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Ryan Sweeney in a tough spot as Red Sox phenom Bradley rises

Boston Herald

March 26. 2013 9:47PM
New York Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis, right, talks with Boston Red Sox right fielder Ryan Sweeney (25) prior to the game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

SARASOTA, Fla. - By now, a decade after being drafted by the Chicago White Sox, Ryan Sweeney knows that spring training statistics aren't the best determinant of whether a player should make a team.

Sometimes, though, the numbers are impossible to ignore.

As much as any player in Red Sox camp, Sweeney is being affected by the seemingly unstoppable force of 22-year-old outfield phenom Jackie Bradley Jr. If not for Bradley, Sweeney may have sewn up a spot on the Opening Day roster.

But with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and assistant GM Mike Hazen both in attendance here Monday, Bradley came off the bench and stroked two more hits - including a two-run, pinch-hit single against tough Orioles set-up man Pedro Strop, no less - to hike his Grapefruit League-leading average to .444 (24-for-54).

"And what was even more impressive is after a day (Monday) where some left-handers tied him up a little bit, he came back against a left-hander with quality stuff and put a good swing on the ball," manager John Farrell said, referring to Bradley's standup triple in the ninth inning of a 12-9 loss. "Very consistent approach."

Bradley's breakthrough spring even left him joking about having to do some last-minute apartment-hunting in Boston.

"Live on the couch?" he said. "I'll do it - if someone's got a pull-out couch."

So, maybe nobody even noticed that Sweeney went 0-for-4?

Acquired in the December 2011 trade that sent outfielder Josh Reddick to the Oakland A's, Sweeney re-signed with the Red Sox in January.

But as a condition of his minor league deal, the 28-year-old outfielder can request his release Thursday if the Sox don't at least commit to adding him to their 40-man roster, which presently is filled to capacity.

"I was kind of thinking about it a couple weeks ago, but now, I'm just tired of wasting my energy," Sweeney said Monday. "Hopefully I don't have to worry about it and will just be on the team. But if not, the opt-out (clause) is there to use."

After working with Hall of Famer Rod Carew on his swing this winter, Sweeney is 10-for-45 (.222) with one double this spring. But he isn't focused on the numbers.

"I've talked to a lot of guys about it, and spring training is kind of a false thing," Sweeney said. "You're not going to be facing No. 87 during the season. It's one of those things where, unfortunately, sometimes you get judged on spring training.

"But when you've been around a while, you know what type of player you're going to get. I'm going to go out there and play good defense and put good at-bats together. If that's what they want, hopefully I'll be on the team."

Yanks pick up Overbay

The New York Yankees signed first baseman Lyle Overbay to a minor-league deal Tuesday, hours after he was released by the Boston Red Sox, according to a Newsday report.

The 36-year-old batted .259 in 131 plate appearances for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves last season. He was pushed out of Boston's first-base picture after the team's acquisition of Mike Carp.

He may find playing time with the Yankees due to the wrist injury suffered by Mark Teixeira.

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