8/6/2014 8:33 P.M. ET
Bradley trying to find positives in slump
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., mired in an 0-for-24 slump, found himself out of the lineup on Wednesday for the second straight night. Prospect Mookie Betts got the start against the Cardinals in his place.
"[With Jackie] we're trying to focus on some early work," said manager John Farrell. "We're trying to shorten up his approach at the plate -- he was doing such a great job of that leading into the All-Star break. Felt like there was some need for some further maintenance and some work to take place. With Mookie being here, a young guy, we've got to make sure he gets at-bats, a minimum of at-bats, while he's here."
In a season in which Bradley has played spectacular defense, his bat has not had as much of an impact on a regular basis.
"Going through a little stretch," said Bradley. "I can't say it's the first time I've been through one of those things. You've just got to keep working. That's what I'm going to do."
Perhaps the most frustrating part of Bradley's latest dip is that it immediately follows his best stretch of the season, a seven-game span from July 1-25 in which he hit .345.
"He had made some adjustments, as you guys saw late in June, really, and into July and went on a nice run," said general manager Ben Cherington. "And then, since the All-Star break, it obviously hasn't gone well. Our expectation was, the way he went into the All-Star break, he would come out of it picking up where he left off and keep going. It hasn't gone that way for him. He keeps working at it. He's certainly learning still at the big league level."
The final 50 games of the season are vital for many players on the roster, and Bradley is prominent among them, as that time can serve as a proving ground that he can be the starting center fielder next season.
"His defense has been elite, and we know at some point there is going to have to be more offense. He knows that, too," said Cherington.
Bradley is still of the belief that there's going to be some payoff for the struggles he's had this season.
"It's been slow, honestly," said Bradley. "I like to look at positive things. I'm learning along the way. I can only get better. This is obviously the worst I've ever done. What better way to learn than at the highest level. I'll be able to look back on this one day and say that I have struggled mightily before and I can overcome it."
Bradley takes pride in the fact that he has not let his offensive woes carry over to his defense.
"If you're not doing something on one side of the ball, I definitely wanted to make sure I was doing it on the other side," he said. "I'm continuously trying to make plays in order to give my team a chance to win. If I'm not getting hits, then I want to take away hits. Until everything comes together and finally clicks, I've got to keep getting after it."
Though his numbers (.218/.290/.299) aren't pretty, Bradley hasn't lost confidence.
"When I go out there, I never feel like it's a lack of confidence. You want to have confidence in the results," he said. "It's just one of those things [where you have to] weather the storm and play it out. You can't give up. It's one of those things where I'm going to continuously work, and we'll see where it takes me."
Health issues not behind Buchholz's struggles
ST. LOUIS -- When a pitcher goes so drastically from one extreme to another, the way Clay Buchholz has between 2013 (12-1, 1.74 ERA) and 2014 (5-7, 6.20 ERA), there's bound to be speculation that health woes could be playing a role.
But the Red Sox continue to be adamant that Buchholz is as close to 100 percent as a pitcher can be at this time of year.
"There's nothing physical here," said manager John Farrell. "And by his own admission and [his] answers to that question repetitively, and every test that we do following a start, leading into a start, all those objective measures are fine."
What the Red Sox are trying to get Buchholz to do is simplify things.
"The thing that we're trying to get back to is a more focused approach from pitch to pitch rather than looking at an entire game of seven to nine innings and [thinking], 'How am I going to manage that?'" said Farrell. "It's back to a very specific 'one pitch at a time' approach, and that's the only thing that he can have control over in the moment, to put a series of 110 of those individual events together, and that's what we're working toward."
In his most recent, start against the Yankees, Buchholz seemed to be taking an unusually long time between pitches.
"Yeah, I'd like to see him pick up his pace. I'd like to see him trust his stuff a little bit more, particularly earlier in the count," said Farrell. "And by that I mean not pitching so fine. He's done it in a stretch of starts since coming off the DL. And the last three have not been equal to that."
Considering that the Red Sox traded Jon Lester and John Lackey last week, they are all but certain to rely heavily on Buchholz in 2015.
"We're confident he can turn it around," said general manager Ben Cherington. "He's got to be a piece of the puzzle, not the whole puzzle. We're confident he can turn it around, because he's healthy, and that means he's got a chance to turn it around.
"But obviously, the results right now are not what he wants, they're not what we expect from him, he knows that, so it's not, 'Wake up tomorrow and it's all better.' He's got to continue to work and get on the right track the rest of this season. ... We expect him to be part of the rotation next year, and an important part of it."
Red Sox will be extra cautious with Craig
ST. LOUIS -- Though the Red Sox are looking forward to getting a closer look at outfielder Allen Craig, whom they acquired last week from the Cardinals, they don't want to rush him through his latest injury.
Craig was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a sprained left foot, and he won't be cleared to resume baseball activities until the club has a better handle on his condition.
"Because of what he went through last year, we're trying to be extra cautious, and so we're still working through that," said general manager Ben Cherington. "The long-term prognosis is very good. There's no concern about whether he's going to be OK to play and feel good and be completely healthy.
"It's just a question of making sure that we're not putting him in a position where he's compromised and maybe is at risk of doing something else by making up for what's going on in his foot. We're just working through that. I think part of the reason it was managed conservatively last year is because of where the Cardinals were; and based on where we are now, this is obviously a long-term proposition. We acquired him for a long time. We just want to make sure we get it right."
There's no timetable for Craig's return.
"He feels good," Cherington said. "He doesn't feel like he's that far away from playing. But we're just going to try to be methodical on this one, because he's new to the organization, because we're managing a new case and because there's a lot of information to digest. We just want to go through all of that before we make a decision on when he's going to play again."