BOSTON (CBS) – He put up monster numbers and was the talk of Spring Training.
Now, Jackie Bradley Jr. is ready to show his stuff on the Major League level.
When the Red Sox kick off their 2013 season Monday afternoon in New York, the 22-year-old will make his Major League debut. He’ll be manning left field and batting eighth, sporting the #44 and “Bradley Jr.” on the back of his Red Sox jersey.
“I’m pretty excited. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet, not until my name is called. Then I’m pretty sure I’ll go numb a little bit,” he said Sunday afternoon from the Red Sox locker room in Yankees Stadium. “It’s great; it’s an honor and I can’t wait.”
The exciting outfielder will be the first Red Sox player to make his debut with a start on Opening Day since Shea Hillenbrand did it back in 2001. He’ll be the first Boston player to debut on Opening Day against the Yankees since Tony Conigliaro did it in 1964.
With expectations so high for the prospect, one would thing he’d be full of nerves heading into Monday. But that wasn’t the case for the youngest left fielder to open the season for Boston since Carl Yastrzemski.
“I don’t really get nervous, I just try to relax,” he said, before adding there might be a few butterflies come Monday morning. “I’m a pretty easy-going guy, so nerves don’t get to me.”
It was almost a foregone conclusion Bradley would make the club even though he’s never played above Double-A. He finished the spring with a .419 batting average, four doubles, two home runs, 12 RBI and 10 runs scored, and with David Ortiz starting the season on the disabled list, newcomer Jonny Gomes could slide into the DH spot and Bradley Jr. could see some action in left.
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But the Red Sox didn’t make the news official until Sunday, and didn’t let Bradley know until they were en route to New York. He was relaxing, enjoying the movie “Life Of Pi” when manager John Farrell broke the news, giving him what he called “closure.”
Then it was time to alert the masses.
“Mom, dad, coaches, a lot of family members and close friends, the fiance and the people I’m really close with,” he listed. “They were excited, said I worked hard for it and good things come to people who prepare.”
His mom and dad will be at Yankees Stadium on Monday to watch their son begin what is expected to be a long and successful Major League career.
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The ceiling and hype are high for the youngster, but he remains level-headed. His main focus is to stay healthy for the season, and of course, win.
“That’s what we’re here for; to win at all costs. Hopefully everything falls into place.”