MILWAUKEE -- As painful as 2021 has been for veteran outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. throughout the season, lately it’s been worse.
Bradley has recently been dealing with plantar fasciitis, inflammation of a thick band of tissue along the bottom of the foot that causes a searing sensation while, say, running around in center field. Bradley tested his ability to run the bases early Monday afternoon before starting the series opener against the Cardinals for the Brewers, who were already short of outfielders with Lorenzo Cain coming back from a right groin issue and Tyrone Taylor on the injured list rehabbing an oblique strain.
“They said he’s in a lot of pain, and yet he’s playing today,” hitting coach Andy Haines said. “That shows you right there what he’s about. That means a lot to a lot of people in there [in the clubhouse]. The fact he’s struggling, and he’s hurting, how easy would it be for him to back off? But no, it’s, ‘I’m playing.’
“I wish I had the answers for him, for his sake. I wish he wasn’t going through this. But I know you have to keep going, don’t give in. We’ve seen it; you’ve seen guys where something clicks at the biggest time of the season here. Who’s to say this guy won’t be our most impactful player? That’s baseball, man. That can happen, as crazy as it sounds to a lot of people who have seen the season he’s had. For us who have been around the game, we know that can happen because we’ve seen it.”
Unfortunately for Bradley, who came to the Brewers on a complicated two-year free agent deal during Spring Training, it has not happened to date. He entered Monday with 411 plate appearances and a .162/.236/.264 slash line, six home runs and 125 strikeouts. His .500 OPS was lowest in the Majors among players with at least 250 plate appearances. In this century, only seven players have finished a season with at least 250 plate appearances and am OPS of .500 or lower, most recently Tyler Saladino of the White Sox (.484 OPS in 279 plate appearances) in 2017.
It’s a confusing thing for a player in Bradley who made the American League All-Star team with Boston in 2016 and came to Milwaukee off a 2020 season in which he posted an .814 OPS during the shortened season after hitting 21 home runs in 2019.
“The most complimentary thing you can say about Jackie is that he’s made a conscious effort to be a great teammate and not have his struggles show outwardly when it’s a really good time for the team,” Haines said. “You know what I mean? Even though for a guy who’s had his success, that has to be really challenging for him.
“What can I say? I think all of us know the stage he’s played on, we know the pedigree and we know that he’s capable any day of showing us that guy. At this point, you can’t walk away from the fact that he’s had a really challenging season. He has not performed up to his expectations. But the only place to go with it is you keep pushing and you keep encouraging him because we know that can show up, and he can make a big impact on us.”
So, the Brewers have stuck with Bradley, whose contract calls for a $6.5 million base salary this season and a $9.5 million player option for ‘22 with a $6.5 million buyout. There’s also a $12 million mutual option for ’23 with an $8 million buyout.
Besides the salary commitment, the Brewers have continued playing Bradley because of his Gold Glove-caliber defense, which has been especially important as Cain has missed three different stretches of his season with lower body injuries.
“He's in a tough stretch right now, for sure,” manager Craig Counsell said. “His at-bats have decreased over the last month. He's struggling right now, but I still think he's a player that's going to impact us at some point and impact us in a big game.
“And we're going to keep counting on him.”
-- Left-hander Brent Suter entered Monday having not pitched in 12 days, an absence attributed to the same stomach bug that befell starter Brandon Woodruff. Suter said he was so sick in Detroit on Wednesday that he barely got out of bed, and instead of traveling home with the team that night he waited until Thursday and drove back to Milwaukee. By the weekend, he was feeling better again.
-- As they closed in on a clinch, the Brewers announced plans for single-game ticket sales for National League Division Series games. Brewers.com Registered Users who reside in Wisconsin will also be able to purchase a day earlier at 10 a.m. CT on Monday, Sept. 27, a day before those tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. CT on Sept. 28. Customers will also have an opportunity to purchase parking passes online, with digital parking passes available on a first-come, first-serve basis. If fans purchase tickets for postseason games that do not occur, the full value of the purchase (including fees) will be refunded to the credit card within 10 business days of the scheduled game.