Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr. didn’t feel welcome until 2016

In Jackie Bradley Jr.’s interview this morning with WEEI’s Rob Bradford, he said he did not feel like he was apart of the Boston Red Sox until last season.

Before the 2016 season, Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was widely considered a defensive specialist with an elite level arm and a great glove, but a liability at the plate.

That all changed last season when he had a major league-high 29-game hit streak and was the starting center fielder for the American League All-Star team.

Above all though, JBJ finally felt part of something bigger, the team.

“Believe it or not, I’ve never really told anybody, this year was the first year I actually felt I was part of a team,” Bradley told WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Bradley was often up and down between the big league club and Triple-A Pawtucket in years past, but 2016 finally saw his role stabilize.

He was forced to transition to a corner outfield role to replace an injured Shane Victorino in 2014 and did not produce very much at all offensively. The former first-rounder from the University of South Carolina slashed .198/.265/.266 with 1 HR and 30 RBI’s in 423 plate appearances. However, the most concerning statistic of all was Bradley’s 121 strikeouts.

In 2015 it seemed as if Bradley was going to be a bust, until we got to see what he was capable of in August. That month arguably saved Bradley’s Red Sox career and gave the front office confidence in his abilities.

By the start of the 2016 season the decision was made to shift Mookie Betts to right field and slot Bradley as the everyday center fielder. At the plate he opened the season scorching hot, batting .331 with 9 HR and 37 RBI through April and May. He also recorded a hit in every game from April 24th to May 25th, resulting in his 29-game hit streak.

It is clear to see that Bradley was more confident in his abilities right from the get go in 2016. Confidence and comfort is huge in any sport or any facet of life and for Bradley it made him feel more welcome with the Boston Red Sox.

“I think this year was where I actually developed very strong bonds and close-knit relationships with people, not saying I didn’t have that before, but as a whole I was able to put everything together.” said Bradley.

Now that Bradley has a couple of big league seasons under his belt, he will be expected to perhaps step into more of a leadership role. This past season he hit .267 with 26 HR and 87 RBI and was awarded the Gold Glove Award for his stellar defense.

The expectation now is that Bradley will have a more consistent bat and hopefully hit around .300. Defensively, there is little to critique, except the fact that he could have a more accurate throwing arm.

Since 2016 was a year of getting comfortable and confident, 2017 should be a year of expressing that confidence, and making younger and newer members of the team feel the same way – and hopefully a lot of dancing!

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