BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington explained at length on Tuesday the club’s decision to option outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to Triple-A Pawtucket, and why shortstop Xander Bogaerts remains in Boston.
Bradley was sent to Triple-A on Monday and will finish the regular season with the PawSox, before returning to the Red Sox at some point in September. Cherington said Bradley’s struggles at the plate, and nothing else, was the reason he was sent to the minors.
“With Jackie, we’ve gone through several phases to the year. Obviously it looked like, before the All-Star break, that there were some things that were starting to take hold, some momentum, so we certainly hoped and expected that might continue,” Cherington said. “But after the All-Star break he started to struggle again.”
At the start of July, Bradley was hitting .208 but raised his average to .237 before the break on July 14. It dipped again, and at the time the club optioned him to Pawtucket, he was hitting .216.
After the July 31 trade deadline, and the team basically out of contention, it was evident the Red Sox were focused on 2015 and wanted to give their prospects plenty of opportunity to prove their worth at the big-league level.
“As we got past the deadline, as the direction of the team changed, we started to think about how do we give him the best chance to build some momentum going into the offseason, knowing that he’s a real important guy for us going forward,” Cherington said. “Certainly, there’s no questions about the defense, so it was more focused on the offense. We just got to a point we felt, in order for him to build some momentum going into the offseason that it would be best for him to get a bunch of at-bats at Pawtucket, try to lock into a routine that works for him and he can feel good about.”
When he does return in September, Bradley will be given another opportunity to finish the season strong in order to build his confidence heading into the offseason.
“That’s the hope, that’s the intent to give him a chance to build some momentum,” Cherington said.
Since Bogaerts has also struggled this season, especially of late, Cherington was asked why the rookie shortstop remains in Boston, while Bradley was sent to the minors.
“Every player is different,” Cherington said. “I can just tell you, in our minds this is where he needs to be. We want him to be our shortstop for the rest of this season and allow him to work through what he’s working through. Again, every player is a different circumstance, we just feel this is where Xander needs to be right now.
“It’s not uncommon for a young player, a really talented young player like Xander, to go through struggles. Frankly, we did not expect him to go through the struggles to this extent, because we’ve seen him be so good, including at the major league level. But, sure enough, it’s happened. He’s battling through that and we’re trying to help him in any way we can. It hasn’t changed, at all, what we think of him and what we feel he’s going to be, but he’s in the middle of some challenges right now he’s trying to work through.”
On Sunday, Bogaerts was clearly dejected with his recent performance, but to his credit, he arrived at the ballpark on Monday and had his best workout day of the season, according to Red Sox coach Brian Butterfield. Even though Bogaerts is struggling at the plate, Cherington believes the offense will come around.
“He’s still showing up at the ballpark with the same exact attitude, working very hard and getting his work in,” Cherington said. “He’s prepared. He’s accountable, and so this is where he needs to be. Look, he wants to be good as much as we want him to be good and we’re confident he will be, it’s just a matter of time.”
What about Bradley’s accountability?
“I don’t want you to parse what I’m saying about Xander and apply it to [Jackie],” Cherington said. “It’s two different situations. The issue with Jackie is an offensive approach issue and trying to lock in a routine, an offense approach that allows him to be successful.”