Red Sox

Benching Jackie Bradley was never an option, but first homer of season reminds us what he can be

Benching Jackie Bradley was never an option, but first homer of season reminds us what he can be

It took nearly two months, but on Monday Jackie Bradley's drought finally ended.

The Gold Glove center fielder, mired in a historically brutal slump even by his standards, launched his first home run of the year in a 12-2 pounding of the Blue Jays. His opposite-field shot in the sixth played no role in the outcome -- the Red Sox were already cruising to victory -- but the badly needed blast came with more of us questioning his place in the everyday lineup.

Bradley entered the game hitting .144 with no homers and only four extra-base hits. For someone coming off a strong second half and excellent postseason that included the American League Championship Series MVP award, Bradley's season-long funk felt particularly demoralizing.

While we've always accepted streakiness as part of the package, it really did feel like he had turned a corner last year. He began consulting with J.D. Martinez's personal hitting coach around the All-Star break and in the second half delivered some of the most consistent offense of his career, batting .269 with an .827 OPS. He followed by posting a .943 OPS between the ALCS and World Series, driving in 10 runs in 10 games with three homers and a double.

He arrived at spring training confident in a new swing that would end his streakiness once and for all, and in a sense he was right, because there have been no streaks to speak of, just struggle upon struggle.

But Bradley's path forward is actually deceptively simple. It's easy to forget that he only hit .200 last postseason, because virtually all of his production was pivotal, but it showed the way he could validate his existence from an offensive standpoint: hit for power and his place in the lineup would be secure.

When he opened this season by failing to homer in his first 38 games, however, concerns over his viability began gaining urgency. How long could the Red Sox carry an everyday player who wasn't even hitting .150, let alone .200, no matter how game-changing his glove?

Replacing him isn't as easy as it sounds, though, which is why he's not going anywhere. One option would be to make Martinez a more frequent outfielder and move Andrew Benintendi to center, but the DH has battled back issues and is an average defender at best. The Red Sox need his bat in the lineup, not his glove.

The other would require toppling dominoes that would leave the Red Sox worse than where they started: bench Bradley, move Benintendi to center, try power-hitting youngster Michael Chavis in left, and then fill second base with Eduardo Nunez, Tzu-Wei Lin, Dustin Pedroia, or Brock Holt, depending on who's healthy.

Their averages range from .063 (Holt) to .200 (Lin), so you'd be leaving yourself in the same position offensively, but weakened defensively at two positions. The same logic applies to putting Steve Pearce (.131) in left.

In that context, there's little incentive to bench Bradley, which is why he has appeared in all but eight games. It helps that every regular except Benintendi now owns an OPS of greater than .800, so there's enough offense to go around. The emergence of Chavis and Christian Vazquez lower in the order has saved Bradley from answering some seriously tough questions.

So forget about benching him. A far more palatable option is that Bradley rediscovers his power stroke, maintains a solid eye (16 walks), and keeps making web gems.

Maybe Monday represented a tentative first step in that direction.

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Here's when to expect MLB's ruling in Red Sox sign-stealing investigation

Here's when to expect MLB's ruling in Red Sox sign-stealing investigation

It looks like the Boston Red Sox will have to wait even longer to hear the results of MLB's ongoing investigation into the 2018 team's alleged sign-stealing.

Commissioner Rob Manfred stated back on Feb. 16 he expected the investigation to conclude by the end of this week. On Tuesday, though, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported an announcement likely won't be made until early March.


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Of course, that means a ruling will come only a couple of days later than anticipated, but there's no doubt Sox fans are growing frustrated with the constant delays.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said Tuesday the league has concluded its interviews for the investigation.

“As of right now, we understand that the interviews that they were going to have and did have as well as the information they were gathering from beyond the player interviews has all happened,” Clark said, per The Boston Globe. “Now we’re just waiting for the decision itself.”

Multiple Red Sox players claim the 2018 team did nothing wrong and that there shouldn't be a punishment coming their way. If MLB does hand down punishments, the expectation is that they won't be severe.

Red Sox prospect quarantined amid coronavirus concerns

Red Sox prospect quarantined amid coronavirus concerns

The Boston Red Sox are playing it safe with one of their prospects during spring training. Not because of anything injury-related, but because of the coronavirus.

Taiwanese right-hander Chih-Jung Liu is being quarantined in a hotel room, as a team spokesman said the organization is using “an overabundance of caution" to guard against the virus, per The Boston Globe.

Liu, who arrived to the United States for his first spring training after being signed in October, provided an update on his status on his Facebook page. According to The Globe, the 20-year-old says he is "being delivered three meals a day, doing some weight training, and going for an occasional run." He's also spending his time online “watching information about the team” and reading.

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Taiwan currently has 31 confirmed cases of coronavirus to the United States' 57, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Liu flew from Taiwan to San Francisco prior to joining the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla. for spring training.

Liu expects to come out of quarantine and finally join his teammates on Saturday.