FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Labels can be tough to get rid of in baseball, and Jackie Bradley Jr. knows there's only one way to get rid of his."I feel like I haven't played my best baseball yet," Bradley said after stroking a single and double for the Red Sox in
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Labels can be tough to get rid of in baseball, and Jackie Bradley Jr. knows there's only one way to get rid of his.
"I feel like I haven't played my best baseball yet," Bradley said after stroking a single and double for the Red Sox in a 4-3 victory over the Rays on Saturday. "That's what I have to do to erase that label."
The label, as you might have heard regarding Bradley, is that he's streaky.
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That streakiness has been a beautiful thing at times, particularly in 2016, when Bradley produced a 29-game hitting streak that included plenty of power and extra-base hits. He went on a similar tear in August 2015.
But the valleys -- which have happened in dramatic fashion in all but one of his seasons (2016) -- have been tough for him to get out of.
At 27 years old and entering his third consecutive season as Boston's everyday center fielder, Bradley feels he has put himself in position to at last be consistent.
"I don't like to feed into that so-called streaky thing. I know what I'm capable of doing and it's just getting back to doing that on a consistent basis," said Bradley. "Obviously the game is about making adjustments, and I want to be able to do that better on the fly."
Bradley thinks his body will be more equipped to produce on a daily basis thanks to the exhaustive work he did with his trainers all winter. That work has left Bradley with a quiet confidence that 2018 could be his most complete season.
"I worked hard. I worked real hard," said Bradley. "It was different in the sense of how I worked. The training I put myself through physically. I'm physically stronger. I'm leaner. I'm in a good mental place."
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After becoming an American League All-Star in 2016, Bradley weathered some injuries last season and endured a dip in performance, slashing .245/.323/.402 with 17 homers and 63 RBIs.
He went home for the offseason knowing he's a better player than that.
"I didn't really change a lot. You're always trying to find ways through an offseason, 'What can I do to get better?'" Bradley said. "For me, I've been working out down here [in Fort Myers] for three, four years. My strength coaches wanted to challenge me because I had gotten so used to doing my normal workouts that they wanted to try something new with me, a lot more advanced workout and I was able to kill it this offseason."
New Red Sox manager Alex Cora looks forward to watching his new center fielder go to work on a daily basis. Everyone already knows what Bradley can do on defense, where he's one of the best.
"I'm a big Jackie Bradley Jr. fan," Cora said. "We've been talking about the body position, the posture. Obviously there's other stuff that goes into it. Breaking balls, fastballs with the batting machines. All that stuff that we feel that are going to help him. At the end, for me, it's just to let him be an athlete. We see what he can do in the outfield, his instincts, his reactions. He will hit. Just a matter of instead of that roller coaster of a season, just try to be consistent."
This isn't to say Bradley won't have slumps. Every player in baseball has them. But Bradley looks forward to making them short this time.
"Continue to work. You're going to go through them," Bradley said. "I feel like good things are to come."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.