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Alex Speier

Jackie Bradley Jr. is making a good impression on Dave Dombrowski

Jackie Bradley Jr. had an impressive weekend on defense.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

At a time when everyone on the Red Sox is trying to make an impression on new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, few have delivered more head-turning performances than Jackie Bradley Jr.

“Jackie Bradley Jr.,” joked one member of the organization, “is playing like Babe Ruth.”

Not quite, but given that his offense a year ago had plummeted to depths that made his mind-blowing defense inadequate to secure a big league job, the hyperbole can be forgiven.

Bradley made eye-catching defensive plays in three weekend games against the Royals. On Friday, playing left field, he sprinted in to make a diving catch after getting a late break on a ball. Playing right field on Saturday, he leaped to snag a ball in full stride near the foul pole. And on Sunday, he fired a strike from deep left-center to nail Omar Infante at home trying for an inside-the-park home run.

Offensively, Bradley continues to endure inconsistencies, but inconsistencies are far better than sustained failure at the dish. And so it is notable that Bradley backed up an 0-for-4 game with three strikeouts on Saturday by posting a 3-for-4 performance with a pair of doubles on Sunday.


It would be a dazzling sort of first impression for Bradley to be making on his new boss— except it appears that it’s not the first impression.

Dave Dombrowski said on MLB Network Radio that, while with the Tigers, he’d explored the possibility of trading for Bradley.

“First of all, everyone knows he’s an outstanding defensive center fielder. He’s a Gold Glove-type of center fielder,” Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio (as detailed by Annie Maroon on MassLive.com).

“When I was back with the Tigers, we actually tried to trade for him this wintertime when we were talking about he and, of course, Anthony Gose at the time, who’s done a great job for [Detroit].”


The statement is revealing on a number of levels.

First, the fact that the Tigers targeted Gose (whom they acquired from the Blue Jays for second baseman Devon Travis, in one of the most notable moves in which Dombrowski has seen a player flourish after trading him) and Bradley, both glove-first center fielders, underscores Dombrowski’s recent prioritization of defense.

Second, his depiction of Gose as a positive contributor — the 24-year-old is hitting .254 with a .306 OBP and .361 slugging mark — highlights the idea that Dombroski may be open to offense-for-defense compromises.

Third, and most importantly, it further suggests that Bradley is validating Dombrowski’s already favorable disposition toward him. At his introductory press conference, Dombrowski mentioned the intrigue created by the young, athletic outfield of Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, and Bradley.

And why not? Bradley is hitting .257 with a .347 OBP, .535 slugging mark, and nearly as many extra-base hits (15) in 118 plate appearances as he had in 423 last year (22). Offensively, in a limited big league sample, he’s running circles around Gose this year.

Just as it was necessary to wait before deeming Bradley a failure when he opened this stretch in the majors with a 5-for-50 drift, it’s likewise necessary to wait before redefining him as a star — or even before rushing to judgment that he’s worthy of a role as a regular. Bradley’s numbers are likely to regress, perhaps significantly.


That said, he now has room for his statistics to take a hit and still to look like a productive player. After all, Dombrowski was interested in him even after he fell short of the Mendoza line in 2014.

Each day that he steps onto the field, Bradley appears to be doing something to make his case for a big league role of prominence in 2016. This comes at a time when the next person who suggests Hanley Ramirez will be the Red Sox’ left fielder next season will be the first.

There is clearly an opening in the Red Sox outfield for next year, and Bradley has been playing like someone trying to take a sledgehammer to expand it to a portal into his future.

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