Red Sox

Return to health may mean a return to form for Bradley

red_sox_jackie_bradley_060917.jpg

Return to health may mean a return to form for Bradley

BOSTON -- It’s well known that Xander Bogaerts was playing hurt for much of 2017. All players in a 162-game season work through multiple injuries, nicks, strains and sometimes worse.

But it has probably gone too far under the radar that Jackie Bradley Jr. was not physically himself last season.

MORE - Sox aren't avoiding Martinez because Harper, Machado loom

One of the reasons to believe Bradley can rebound in 2017 — and a reason to advocate keeping a cost-controlled player who is both comfortable in Boston and immensely talented — is renewed health.

Bradley suffered a right knee sprain in April that put him in a brace through May. He sprained his left thumb in August. A baseball source with direct knowledge of Bradley’s situation emphasized his injuries did affect him.

Bradley, like many players, on Thursday did not want to discuss the extent of his health.

“Y’all know I’m never gonna say anything about that. It’s just not who I am,” Bradley told NBC Sports Boston before accepting the Defensive Player of the Year award at the 79th annual Boston baseball writers awards dinner. “But as a player, you just have to deal. You’re injured. But I felt at the time that I could still help the team out. So I was in a brace. I think once I got it off, it actually was feeling pretty good."

It didn’t linger all year, Bradley said.

“It felt pretty good until the thumb happened,” Bradley said. “But it’s one of those things where nobody’s ever really 100 percent. You grind, and you make the best with what’s due.”

Bradley slashed .245/.323/.402 in 2017 with 17 home runs. That's down from a .267/.349/.486 line with 26 home runs in 2016.

One of the things Bradley wants to do more of in 2018 is steal bases. He stole eight last season after a career-high nine the year before. In the minors, he stole 24 bases in one season (2012, between High-A and Double-A).

“I’ve always wanted to run more and I’m glad he’s going to give me the opportunity to be able to do that more often,” Bradley said of new manager Alex Cora. “I’ve always felt like I can run. I feel like I’ve gotten stronger every year. I’ve been pretty successful on the base paths but I guess certain times situations did not dictate it in the past. The red light was something more of a thing they wanted to do with certain people at bat instead of taking the next base.”

Asked if he considered how his health would play into stealing, Bradley noted the reward available.

“I’ve never gotten hurt stealing,” Bradley said. “I’m not saying there’s not a possibility, obviously there’s a possibility. Guys who steal a ton of bags can attest to that. Jacoby [Ellsbury], Billy [Hamilton], stuff like that. There is risk/reward. But, I feel like the reward outweighs the risk in most cases. I just want to be in scoring position. That’s what I want to be in. I want to help.” Bradley acknowledged that he heard about the trade rumors this offseason.

"Yeah that’s one of those things where you do see it,” Bradley said. “You definitely have family members who are constantly talking to you about it. You know, ‘Well, what if this, what if that?’ 

“Well, what if this what if that? What will be, will be. That has always been my mindset. It’s something that I can’t really control. You know, so, I’m just not going to worry about it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m perfectly fine. I feel like I’m in a great situation. I feel like I have great teammates. I’m glad to be around them. And like I said, I understand if it did happen, then it’s something that I’ll have to live with.”

Bradley said he and his teammates have not discussed how long they will (or won’t) be together.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Pedroia, healing well, says he could have handled 2017 differently

pedroia-quote-drellich-21718.jpg
AP Photo

Pedroia, healing well, says he could have handled 2017 differently

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Often, Dustin Pedroia is not one to expound on his feelings publicly. His interviews with media can be amusing and witty, but they also can be terse. In 2017, they tended toward the latter. 

A welcome-to-spring session with reporters on Saturday brought out 20 minutes of another side of Pedroia, one that seemed almost eager to expound. He was cast in a poor light last season, the year's troubles started to compound early.

Pedroia said Saturday the knee he had repaired in the offseason had been bothering him since April. He called the surgery “the best decision I could have made.” 

“My knee doesn’t hurt,” Pedroia said. “Last year, waking up and walking around was painful. It’s not fun to live your life like that. Having the surgery, I could tell immediately that I was feeling better. Not one time did I have any pain in the entire process. Now, it’s just building strength and getting back to being athletic and things like that and your body picks that up quick.”

Pedroia, 34, didn’t share a timetable. The initial expectation, at the point Pedroia went for the surgery, was that he would be out until at least May.

He shared how he thinks the Red Sox need greater leadership as a group, not just from one individual.

"I’ve thought a lot about this, you know and I’m thinking, man, you know, you guys write all these stories about how we don’t have enough leadership and all this stuff,” Pedroia said. “I’m like, thinking about it, I’m like, when did the Red Sox start getting successful? From 2002 or whatever on. You know, they had Tek [Jason Varitek]. But not only did they have Tek, but they had David [Ortiz], they had Trot Nixon, they had Johnny Damon. There was a ton of core players that were leaders. 

“And then you look at the next championship they won, they had David, Tek, Mike Lowell, Alex [Cora]. There’s multiple leaders. And then ’13, there’s multiple leaders. So I think our core group, our guys that [are young], it’s my responsibility, I need them and they need me and we all have to work together. Because it’s not one leader. And everybody always says that, it’s not one guy in baseball. 

“We have to go be together and know that. I know David’s gone, but you know when Tek was done, we were okay. Because he built that into David, and David’s built that into me to where I got to do a better job of finding a way to get everybody to realize that it’s not one guy, it’s everybody. And that’s — after thinking about it — that’s what it is."

There was more. A lot more. The team, Pedroia said, became too results-oriented in the short term last year.

“It was more ‘Hey, what are our results today? We’ve got to do good today,’” Pedroia said. “‘Bogey’s got to get four hits today. Mookie’s got to live up to huge expectations,’ instead of being who you are, and that’s especially in this environment that’s how you have to be. You have to understand you’re going to be bad and you’re going to be great.”

Twenty minutes in, the second-to-last question was a brief return to last year’s form. Terse.

Pedroia was asked whether there was a team discussion about the handling of the Manny Machado and Dennis Eckersley incidents.

"Yeah, we talked about those things,” Pedroia said, matter of factly. 

It was by far the shortest answer he gave Saturday and stood out for that reason.

Pedroia and everyone else listening knew well that the question, which he did technically answer, was meant to provide some level of insight into those discussions. 

The conclusion: last year still isn’t easy to talk about. Which may be a positive sign. Consider: Pedroia’s reputation as a team leader was questioned. A prideful person who believes in his work, who cares about his standing and his reputation, would be made uncomfortable by last year’s proceedings.

A follow-up question came, and it was something of a breakpoint. Did those discussions resolve the issues quickly, was anything lingering?

He could have given a similar yes-no answer again. 

He didn’t.

“Yeah, no, I mean, I think as a team, no, we were together all the time. You know, those things happen,” Pedroia said. “I mean it’s baseball. I think when you sit back and look at it. Could it have been handled differently? Without question. I mean, 100 percent. It’s like everything in life. You make mistakes and then you don’t make mistakes. So, you know you learn from it, you move forward, you understand if you’re in another situation like that, if you want to do something different, do something different. And that’s what we all took out of it.”

On Saturday, he did something different.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Hanley Ramirez follows Tom Brady's plan, looks less like Ray Lewis

Hanley Ramirez follows Tom Brady's plan, looks less like Ray Lewis

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The 2018 Red Sox could be an episode of Hanley vs. Time.

Hanley Ramirez , the presumed Red Sox designated hitter — and perhaps more often this year, first baseman — said Friday at JetBlue Park he’s lost 15 pounds thanks to The TB12 Method. Ramirez was listed in the 2017 media guide at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds.

“More [TB12] bands,” Ramirez said. “I went on the Tom Brady’s diet. I think it’s 100 percent, everything he says in the book and the work he does, it makes a lot of sense.

“The good thing about Tom Brady is winning. He’s about winning and making his team better. When you’ve got a guy like that, who inspires people to get better and to show to others that age is just a number when you do the little things right, that’s what he does.”

Ramirez is still a big man, but now he's thinking more about little muscles. 

"When you’re young, you need the big muscles to get stronger,” Ramirez said. “When you get in that age past 30, you’ve got to concentrate on the little muscles. You get that power from the big muscles. When you get hurt, most of the time those little muscles stop working. So you’ve got to keep working on those little muscles, which is what those [exercise] bands do.”

MORE RED SOX NEWS:

Not a bad entrance for Ramirez, invoking the GOAT publicly. But Ramirez is loud normally. Friday was his first day at Sox camp.

“He made sure we knew he was here. He was loud in that clubhouse,” manager Alex Cora said. “That’s always good. I visited with him in December and he talked to me about his workout program, his offseason program, his new one. I saw him today and he looks a lot different than what I saw the last two years. The last two years he reminded me a lot of Ray Lewis, as far as how big he was. Now he’s going to be more mobile, flexible and he’s upbeat.”

Ramirez is 34 and in what could be the final year of his Red Sox contract. He needs 497 plate appearances to trigger a $22 million contract option for 2018, an option the Red Sox like don’t want to kick in — particularly given the current state of the free-agent market. Of course, if Ramirez is absolutely mashing, they might feel differently.

He wasn’t mashing a year ago.

The drop in offense from the 2016 Red Sox to 2017 was remarkable, considering how many players’ numbers fell in concert. Ramirez was in that group. He hit seven fewer home runs (23) in 2017 while playing 14 fewer games than he had the year before, and saw 44 points fall off his batting average, from .286 to .242. 

Ramirez was bothered by his shoulders all of last year, both of them, and had the left one surgically repaired. How bad was it?

“Literally, I was hitting with one arm last year and I hit 23 [homers],” Ramirez said Friday. “Now that I feel good, there are not going to be excuses. Better go out there and hit 30."

His throwing shoulder, his right, was not repaired. But that shoulder is said to be better as well. He said he’s been throwing for three weeks, and that includes some long toss. If his shoulders stay strong he should be more readily available at first base. He played 133 games there in 2016, but just 18 games in 2017.

MORE RED SOX NEWS: