BALTIMORE -- It’s time for the Indians to give first baseman Bobby Bradley a chance to prove what he can do at the Major League level.
Throughout Spring Training, the first-base job was a tight race between Bauers and Bradley. Since Bauers was out of options, the Indians wanted to get one last look before moving on, so he earned the Opening Day roster spot. But so far, he’s split time with Yu Chang at first and has hit .190 with a .557 OPS in 43 games, which caused Cleveland to turn to its next option.
“I think just being kind of bluntly honest, when a guy is out of options, you need to take that into consideration as an organization,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And I understand that. It was a difficult conversation with Bobby for sure, but organizationally I think everybody felt like it was the right thing to do. But saying that, and I don't doubt that Jake's gonna hit, I just don't know if it was gonna be with us. Sometimes guys figure it out on their second or third team or a little later in their career. Jake's got the ability to be a good hitter. I don't doubt at some point that somebody will see that.”
Bradley, the team's No. 18 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, got off to a slow start at Triple-A, but over the last handful of games, his bat has started to pick up some steam. In Friday’s doubleheader in Indianapolis, Bradley went 3-for-3 with a double in the first game before launching his ninth homer of the year in the nightcap.
The 25-year-old spent the offseason getting himself in the best shape he could in order to improve his agility and defense at first base, while also maintaining his power at the plate. Francona raved about Bradley’s physical condition all spring, and Bradley batted .303 with a .951 OPS and a team-high 11 RBIs in 13 Cactus League games.
“I think when he first went back, it was a struggle for him,” Francona said. “And we kind of understood that. We knew when we talked to him in Spring Training, it was kind of a bitter pill for him to swallow. So again, part of it is you want to see how guys handle adversity. But we also knew that it could happen. Good part of it is he's been hitting for power and he's started to swing the bat better lately.”
“It was tough, just as it would be with any situation with going down,” Bradley said. “It was just knowing I’m in a good spot and knowing one day I was gonna be able to come up and help these guys win.”
Bradley entered June having recorded just five hits in his previous 34 at-bats (.147), but in his last four games, he’s gone 5-for-15 (.333) with an .800 OPS.
“I felt like I was in a good spot for most of [the season], especially just like mechanically and where I was,” Bradley said. “Had a little hiccup probably like the last two weeks. Just lost it. But I found it again and just keeping track of it and what we got.”
Bradley got his first taste of the big leagues in 2019, appearing in 15 contests. In that short span, he hit a homer, logged five doubles and hit .178 with a .600 OPS. This time, he’s ready to try to earn a permanent role.
“I feel like there’s actually less pressure now in my case,” Bradley said. “With all the moves that happened, it’s just like now they’re looking at me and I get to settle in and get comfortable and play my game.”