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JBJ showing signs of offensive turnaround

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- Though Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting just .181 on the season and was not in the starting lineup for Friday's series opener at Fenway Park against the Mariners, manager Alex Cora will continue to play the center fielder on a regular basis.

With lefty Wade LeBlanc on the mound for the Mariners, Cora played J.D. Martinez in left field, moved Andrew Benintendi to center and inserted Blake Swihart as the DH.

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BOSTON -- Though Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting just .181 on the season and was not in the starting lineup for Friday's series opener at Fenway Park against the Mariners, manager Alex Cora will continue to play the center fielder on a regular basis.

With lefty Wade LeBlanc on the mound for the Mariners, Cora played J.D. Martinez in left field, moved Andrew Benintendi to center and inserted Blake Swihart as the DH.

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Despite the numbers, Cora thinks there has been an improvement to Bradley's approach of late. Bradley will be back in the lineup on Saturday against righty Mike Leake.

"As far as work, and where we want him to be swing-wise, he is where we want him to be," Cora said. "If somebody has an idea to change his luck as far as line drives, hey, they're more than welcome [to share]. I was looking at the numbers.

"In Baltimore, I think he hit the ball harder than anybody else, and he was 0-for-12. Yesterday he hit one at 96 mph, the other one at 103, and then he finally got a ground ball that went through. So he's in a good spot. Been consistent with his leg kick. He's been on time. Is he swinging and missing? Yeah, but he's still barreling balls, which is very important."

Bradley's defense remains exceptional enough in center that the Red Sox feel it is worth it to wait for his bat to come around.

Video: BOS@MIN: Bradley Jr. launches hardest throw of '18

"The one thing about him that's impressive is when that at-bat is over, he grabs that glove and he plays elite center field, and that's not easy to do," Cora said. "Especially in the outfield when you have all that time to think about mechanics and pitch sequences and everything, and you see him in the outfield, moving guys around, just taking charge, which is very impressive.

"I bet it's hard, honestly. We live in an era where we look up at the stadium, and you look up, and there's a lot of numbers. When you see that average below .200, of course it has to be tough. But I'm very proud of him. When he hits a ground ball, he's running hard to first base. When his teammates aren't doing well, he's there for them, and defensively, he's doing an outstanding job."

Post All-Star break seems likely for Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia hasn't played for the Red Sox since May 29, and he still hasn't been cleared for full baseball activities. At this point, it seems more likely than not that Pedroia's return will come after the All-Star break.

"Honestly, the more he stays away from baseball activities, the more he has to reset, let's be honest," said Cora. "It took him a while to come back. The more he stays away from the field, the longer it's going to be."

Pedroia had a cartilage restoration procedure and microfracture surgery on his left knee last October. His recovery had been going smoothly through a Minor League rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket. But after three games with the Red Sox, Pedroia developed inflammation and soreness and had to go back on the disabled list.

Any progress for Pedroia?

"Same deal. A little bit sore, walking on the treadmill, no baseball activity," said Cora.

'First step' for Pomeranz

Lefty Drew Pomeranz was able to throw off a mound on Friday, marking the first time he has done so since he went on the disabled list with left biceps tendinitis at the beginning of June.

"I think it's just the first step, honestly," said Cora. "It's been awhile now because of the neck [stiffness], and it's the first step of his comeback. It's been awhile because of what happened, so we've just got to be patient."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr., Dustin Pedroia, Drew Pomeranz