Farrell comfortable with Bradley in center

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
10:30
PM ET


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Takeaways from the first official day of baseball’s winter meetings in Disney World, where Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington wondered Monday if the whole industry was entering a period of a little “calm” after the frenzy of signings and trades last week:

As noted here, talks have not advanced beyond the exploratory stage with the Dodgers on Matt Kemp, with one team source advising they’re not likely to. Still, Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart, said “something’s brewing” regarding his client.

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Manager John Farrell said he has no qualms opening the season with rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field, replacing Jacoby Ellsbury.

"Defensively, no question,” Farrell said of Bradley's readiness to step in. “He showed us that every time he was on the field.’’

With David Ortiz opening last season on the disabled list, Bradley Jr. made the club out of camp, only the second Sox rookie in the last 32 years to make the big leagues straight from Double-A. Seventeen days before his 23rd birthday, he became the youngest Sox outfielder to start on Opening Day since 21-year-old Dwight Evans in 1973, 40 years earlier.

Bradley, after walking three times, scoring twice and making a good catch in his big-league debut, struggled in his first big-league go-round, with just three hits in his first 31 at-bats, and when Ortiz came off the DL on April 18, Bradley was sent to Pawtucket. He would be recalled three more times, batting .189 in 37 games with the Red Sox.

[+] EnlargeJackie Bradley Jr.
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesJohn Farrell said Jackie Bradley Jr. had made significant strides at the plate by his September call-up.
Farrell said he saw improvement in September and thinks the experience, while difficult, was beneficial. “If that's the way we go, we're more than willing to have him in center field,” Farrell said. “He's a good player.”

To expect Bradley to replace Ellsbury’s production next season is unrealistic, Farrell said.

“How we replace him is more about our team’s capability of scoring runs than one individual coming in to compare directly against Jacoby,” Farrell said. "I know that’s a natural comparison, but we’re going to miss Jacoby. He’s a very good player.”

• Farrell named Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino as the most likely candidates to bat leadoff entering camp, citing their high on-base percentages (Nava .369, Victorino .342). The league average for leadoff hitters in the American League in 2013 was .324, with the Sox leading the way at .348 and Ellsbury leading all AL qualifiers at .355. Bradley could figure into the mix as well, Farrell said, citing his on-base percentage in the minors (.404 in 218 games).

The corollary to that, Farrell said, is his preference to leave Dustin Pedroia in the No. 2 hole, with David Ortiz batting third and Mike Napoli fourth (though Farrell, mindful that the Sox have not officially announced Napoli’s return, did not mention him by name).

• Cherington said that Napoli still has to complete portions of his physical before the deal becomes official, which he expects to happen soon. He does not anticipate Napoli coming here for the official announcement.

• Cherington, who said on Saturday that the Sox can’t expect to replace Ellsbury’s 52 stolen bases, said the team still hopes to continue an emphasis on aggressive base running. The Sox stole 123 bases last season, just three shy of the 126 stolen by the Sox in 2009 (led by Ellsbury’s club-record 70 steals), and second most since 1920. They led the majors with an 86.6 stolen base percentage, a record since MLB began tracking caught stealing attempts (1914, 1920 in the AL). They also were at the league-average (39 percent) in taking an extra base on hits. (In 2012, they ranked fourth in the league at 42 percent.)

“In a perfect world, you’d like a guy that can run a little bit,” Cherington said, returning to the topic of a leadoff hitter. “But there have been a lot of good teams, teams that have gone very deep into October, with guys in the leadoff spot who aren’t Rickey Henderson and didn’t do everything that the prototype leadoff guy does.”

• Cherington said the number of calls he has fielded regarding his veteran starting pitchers has not spiked since the start of the offseason. The same handful of clubs continues to make inquiries, he said. Farrell said he would have no problem keeping all six starters the Sox currently have, and Cherington has reiterated he feels no obligation to move a starter.

• Farrell said both Clay Buchholz and Andrew Miller are expected to be healthy at the start of camp.

• Cherington said the Sox still like Ryan Lavarnway as a potential piece of their catching plans, and said there would be a way to split playing time among three catchers in Pawtucket with Lavarnway, Dan Butler and Christian Vazquez. But the time may come, Farrell acknowledged, that the Sox look for another position for Lavarnway to give him a chance to contribute with his bat.

• The Sox expect to name an internal candidate to succeed Gary DiSarcina as Pawtucket manager. DiSarcina, who was named Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of the Year, left the Sox last month to become the Angels’ third-base coach.

• Departed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was introduced here Monday by his new team, the Miami Marlins, had a bylined column in the Boston Globe thanking Red Sox fans.

“I was going to say that I’ve made the decision to take my talents to South Beach but I heard that someone took that line already,” Saltalamacchia wrote. “Seriously, I wanted to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the city of Boston, its fans, the Red Sox and especially my teammates for providing me the best three-plus years of my baseball life.”

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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