FORT MYERS, Fla. — There are still 40 days before the start of the regular season in Cleveland, and Jackie Bradley Jr. knows it doesn’t matter what he says, what the manager says or what the team president says.

Even if it looks like the stars have aligned for him to be the regular center fielder, anything could happen between now and opening day on April 4.

Call him skeptical, but he’s been through this before. Last year, he was optioned to the minors in March.

“You know how I view it,” said Bradley, who started the 2012 season with the Sea Dogs. “Talk is talk. We’ll see once the season comes. Nobody technically knows exactly how everything is going to play out until it’s here.”

But at 25, with more than 300 minor league games and two minor league All-Star Game appearances on his resume, there’s little left for Bradley to prove in the International League. He did all he could at Triple-A Pawtucket last year, hitting .305 with an .853 OPS.

After a late-July call-up, he was presented a regular role on the Red Sox. And from Aug. 9-Sept. 8, he was the best hitter in baseball, hitting .446 with a .489 on-base percentage and 1.441 OPS. In 25 games, he had 24 extra-base hits.

It was enough to convince new club president Dave Dombrowski that Bradley was no longer a questionable prospect who would have to work his way onto the roster. It quickly became evident to Dombrowski, who tried trading for Bradley when he was still the general manager of the Tigers, that Bradley needed to play regularly for the Sox.

Now he’s slotted in as the club’s center fielder, ready to make a career for himself as one of the most exciting players ever to roam Fenway Park, or risk failing for the third time in four years.

The difference is that this time he should have a long leash. The Red Sox have moved Mookie Betts, a franchise player who received MVP votes last season, from center field to right to make room for Bradley. Another trip to the minors would accomplish little.

Even if he starts 0 for 50, Bradley is bound to stay in the lineup. His time is now.

“I’m as ready as I am going to be,” he said. “I’m mentally prepared. Physically prepared. I worked really hard this offseason. I did all I could to get ready.”

The last time he showed what he was fully capable of was his sophomore year at South Carolina in 2011, when he hit .368 with 13 homers in 67 games and led the Gamecocks to a College World Series title – and was drafted in the first round by the Red Sox (40th overall). He was named the most outstanding player at the CWS.

“I didn’t care about anything,” he said. “Just went out there and played. Enjoyed the moment. And moved on to the next day. Didn’t really think about baseball. It was already there. I was just doing it.”

Bradley’s junior year at South Carolina was slowed by injury, but he impressed that summer in the minors. Off a red-hot spring training with the major league team in 2013, he earned an opening-day roster spot in 2013 but was demoted after two weeks. The 2014 season would have been considered a disaster if not for the defense that earned him a spot among the finalists for an American League Gold Glove.

And after he hit as well as he did in 2015, the Red Sox are right back where they started, dreaming of the complete player Bradley is capable of being.

The only holdup is that Manager John Farrell said this week he expects outfielder Chris Young, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, to play against every left-hander, meaning Bradley could see the bench despite hitting .306 against lefties last year.

There’s not much for Bradley left to say. He just wants to go play.

And maybe win that Gold Glove he was nominated for in 2014.

“I honestly never even really thought of it until nominations and stuff came out,” Bradley said. “But now, I want one. That’s my goal. First year, I just wanted to play well. I didn’t think about that. Then seeing that I was nominated, it lit my fire. So I want one.”

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