February 28, 2013; Bradenton, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. (74) hits a single during the fourth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox Bold Move Is To Play Jackie Bradley Now

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I’m tired of the intellectual and business discussions regarding Jackie Bradley, Jr. I get that by putting him in the starting lineup up in 2013 his service clock starts ticking a year earlier than the Red Sox had expected. I understand that Boston wants to give him another year of seasoning and maturity. I also feel it in my baseball bones that if the Red Sox are serious about competing this year you gotta play this kid.

Jackie Bradley has been the best player in Boston’s lineup this spring – and not by a little. Of the 20 players in Boston’s lineup who have had 20 at bats or more, Bradley (39 at bats) is first. His team leading .436 batting average is 91 points higher than his nearest teammates Jarrod Saltalamacchia and J.C. Linares, both with 29 at bats. On base percentage, same group, number 1. Slugging percentage, same group, fourth. On base plus slugging percentage, same group, number 1. Runs scored? Number 1. Hits? Number 1. Walks? Number 1. Strike outs? Number 15. Come on, the kid is a machine. Fill that engine with fuel and yank the cord.

Let’s get away from the stats for a minute and get emotional. Jackie Bradley is the most electrifying prospect the Red Sox have had since Jacoby Ellsbury came up. He looks like a baseball player. He acts like a baseball player. Ben and John, he’s walking the walk and talking the talk here.

Now let’s get practical. Papi is down. Today he was scheduled to get back in the batting cage but was scratched when he said he didn’t feel ready. This is going to be a long, hard road back for him if there ever is a road back. There’s a reason Jonny Gomes is a career platoon player. A .982 fielder, he’s a defensive liability who can’t hit righties, period (career .223 BA). He can DH against lefties since he’s a .284 hitter against southpaws. The best one-two DH punch would be Gomes against lefties and Mike Napoli against righties but manager John Farrell has already nixed the Napoli notion, saying that he’s progressed nicely at first base and that Napoli will be Boston’s every day first baseman. If between Ryan Lavarnway (doubtful), Mike Carp and Lyle Overbay a DH platoon can be fashioned or the Sox go out and pay for a thumper then Bradley patrolling left field makes even more sense and packs even more punch in the lineup.

Do you think for a minute that the Angels regret fast tracking Mike Trout or that the Nats felt they brought Bryce Harper along too quickly? Feed the beast. Take that chance. Roll those dice. The time is now. Choose to compete. Play Jackie Bradley.

Oh, put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today 
Put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today 
- Centerfield, John Fogerty

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