Jackie Bradley close to making Sox

Updated: March 29, 2013, 3:12 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jackie Bradley Jr. told reporters he hasn't been told. Mike Carp told his agent the same thing.

The Red Sox, however, did deliver a message to nonroster outfielder Ryan Sweeney, informing him they were not purchasing his contract.

"I'm the odd man out," said a disappointed Sweeney, finding himself unemployed just two days before the Red Sox break camp in Florida.

[+] EnlargeJackie Bradley Jr.
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaJackie Bradley Jr. had another good day Thursday, singling home one run and scoring two more.

With Sweeney out, it appears that first baseman-outfielder Carp, an early-March acquisition from Seattle, and rookie Bradley, who opened last year playing Class A ball, will be lining up on the third-base foul line in Yankee Stadium on Monday afternoon when the Sox open the 2013 season against the New York Yankees.

"I want to know before you all," Bradley said with a wide smile to reporters, while claiming he had not been informed of his status. "Do I wait? Do I go home?"

Carp and Bradley are expected to be joined by reliever Clayton Mortensen after the Sox announced they were optioning reliever Daniel Bard to Double-A Portland, a level he hasn't pitched at since 2008, one year before he made it to the big leagues.

Why Portland and not Triple-A Pawtucket for Bard?

"The point of emphasis we made to Daniel was we didn't want him to think if he put up three consecutive scoreless innings or three appearances where he pitched well, he was on his way back to Boston," Sox manager John Farrell said. "We don't see him as a filler on a major league staff. We still see him as a very capable, very good and potentially dominant late-inning reliever. First and foremost is the foundation from which he pitches from, and that's his delivery. And that's the hope [refining his delivery]."

Nothing is official until the Red Sox file their 25-man Opening Day roster with Major League Baseball. They have until noon Sunday to do so. But with DH David Ortiz opening the season on the disabled list, the chance for playing time was there, and Bradley seized it in spectacular fashion.

While the Red Sox held off on making an official announcement, Farrell on Thursday afternoon had an answer for those who would simply lump in Bradley with the many players who put up dazzling numbers in spring training, then are exposed once the season begins.

The staff's high regard for Bradley, Farrell said, goes well beyond the impressive numbers --.441 batting average, .521 on-base average, 26 hits, nine walks, two home runs, 12 RBIs. In Thursday night's 6-1 win over the Twins, Bradley entered as a pinch runner, was on the back end of a double steal, scored and then singled in a run in his only at-bat.

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"We look at it as the consistency of the at-bats," Farrell said. "You look at certain counts he finds himself in and how's his approach to that.

"One at-bat that kind of stands out to me is the other day against [Baltimore reliever Pedro] Strop. He's down two strikes, he takes two split-fingered fastballs that are major league-quality pitches. He gets back in the count and hits a two-run single.

"When you look at the consistency of his control of the strike zone, gets himself in good hitters' counts, what he does in those situations, I think that goes beyond the overall batting average."

Listening to Farrell, it was difficult to imagine the Sox turning back now on promoting Bradley to the big leagues.

"We've allowed him to go this deep in camp, so we're not afraid or unwilling to break camp with him," Farrell said. "If that were the case, we would have sent him out four weeks ago."

The player's makeup carries considerable weight in the decision-making process, the manager said.

"So in the event of something doesn't run out well, where he's challenged, how does he respond? That's projection," Farrell said. "Until you get to that point, you don't fully know. How strong mentally is he? If he struggles at the major league level, what will his response be?

"At the same time you look at the spring training he's had, the talent that he is, and you try to put together the best team with the best players you can."

Service-time issues and the like?

"We can't control tomorrow, let alone six years from now," Farrell said.

When camp began, Farrell repeatedly indicated that Bradley would eventually be headed back to minor league camp. The player's performance dictated otherwise, along with the fact that without Ortiz to DH, there was playing-time potentially available to Bradley that was not foreseen at the start of camp.

Bradley's skill set did not come as a surprise to Farrell or anyone else in baseball operations who has charted his progress since being a first-round sandwich pick in 2011. What had Farrell heard about the kid coming in?

"Similar to what we've seen," the manager said. "A mature guy [who] has always been in the center of the team which he played for, whether it was college or in his one-plus years in the minor leagues here.

"From a scouting evaluation, again it was accurate. A guy who is a well-above-average defender right now, a complete understanding of the strike zone. Doesn't play in any kind of panic mode. Everything we've thrown at him this spring, he's held true to form."

Bard, meanwhile, is attempting to reconstruct a career that went off the rails last season after the experiment to convert him into a starting pitcher imploded.

"This was strictly about continuing to rebuild his delivery," Farrell said of Bard's demotion to Portland, "not so much just sheer performance, because we feel like once his delivery is consistent and he repeats it, the results should take care of itself. That being the focal point, we felt it was a better work setting in Portland."

Bard's locker was cleared in the major league clubhouse when reporters entered after batting practice, and he left the facility without comment. Farrell said Bard asked why he was being sent to Portland.

"That's what was explained to him," Farrell said. "I don't know that he was completely surprised by the option, certainly disappointed. But the thing we continually stressed with him is we don't compare this to outing to outing in spring training, where there were some solid performances, there were some less than.

"This has to be compared to where he was last year, and where he is now. A sizable step, but he's still in the process."

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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