said today that Jackie Bradley Jr. "could be" ready to play in the major leagues right now. Ben Cherington says "it's hard to ignore what he's done this spring".
And he keeps doing it. On Sunday afternoon, Bradley (who turns 23 on April 19) started in left field for the first time since high school. Facing Philadelphia left-hander Cliff Lee in his first at-bat, Bradley socked a three-run homer. Bradley began the day hitting .429/.525/.571; impressively, he has struck out only six times in 59 plate appearances this spring.
The obvious decision for the Boston front office is to have Bradley begin the season in Pawtucket and stay there for at least 12 days, allowing the Red Sox to gain an additional year of control over Bradley, making him eligible for free agency at the end of the 2019 season. It's foolish to forfeit a year of Bradley in his prime for whatever value he can give the team in the first nine games of this season. Another possibility is for the Red Sox to have Bradley begin the season in Boston, but option him back to Pawtucket at some point(s) during the year for a total of 20 days. That would also delay his free agency until after 2019.
With David Ortiz likely beginning the year on the disabled list, there could be an opening for Bradley in left field if Jonny Gomes becomes the principal DH in Ortiz's absence. (Daniel Nava is another LF option.) How long Ortiz is expected to be out is also a factor in when Bradley joins the Red Sox.
Bradley needs regular at-bats wherever he plays, though. Keeping him on the Boston bench for spot starts or in a platoon situation makes little sense. If Cherington et al. believe Bradley is ready for the big time, then tell him to enjoy two weeks prep-time in Pawtucket, have the Red Sox somehow muddle through their games against the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Orioles, and then call Bradley up on April 12. It's a Friday night, and the Red Sox are hosting the Rays. A perfect evening for a debut.