03/31/2013 3:15 PM ET
Bradley to start on Opening Day
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Jackie Bradley Jr. has arrived on a major stage. Manager John Farrell said that Boston's highly touted outfield prospect has done enough in Spring Training to make the team, and he's performed so well that he'll start in left field against the Yankees on Opening Day.
Bradley, just 22 years old, batted .419 in Spring Training, and his candidacy to make the team was aided by lingering injuries to left-handed hitters Stephen Drew and David Ortiz. Bradley, who has never played above the Double-A level, gives the Red Sox another strong athlete in the outfield.
"He improves our outfield defense," said Farrell. "He showed a very consistent approach at the plate. A lot of people want to maybe target the batting average in Spring Training, but in our evaluation it goes much deeper than that. When you see the consistency of at-bats he put up, we feel like the strength in his mental approach will handle some of the distractions that will ultimately be thrown his way."
The Red Sox designated prospect Mauro Gomez for assignment on Sunday to make room for Bradley, who was taken with the 40th overall choice in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Last year, Bradley batted .359 in 67 games for Class A Salem and .271 in 61 games for Double-A Portland.
Now, just a year removed from his full-season debut, Bradley is at the top of the organizational heap. The youngster said he was able to contact his family and close friends and that they'll be in attendance for his big league debut on Monday, but he stressed that he doesn't expect to be nervous.
"I'm pretty excited," he said of his emotions. "I think it really hasn't hit me yet. Until my name is called, and then I'm pretty sure I'll probably go numb a little bit. It's great, it's an honor and I can't wait."
Farrell said that the Red Sox planned all along to get Bradley some more Minor League seasoning, but he kept on hitting his way into consideration. The plan early on is to get Bradley as much playing time as possible, and the Red Sox will reevaluate once Drew and Ortiz are ready to return.
For now, though, Farrell is excited about the opportunity to get Bradley on the field. Farrell told Bradley that he'd made the team while they were on the airplane to New York from Spring Training, and he said that the youngster took the news in stride and has displayed maturity in every setting.
"I don't want to say he's unflappable, but at the same time he's got a very consistent approach. He really focuses on the things that he can control. I know these are somewhat cliche, but this is is a young guy that seems very polished at a very early stage of his pro career. And because of what we know about the individual, it gives us a lot of confidence and comfort to put him in the position."
Bradley was given a hard time by his peers about the media's sudden focus, but in a quieter moment, his teammates spoke in turn about how he had earned his shot at an Opening Day job.
"He's had a great Spring Training," said Shane Victorino. "He's shown everybody that he deserves an opportunity. I think that's the most important thing. But now it's just going out there and having fun, not putting any pressure on yourself to go out there and do the things you want to do."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.