Former Gamecock Bradley likely headed for big leagues

FORT MYERS, FLA (WACH) - There are just a few more days until the major league baseball season starts and former Gamecock standout Jackie Bradley, Jr. is still stealing the show.

Whether he's stealing bases as part of the Boston Red Sox roster come Opening Day, though, remains a mystery.

The organization made several roster moves on Thursday, but, still no decision on Bradley.

"I don't really know the chances, I don't worry about it. I sleep well at night," Bradley told the Boston Herald. "They're pretty good at keeping secrets, I'm telling you."

Bradley has been one of the hottest stories of spring training, with a batting average of better than .400 and on-base percentage above .500, numbers few have posted this spring. And even fewer players with zero big league experience.

The outfielder impressed in the Red Sox minor-league system last summer, hitting .315 with nine home runs in 128 games. But, bringing him up to the major-leagues for the start of the season has been a confounding issue for the Boston brass after Bradley's first spring training camp.

When spring camp started, the Red Sox made it clear Bradley was due to return to the minors, possibly even going back to Double-A Portland where he finished last season. That was before he turned spring training into his personal coming-out party by winning over fans, teammates and management with his discipline, energy, sound fundamentals and electrifying play.

That mystery Bradley mentioned about the Red Sox organization was reinforced by manager John Farrell this week, who also gave a not-so-subtle endorsement for the burgeoning star.

"We're certainly not afraid or unwilling to break camp with him. If that were the case, we'd have sent him down four weeks ago,'' said Farrell.

The most compelling reason not to put one of South Carolina's most revered players ever on the Opening Day roster appears to be a business decision. Putting Bradley on the Opening Day roster would make him eligible for free agency in 2018. If the Red Sox send Bradley to Triple-A affliate Pawtucket for the first nine games of the season, he wouldn't be eligible for free agency until 2019.

However, Bradley has an eager Boston fanbase on his side. After missing the playoffs the past few seasons, the storied franchise wants back in the postseason, and Boston sports radio buzzes about riding Bradley's hot streak into Fenway Park to start the season. It might not be a bad idea for a team that will likely be on the fringe of the playoff picture in a solid American League East. A few losses in the first nine games of the season while Bradley sits in the minors could mean all the difference come playoff time. And the backlash for management would not be pleasant.

Boston invested close to $70 million in new players for the 2013 campaign after a disastrous 2012 that saw the firing of manager Bobby Valentine after one dreadful season in which the Red Sox lost 93 games. They could be closer to winning that many in 2013.

With designated hitter David Ortiz on the shelf for the early part of the season , the future may be now for Bradley, at least temporarily. If he is not playing every day, Boston has made it clear JBJ will not be staying at the big-league level permanently.

"I've never been the type to stress over anything. If you can't control it, there's no need to let it affect you," Bradley continued to the Boston Herald. "I didn't really think about or fathom the possibility of playing in the big leagues, it was just more, make a good impression, get my work in, and learn from the veteran guys, see what they have to offer."

A sense of urgency to win now though will likely make Jackie Bradley, Jr. a part of Boston's Opening Day roster and at least give its fanbase an exciting look at the future for a few weeks. Boston has until noon on Sunday to file its 25-man roster,

Gamecock Nation enjoyed his excitement for three years while Bradley patrolled the outfield at Carolina Stadium, and they'll be more than happy to see him do the same on one of the biggest stages in the game.

(The Boston Herald and contributed to this report.)