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Prospect Bradley parlays impressive spring into starting job

The SportsXchange

Make way for Jackie Bradley Jr.

In the climax to the feel-good story of spring training, the Red Sox selected Bradley to the Opening Day

major league roster Sunday. Bradley will start in left field Monday, according to manager John Farrell,

making the 22-year-old the youngest position player to start Opening Day since second baseman Donnie Sadler

in 1998.

To open a spot on the 40-man roster, the Sox designated first baseman Mauro Gomez for assignment.

"I don't want to say he's unflappable, but at the same time, he has a very consistent approach," Farrell

said of Bradley, who has not played above the Double A level. "He focuses on the things he can control. I

know these can be cliche, but the old adage, he's a young guy that seems very polished at a very early

stage of his pro career. Because of what we know of the individual gives us a lot of confidence and comfort

to put him in the position he finds himself in."

Two months ago, Bradley seemed preordained to start another season in the minors. But David Ortiz's

protracted recovery from an Achilles injury paved the way for the 22-year-old outfielder to make the team

and play every day. Bradley was watching "Life of Pi" on the Red Sox's flight to New York on Saturday night

when Farrell told him he made the team.

"At 35,000 feet, he couldn't jump any higher," Farrell said.

"I said, 'Thank you, I'm ready to get this thing started,'" said Bradley. "I'm pretty excited -- I think

it really hasn't hit me yet, until my name's called then I'm pretty sure I'll probably go numb a little

bit. It's great, it's an honor. I can't wait."

Bradley had a dazzling spring, batting .419 (26-for-62) with two homers, 12 RBI and four doubles and

passing every test imaginable, from adapting to left field to hitting a homer against Phillies ace lefty

Cliff Lee on March 24. The clincher may have come the next day when Bradley came off the bench and lined a

two-run single against tough Orioles reliever Pedro Strop.

"I think he's done a great job," starter Jon Lester said. "He came in with really no expectations of

making the club as far as us or (the media). I would imagine he came in with that expectation, and he's

done a great job of handling everything. He worked his butt off. It's fun to watch him in the outfield. He

gets great jumps on the ball. He's a professional at the plate."
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