Red Sox: Jackie Bradley takes right-handed swings in batting practice


Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley explains why he takes time during batting practice to hit from the right side when he normally bats left-handed.

When Jackie Bradley, Jr. steps to the plate for the Boston Red Sox this season he’ll hit left-handed, as he has done for his entire major league career. So why is he spending time during spring training working on his swing from the right side?

Bradley is coming off of a breakout season in which he set career-highs nearly across the board, including 26 home runs and an .835 OPS. His batting average was also the highest of his career, yet finished at a middling .267 after a second-half fade.

Hitting for average remains one of the few weak spots left in his game, so one would think that if he plans to continue hitting solely from the left side this season then he should be concentrating all his efforts in the cage and during batting practice on improving from that side. Last year showed tremendous progress, but Bradley still has a bit more to prove at the plate before he attempts to join the small percentage of big league hitters that swing from both sides.

Except the work Bradley is putting in batting right-handed isn’t about the desire to transition into a switch-hitter. It’s something the lefty has been doing for a while now, as he explained to MassLive’s Jen McCaffrey.

"“You work on one side so much it just helps balance out the obliques,” Bradley said Friday. “You don’t want to get one side so much stronger than the other so I want to keep my body as equal as possible.”"

Bradley grew up a natural right-handed hitter before switching to the left side early in his baseball career. He still throws with his right, with the strength and accuracy to match just about any center fielder in the majors. This suggests that the conversion to switch-hitting may be possible.

He’s not ruling it out, as the 26-year old is always striving to improve his game, but he doesn’t appear to be ready to test himself in games any time soon.

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There may not even be much incentive for Bradley to become a switch-hitter. Most players who take that approach do so in order to avoid giving the pitcher an advantage in same-side matchups, but Bradley hasn’t had drastic splits throughout his career. He’s actually been slightly better batting left-handed against lefties.

That wasn’t the case last year, when southpaws held Bradley to a .239 average, while he hit .277 against right-handed pitching. However, this doesn’t imply that Bradly has suddenly become worse against lefties. That .239 average matches his career level against left-handed pitching. He’s not regressing due to messing around from the right side during BP, he’s simply improved dramatically against right-handed pitchers.

According to Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis, the routine of practicing from the right side deserves some of the credit for Bradley’s improvement. In the past, the natural right-hander used his dominant hand too much with his lefty swing, so practicing his swing from the right side has helped him find balance.

"“That strong hand on the right side, that’s the hand that wants to work and every time he rolls over on something he sees how much he’s forcing it,” Davis explained. “He’s not using it the right way. So when he starts using it the right way he hits line drives. When he gets on the left side it’s still that right hand but now it becomes the bottom hand and that’s got to work the right way too, that’s got to take the bat to the zone the right way and understanding that, you watch him and he applies it. When he gets to the left side you see that nice smooth path to the ball, left hand leading, getting that barrel over the zone and ball jumps off his bat.”"

The key for Bradley has always been consistency. He’s a streaky hitter, but early in his career a prolonged slump would lead to him being jettisoned from the lineup. Last season was the first time that he found himself cemented into the role as the Red Sox starting center fielder, allowing him the chance to fight through those slumps.

At times it paid off, as during his 29-game hit streak Bradley was the hottest hitter in the majors. Other times it did not, such as when he hit below the Mendoza Line for the month of August.

Bradley will continue to put in the work to try to eliminate the lengthy cold spells that have plagued him throughout his major league career. If practicing his swing from the right side helps him achieve that goal then that’s something he’ll continue to work on.

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Perhaps one day we’ll see Bradley experiment with a right-handed swing in games, but don’t count on it happening this season. Bradley doesn’t need to become a switch-hitter, he simply needs to become a better hitter.