Jackie Bradley Jr. gets surprise start
NEW YORK -- Jackie Bradley Jr. was kicking back on Boston's plane Saturday night, watching the Oscar-winning movie "Life of Pi," when manager John Farrell interrupted with news: The dynamic outfielder had made Boston's opening-day roster.
"At 35,000 feet, he couldn't jump any higher," Farrell said Sunday.
Taken with the 40th overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft, Bradley batted .419 with a .507 on-base percentage in spring training. He has never having played above Double-A.
But there he was Sunday, still a few weeks from his 23rd birthday, taking hacks in the batting cage at Yankee Stadium and getting a good ribbing from his excitable teammate Dustin Pedroia.
"I think it really hasn't hit me yet -- until my name is called," Bradley said, "then I'm pretty sure I'll go numb a little bit."
Bradley tweeted his appreciation Sunday after the workout. In his twitter profile picture, Bradley is standing behind a sculpture of the No. 42, Jackie Robinson's number.
"Thank you everyone for all of the congratulations! I appreciate all of the support. Glad to be apart of something special. Anything is possible," Bradley tweeted.
The Red Sox had intended to start Bradley in the minor leagues this season but their thinking began to change about halfway through camp. The spot then became open because David Ortiz and Stephen Drew are injured.
To make room for Bradley on the 40-man roster, infielder Mauro Gomez was designated for assignment.
Even though starting Bradley in the big leagues right away could move up his arbitration and free agency eligibility, the Red Sox saw no reason to keep him down in the minors.
"He improves our outfield defense," Farrell sad. "When you see the consistency of at-bats he put up, I feel like the strength in his mental approach will handle some of the distractions that will ultimately be thrown his way. One of the better players we had in spring training."
Jonny Gomes will move from left field to designated hitter while Ortiz is sidelined with inflammation in his heels that's related to the Achilles tendon injury that cut short his season last year.
Ortiz traveled with the team to New York and worked out indoors. He'll stay with the club during the series against the Yankees then return to Fort Myers, Fla., and Farrell hopes he'll get into some games shortly after.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have their own injury issues. Derek Jeter (ankle) will not be at shortstop in an opener for the first time since 2001. Mark Teixeira (wrist) and Curtis Granderson (forearm) are out at least until May and Alex Rodriguez (hip) won't be back until the All-Star break if at all this season.
Throw in the departures of Russell Martin and Nick Swisher to free agency as the Yankees try to trim their payroll for 2014, and the team will have a look that is more brittle than bombers.
In fact, when Yankees manager Joe Girardi takes the lineup card out to home plate for the team's first game that counts since New York was swept by Detroit in the AL championship series, only three names from opening day 2012 will be on it: Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and pitcher CC Sabathia.
In place of the injured and departed is a collection of retreads and castoffs.
Vernon Wells, a late-spring training acquisition from the Los Angeles Angels, will start in left field. Lyle Overbay gets the nod at first base, six days after being cut by the Red Sox. Former Boston star Kevin Youkilis was the Yankees lone big free-agent signing, brought in as a $12 million placeholder for A-Rod. Ben Francisco could be the designated hitter against lefty Jon Lester.
"It's still the Yankees, it's still going to be a good lineup," Lester said Sunday. "They're going to put quality at-bats together. They're missing a few of their big guys but anybody that fills in for them it's like what I said, they're going to put professional at-bats together and still -- it's not going to be a walk in the park."
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