South Carolina sophomore center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. will miss four to eight weeks after breaking his right hand, the Gamecocks announced Sunday. South Carolina associate head coach Chad Holbrook said in a text message that the break apparently happened on a swing and miss in practice Saturday.
"We will get him back before SEC play," Holbrook said. "Gonna have to circle the wagons. I think we will."
Holbrook said the doctor who did the surgery said Bradley could be back to action by the second week of March. In that best-case scenario, Bradley would miss weekend series against Duquesne, East Carolina and Clemson.
Bradley hit .349/.431/.537 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs to earn first-team freshman All-America honors in 2009, and he was expected to be the centerpiece of South Carolina's offense as a sophomore. In my preseason "Three Strikes" column that ran in the College Preview magazine issue that was sent to press last week, Bradley was one of two players predicted to make the leap to superstar status in 2010 (Virginia's Steven Proscia was the other). Maybe that will still happen for Bradley in 2010, but it won't happen right away, and it's possible this broken hand could hinder him even when he returns to action.
Obviously, this is a significant blow for the No. 10 Gamecocks, who might also be without slugging first baseman Nick Ebert when the season starts. As of the start of spring practice on Jan. 29, Ebert was still academically ineligible, and South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said it was "unlikely" he'd be ruled eligible by the Opening Day.
But, as Holbrook said, it could be worse for the Gamecocks. It would have been a lot worse if Bradley had gotten hurt in April.
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