to Worcester on Saturday, will work on a starter’s schedule, pitching 2-3 innings every fifth day. The Sox are hopeful that a regular schedule, coupled with a chance to work on the side between outings, will allow the mercurial lefthander — who vacillates between unhittable and self-immolating — to harness the fastball command needed to emerge as a reliable late-innings force. “To be the big leaguer we envision, we need to find consistency, and that’s what he is missing right now,” said Cora. When Hernandez works up in the zone with his fastball, Cora added, he’s overpowering, comparing the pitch to that of Brewers relief ace Josh Hader. However, Hernandez too often misses that spot, resulting in damage down in the zone or walks . . . Lefthander Derek Holland, who signed a minor league deal on March 21, did not exercise an opt-out clause in his contract, and instead reported to minor league camp with plans to pitch in the WooSox rotation. Holland, who has another opt-out in May, pitched in a camp game on Sunday. “It was an easy decision. I want to be a part of this,” Holland said of accepting the assignment. “I want to earn my way up there, earn my respect with the fans. This is, to me, a humbling experience. It’s the first time I’ve had this happen to me in my career. So, something to really get out there and re-establish myself, go out there and help the young guys in Triple A as well.”


Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.