JBJ learned of return to Boston at Mookie's wedding

Outfielder aims to rebound after lackluster 2021

March 12th, 2022

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On that whirlwind night more than three months ago when Jackie Bradley Jr. found out he was traded back to the Red Sox, he was essentially at halftime of the wedding of his former roommate and teammate Mookie Betts.

You see, Betts didn’t allow phones at his wedding. At some point between the wedding and the reception, Bradley went to the designated phone station so he could check in with his wife Erin, who was back east and getting ready to go to sleep.

It was a fortuitous time for Bradley to get back online, because another phone call arrived as soon as he ended the call with Erin.

“It was [Brewers president of baseball operations] Dave Stearns,” said Bradley on Saturday in his first comments since the trade. “He said, ‘I just wanted to let you know that we just traded you.’ It just kind of happened so fast. And he was like, ‘It’s back to the Red Sox.’ I was like, ‘Wow.' I didn’t really have anything to say, I was kind of in shock. I was actually still present somewhere else.

“Then I got off the phone with him and I called my wife back and then talked to her for a couple of minutes and then I get off the phone with her again and I talked to [Red Sox chief baseball officer] Chaim [Bloom].”

J.D. Martinez was one of the first members of the Red Sox universe to learn about the trade.

“A lot of the players were there standing next to me [at the phone station],” Bradley said. “J.D. was right beside me. I gave him a hug and said ‘Hey teammate, good to see you again,’ and he was like, ‘What?’ That’s how fast it all happened. In the blink of an eye.”

And less than an hour later, the baseball world shut down due to the lockout and Bradley couldn’t formally reconnect with his old -- and new -- organization until this Saturday, when he rolled into Spring Training looking as if he never left.

“It feels good,” Bradley said. “Obviously has sense of familiarity. But I’m always thankful for an opportunity.”

Now that he is back, Bradley will try to get back to what he was before his one-season stint in Milwaukee, when he hit a career-low .163 with a .497 OPS and only six homers in 387 at-bats.

“I hope so,” said Bradley. “I definitely don’t want the taste of how last year was. The only way to go there is to move on, learn from it and make adjustments.”

As gifted as Bradley is in the outfield, he knows that even the most spectacular defense imaginable couldn’t make up for those unsavory offensive stats.

“The organization [was great]. Everybody was. The training staff. Players, teammates, everything was amazing,” Bradley said. “Obviously I played terrible and I didn’t like the way I performed, but it happens. I’ve got to be better and get better.”

What went wrong in his one season away from the franchise that drafted him in 2011?

“Everything,” Bradley said. “Everything was bad last year. So do the opposite of what you did last year.”

What Bradley has always done is work hard. And that’s what he will do again in his quest to get his career back on track.

“I think that’s a daily thing," Bradley said. "You see things you want to work on and improve, but all that stuff isn’t going to happen until the actual season. Do it in Spring Training all you want but the season is what counts.”

This Spring Training will be a quick one. The Red Sox open 2022 for keeps on April 7 at Yankee Stadium. That will put Bradley in a bit of a sprint to repair his swing.

“It is what it is,” Bradley said. “You have to make the best of your circumstances.”

It will be interesting to see how Bradley is deployed by manager Alex Cora. Kiké Hernández did an outstanding job in center field last year while filling Bradley’s sizable shoes. And there is now a vacancy in right field, given that Hunter Renfroe was traded to the Brewers for Bradley and two prospects (Alex Binelas and David Hamilton).

It could be that Bradley goes to center, with Hernández rotating between the outfield and second base. Or Bradley could play right, which is a crucial position at Fenway Park.

In a normal offseason, Bradley would have a better idea of Cora’s plans. But players weren’t allowed to be in contact with their organizations during the lockout.

“I have no sense of anything,” said Bradley. “I haven’t talked to him. Things just happened to open back up yesterday.”

It was hard not to notice how comfortable Bradley -- sporting a long-sleeve Red Sox warm-up shirt -- looked to be back in familiar surroundings. That went for his whole family.

Erin roamed around with the couple’s two children, reuniting with familiar faces. Emmerson Bradley, all of four years old, sprinted around Fenway South like she owned it. One-year-old Jax was in the stroller soaking in his new surroundings and emerging on foot at times to work on his swing. In June, Erin is scheduled to deliver the family's second daughter.

And Spring Training life is certainly easier again with the Bradley family residing in Naples, Fla., about 30 miles from Fenway South.

Could JBJ have ever imagined a Red Sox reunion this quickly?

“Baseball is strange,” Bradley said. “I don’t think you can really look too deep into things. Maybe it was meant to be.”