Lucchino says keeping Bradley 'an easy decision'
Red Sox rookie outfielder's torrid spring made starting clock on service time irrelevant
BOSTON -- The fans want the best players on the field. The players typically want the best teammates. The manager typically wants the best team.
Owners and front offices want all of that, too, but sometimes there are other things to consider.
In the case of rookie Jackie Bradley Jr., the discussions that surfaced among those in the Red Sox ownership group last month presented a unanimous feeling: Forget the potential cost and put the best nine players on the field.
Assuming the young outfielder sticks around, their decision to put Bradley on the Opening Day roster -- instead of sending him back to the Minors -- might cost the Red Sox a year of contractual control. He could become arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season instead of after 2016 and could become a free agent a year earlier, too.
"[The decision] actually wasn't that hard, given the extraordinary performance he put in at Spring Training," Red Sox president and chief executive officer Larry Lucchino said Friday, speaking to Bradley's .419 average and .507 on-base percentage in 28 Grapefruit League games. "He really earned it."
For a 22-year-old to have as many walks as strikeouts -- 10 of each -- in a Major League camp was certainly impressive. But not every team felt the same way about some of their top prospects, despite strong Spring Training performances.
Rays top prospect Wil Myers had a solid spring, hitting .286 with a .762 OPS. Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud hit .343 with an .872 OPS. Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall Draft pick by the Pirates in 2011, held opponents to a .216 batting average in 10 innings. But of them began the season in the Minors.
But every situation is unique, and not every young prospect is deemed ready for Major League action when Spring Training ends. But some credit could be given to Boston's ownership, which collaborated with general manager Ben Cherington before making the decision on Bradley.
"There were conversations, there always are," Lucchino said. "This is one of the things that came up and we knew what the options were. We thought it was pretty much a consensus that developed at the end of Spring Training.
"We also knew how important it was to get off to a good start."
A depleted Yankees lineup or not, taking two of three in the Bronx was a much better way to start a season than in 2011, when the Red Sox lost their first six games, or in 2012, when the opened 1-5.
With his .429 on-base percentage and above-average defense through three regular-season games, Bradley has contributed to the good start.
"We didn't want to cut any corners with the best team we could put on the field in April," Lucchino said. "That just evolved into a relatively easy decision, even though a lot of other teams decide to go in a different direction [with their top prospects]. For us, it was an easy decision."