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February 5, 2013

Bradley Jr. doesn't expect to hit any walls this year

Sox center fielder of the future confident he's ready

Red Sox minor league center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. batted .315 with a sensational .430 on-base percentage last year during his first full professional season but hit just .229 during the final full month.

“I was used to playing 70 games max in college,” Bradley said. “When you hear (140 games), you’re like, ‘That’s fine.’ But when you have to actually do it and you hit that wall, you’re like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’”

Bradley felt fatigued as the season progressed.

“I felt like I was prepared for it physically,” he said. “Mentally, it wore on me — just knowing it was a lot more games.”

Bradley, 22, very likely will be the Boston Red Sox center fielder on Opening Day 2014 with Jacoby Ellsbury expected to hit the free agent market at the end of this year.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound left-handed hitting Bradley is an above-average defender, stole 24 bases, stroked 42 doubles, legged out four triples, smashed nine homers and drove in 63 runs combined between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland last year.

Last week, Bradley was one of six Red Sox players named in MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list. Bradley ranked No. 32. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts (20th overall) was the only Red Sox prospect ranked higher.

It should be very interesting to see how Bradley hits in 2013 — being used to a longer schedule.

“I’ll know what to expect this year,” Bradley said. “It won’t get to me.”

Bradley has been working out this offseason at the University of South Carolina, where he played college ball from 2009-11 and is taking classes.

Bradley said his No. 1 goal is to stay healthy this summer.

“If you stay healthy, you give yourself the best opportunity you can to perform,” Bradley said.

Expect him to start the year in Triple-A Pawtucket. Don’t rule out a call-up to the big leagues at some point.

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