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July 9, 2014

Stick with Bradley Jr., he's special

BOSTON — Red Sox injured right fielder Shane Victorino says baseball has a way of both humbling and complimenting players.

Boston center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. sits in front of his locker, minds his own business, doesn’t exude any cockiness and has seemed humble since the very first day he arrived in the major leagues.

But even though Bradley didn’t need to be humbled, baseball has done it to him anyway. That’s evident by the .212 batting average and .296 on-base percentage the center fielder has posted in his first 393 big league plate appearances.

But are things turning around for this 24-year-old who the Red Sox still hope is Jacoby Ellsbury’s longterm heir apparent?

Victorino believes so.

“To me, the game’s complimenting him (right now),” Victorino said. “He’s going out there and showing he can do it.”

As Boston continues to fade in the American League East standings, Bradley has quietly showed progress at the plate. He continues to turn heads defensively and show why he has the ability to be a major league starting center fielder, not a platoon outfielder ... well, if he can hit just a little, too.

Bradley doesn’t have to be as productive as Ellsbury was. All Bradley has to do is be an adequate, .255 hitter to be extremely valuable in center field every single day until he hits free agency following the 2019 season. That’s simply because he’s the ultimate run preventer who will win games with his defense.

Bradley’s running and leaping catch to end the top of the ninth in a 6-6 game against the Orioles on Sunday is exactly why the Red Sox need to play him regularly in center field for the rest of this season.

With two outs, J.J. Hardy was on the move from first base and would have scored had Bradley not made his acrobatic catch. The rookie kept the game tied and gave Boston a chance to win.

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