So, was it worth it?
Friday would have marked the moment the Red Sox could have called up Jackie Bradley while guaranteeing that his free agent eligibility would not arrive until after the 2019 season, as opposed to following '18, if they had chosen to start the outfielder in the minors.
The Red Sox stand at 5-4, and are 4-4 in games Bradley has played in. And while he will remain with the team for at least a few more games, the question will once again be resurfaced: Was he the best option to fill-in for David Ortiz over that first 1 1/2 weeks?
John Farrell doesn't hesitate when identifying the roster move as being the right one to make.
"He's contributed in every area of the game, defensively, on the basepaths and at the plate. I think he has had a direct impact on two, possibly three, wins for us in the early part of the season," the Red Sox manager said. "And it's not always reflected in the batting average. It's a defensive play in New York. It's a baserunning play in that same series. It's drawing a key walk in middle innings to either start an inning, or rally within an inning. In Jackie's case I think you have to look beneath the batting as to the impact that he's made."
When analyzing the commitment to put Bradley on the Opening Day roster, there will be naysayers armed with a variety of ammunition for their arguments. There was the faction -- especially after Game 1 in the Bronx -- that suggested the move was simply too risky because the 22-year-old was so good the Red Sox wouldn't get a chance to find the 20 days in the minor leagues necessary to keep his free agency clock delayed until after '19.
And now, with Bradley in the worst slump of his short professional career, there is another faction that suggests it has been far too risky a proposition to potentially derail the outfielder's development. The early-season failures -- hitting .120 with a .313 on-base percentage, eight strikeouts and a .473 OPS -- wasn't what the youngster needed at this point in his career.
But the reality is that neither one of those sort of talking points hold water.
Bradley will most likely be sent down to the minors late next week when Ortiz returns, allowing for at least 20 days back at Triple-A to keep his natural free agent-eligibility intact. And as for denting his confidence, judging by the reflection by those in the Sox' clubhouse, this stretch should be viewed more as valuable on-the-job training, the likes of which he was never going to get until his immersion into the majors.
"It's just all an adjustment period," Bradley said. "I'm going to be just fine, I promise."
So that leads the conversation to whether or not he has actually helped the team win.
Farrell's analysis that Bradley has had a direct impact on "two, possibly three" wins isn't hyperbole. Certainly you look at moments in those initial pair of wins in New York and there might not have been a bigger catalyst in the Red Sox' lineup than the rookie. He scored all four times he reached base, saw the second-most pitches of any Sox hitter (48) and offered up above-average defense.
Even in the Red Sox' third win of the season, in Toronto, Bradley contributed to the visitors' first run with a second-inning single, while reaching base two more times in the victory.
But after that fourth game of the season, that's when major league reality set in. Over his last four starts, Bradley has still made a few standout defensive plays (see the running shoestring catch in Thursday's loss), but offensively he hasn't been able to counter his opponents' adjustments, going 0 for his last 14 with six strikeouts and three walks.
"I'm missing my pitches. I'll see a good pitch and I'll feel like I put a good swing on it and I'll foul it back. That's the frustrating part about it because I know those are the pitches I'm normally hitting and squaring up," said Bradley, who has scored five of the nine times he has reached base. "You really can't do much after you hit it. Like I said, they'll start falling in holes eventually.
"It's one of those periods, every hitter goes through it. Like I said, I'm willing to work through it. It definitely is not going to affect me in the long-run."
"They've probably exploited the inside part of the plate on him a little bit more," Farrell said. "The one thing that has shown up a little bit is that in spring training or even the first series of the year, early in the count when he swung the bat, he was getting his pitch and he was squaring some pitches up. Now those pitches are being fouled back. In just talking with him, it doesn't look to me like he's over-swinging the bat or trying to make up for previous at-bats. But he knows he's gotten some pitches that he hasn't quite squared up as he's done previously. The one thing that hasn't changed is that he's still fought his way back deep into counts. He'll drive a pitch count up. But yet they've exploited that inside part of the plate on him."
In fact, as painful as it is to watch now, this will likely help expedite Bradley's emergence into a legitimate major-leaguer.
He has garnered the kind of understanding of what pitchers will try to do to him that never could have been uncovered in Pawtucket, no matter how many at-bats he managed there. With the more subtle parts of his game still contributing to major league wins -- albeit now with an occasional episode where he is pinch-hit for, as was the case Thursday -- Bradley's nine games of experience have been worth it to both the player and the organization.
And if you're looking for another example of what such a short stint can mean to a young player, just listen to Will Middlebrooks.
"My first game against Baltimore, I swung at a first-pitch slider away, and then, boom, they pounded me in, pounded me in and got me to ground out," the third baseman remembered regarding his second major league game, last May. "The next series in Kansas City they tried to do that to me. I was like, 'Wow! That's what they're trying to do to me and it was just one game.' I knew it was time to start watching some video. That made me take it the next level. I was always told how important it was, but I didn't know until I experienced it. David [Ortiz] helped me a lot with video, how to work everything and what to look for.
"The second time around, when we played Baltimore, Tommy Hunter threw a lot of cutters and I hadn't seen good cutters, really. So I see a ball start middle-away I'm going at it because that's a lot of my strength. But his ball would cut off the plate and he would rarely throw it for strikes. I finally got to where I knew it was coming, and knowing most of his fastballs, if he went away they were going to run off the plate. It was hard for me to take that pitch because it was starting right where I wanted it. But I got to it where I was taking that pitch, and I realized how much video was helping me."
And video analysis is just part of the equation.
Bradley -- like some other players -- prefers to limit his video intake so as to not lead his mind into too many directions. But he does watch some, while consistently asking questions of his teammates, coaches and manager, looking for answers to questions he has never had to previously ask.
"They're always trying to help me," he said. "They tell me, 'Make sure you stay in there mentally. Make sure you're not zoning out or getting down on yourself.' Like I said, it's only been seven or eight games. It's a long season. Whatever comes up I'm willing to weather the storm.
And as for the video work goes, he said, "I just try and play the game. Of course I'll check it out here or there, but it's not something I study. If anything I watch video on pick-off moves and stuff like that. I guess video wasn't heavily available back in the minor leagues or college ball. I don't want to get so tied up in video. I want to see it in person first and then maybe study it. Video isn't going to help you when you're on the field."
Dustin Pedroia's first eight games saw him .138 with a .339 OPS, and that eventually worked out OK. And remember when Tampa Bay waited until the magical April 12, 2008, date to promote Evan Longoria due to the same service time concerns facing Bradley? A month into his big league tenure, the third basemen was hitting .211, but his team still managed a 16-11 mark during that span on the way to eventually making the World Series.
The results might not be what Bradley expected, but to a large degree the outcome hasn't come as too much of a surprise. Although the initial downturn has arrived faster than the player or organization might have hoped for, it is understood -- this is what happens to first-time big leaguers. It's a stretch both the rookie and his team will survive.
"Things are going to come around like they should," Bradley said. "I'm willing to work at it."