Alex Cora on OMF: When Jackie Bradley Jr. 'gets rolling, he gets rolling'

Cover Image
Photo credit Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Making his weekly appearance on Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on WEEI on Wednesday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora had high praise for center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who’s been on a tear over the last few weeks as one of Boston’s most consistent hitters.

The Gold Glove outfielder is a notoriously streaky hitter, but he’s been on an upswing since mid-May, amidst one of the better hot streaks of his career. Cora, for one, can’t figure out how the streaks come and go.

"I wish I knew,” Cora said. “It's been two years, one thing's for sure, he started hitting earlier this year than last year, he started here in Toronto. I don't want to say that he's stubborn, because he works. He gets into bad habits and takes him a while to get out of that. He switches a lot to get that feeling or get that swing, and Lou (Merloni) knows, the toe tap and the leg kick, and all this stuff, and all of a sudden, I think it was here (in Toronto) that he hit a home run opposite field, and the next day he does the same thing, he goes to Houston and takes (Ryan) Pressly center field, and from there he took off.”

Alex Cora isn't sure how to explain Jackie Bradley Jr's wide gap between this struggles and success:"It's just a matter of maintaining his swing and maintaining his gameplan"#DirtyWater #RedSox

— OMF (@OMFonWEEI) July 3, 2019

When Bradley Jr. took Elvis Luciano deep to left at Rogers Centre on May 20, he’d come into the day slashing a horrific .144/.245/.176, one of the worst stat lines in all of baseball. Since that game, his slash line of .328/.423/.634 is one of the very best, with his 1.057 OPS ranking eighth among players with at least 100 appearances over that stretch. Those numbers are best among Red Sox hitters in that span, just ahead of Rafael Devers.

“He's that talented, he's that strong, and when he gets rolling, he gets rolling,” Cora said. “Now it's just a matter of maintaining his swing and maintaining his gameplan, I think that's the most important thing, and he's been able to do that for what, 40 games now."

Bradley Jr. was strikeout rate was nearly 30 percent during his cold start, a number he’s cut down to 20.7 percent over the last six weeks. His average is way up, his power is way up, his strikeouts are way down, and his production is through the roof as a result, as is his confidence.

“You can see it, the way he's talking in the dugout and the way he's walking towards the plate, there's a lot of confidence right now,” said Cora. “It feels like that swing, where he's at right now, very athletic and the hands where they're at, it gives him a chance to go direct to the ball and that's what we want.”

His numbers for the season are only now approaching an average level, with the hot streak balancing out the cold start, but Bradley Jr. has found a way to come through in big moments day after day for Cora and the Red Sox, and along with Bogaerts and Devers has kept the offense rolling when Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez haven’t quite reproduced last season’s results at the plate in 2019. JBJ’s nine homers and 30 RBIs since May 20 are both second on the team behind only Devers, his 12 doubles are third behind Devers and Bogaerts, and Cora believes there’s even more power to be tapped into.

“He has as much power as anybody in this team,” the skipper said. “His batting practice is fun to watch, yesterday he hit one straight center to the restaurant here in Toronto, and we were like, you know what, just go to the clubhouse. Don't swing anymore.”

Jackie Bradley Jr. is 8-for-12 with a HR and 0 strikeouts in his last 3 games. He has a .511 OBP in his last 10 games.Beginning May 20, Bradley has a .326/.424/.636/1.059 batting line. In that time, his season OPS has increased more than 300 points, from .421 to .746.

— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) July 2, 2019

As Cora said, when Bradley Jr. gets rolling, he gets rolling, and he’s done so at the right time.