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McGair: Bradley demotion a case of bad timing

August 25, 2014

Jackie Bradley Jr. is pictured during last Thursday’s PawSox game at McCoy Stadium. (Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat | lmzartworks.com)

PAWTUCKET – On the surface, Jackie Bradley Jr. is handling his reassignment to the PawSox just fine.

“When you don’t perform to the best of your capabilities, it’s not a surprise,” the centerfielder acknowledged while recently standing in front of his locker inside the PawSox clubhouse.

Having a thick skin has undoubtedly served Bradley well in a season where nothing has gone right offensively. He credits his upbringing for providing him with a foundation of confidence that he says keep slumps and critics at bay.

“Who cares about what other people control?” Bradley said. “I don’t get bent out of shape about things I can’t control. It’s about having belief in yourself.”

Still, there has to be some part of this one-time rising star in the Red Sox’ prospect-laden system that has to wonder why the organization chose this moment in the season to jettison him to the Triple-A ranks.

“I guess getting sent down … it was more a shock with it being two weeks until September,” Bradley said.

It was indeed a puzzling transaction.

If Boston felt the need to send Bradley to Pawtucket, why did it take until Aug. 18 for the organization to make it happen? The idea that he has needed to reconstruct his hitting approach was a topic du jour even before a recent 0-for-35 drought that was the nadir of a season-long run of futility at the plate.

Consider this: Bradley’s batting average with the BoSox sat at .244 at the end of April, .207 at the end of both May and June and .224 at the end of July. When he departed Fenway Park last Sunday, it stood at .216.

Bradley’s offensive doldrums do not fall in the category of breaking news. So why were the Red Sox so slow to address the fact that this player was in need of some more minor-league seasoning?

Only two weeks remain in the minor-league regular season, and surely the folks on Yawkey Way are in tune with where the PawSox stand schedule-wise. It’s home stretch time, not time to re-introduce players who have been stationed with the parent club since opening day.

Though it’s not extensive, the Red Sox do have a track record for prescribing minor-league checkups to 20-somethings who couldn’t work their way out of a big-league funk. Such a scenario happened with Daniel Bard in 2012 and was repeated last season with Will Middlebrooks. The difference between those moves and this one: Bard was optioned to Pawtucket on June 7, 2012. Middlebrooks was placed in Pawtucket’s care on June 26, 2013.

The point being that the Red Sox should have bitten the bullet on Bradley and relocated him to the minor leagues much sooner. To wait until time is running out on Pawtucket’s regular season almost does him a disservice, in the sense that there’s a short amount of time for him to get his game back on track.

With Bard and Middlebrooks, the Red Sox were able to see them re-establish themselves at a minor league level before deciding to bring them back up.

Bard remained the property of the PawSox until Aug. 30, 2012 while Middlebrooks was recalled on Aug. 10, 2013.

For Bradley, his stint with Pawtucket will likely be dictated not by his performance, but by the calendar. Chances are the centerfielder will be back in Boston by mid-September at the latest – once the PawSox conclude their run in the Governors’ Cup playoffs.

Can Bradley get himself back on track in short order? He did produce two hits Thursday, night with both coming on tough 1-2 counts. In a results-oriented business, that’s called a step in the right direction.

But while Bradley appeared to be ensconced as the heir apparent in Fenway’s center field earlier this season, all bets now appear to be off, especially with Friday’s news that the team had inked a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Cuban defector Rusney Castillo, who just so happens to play center field.

Had Bradley not faltered in the disappointing fashion he did this season, maybe there is no Castillo signing, or increased cries to give Mookie Betts a chance to put his stamp on the center-field job. That’s one way to view a situation that, perhaps, could have been avoided entirely had the Red Sox revisited how they handled Bard and Middlebrooks, and applied those same lessons to Bradley.

Should Bradley have appeared in a PawSox game a lot sooner than this past Monday? No question about it. With the Red Sox having been out of playoff contention for a while now, it would have made perfect sense to ride things out and maybe catch lightning in a bottle with the hopes that Bradley has a September that puts a good taste in everyone’s mouth.

Instead, we are left to wonder: why subject Bradley to this now? In Bradley’s eyes, that’s where the true shock lies.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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