Milton Bradley will Begin Season as M's Cleanup Hitter

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Milton Bradley sat out his only chance toplay his former team this spring.

He shouldn't get used to the day off.

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu gave Bradley a peculiarly timedSunday off against the Chicago Cubs but said Seattle's winteracquisition will be his everyday cleanup hitter to begin theseason.

"Milton right now feels good," Wakamatsu said, before pitchingbatting practice to Bradley and then taking him inside to a battingcage for extra work Sunday morning. "We're pretty confident he'sgetting the at-bats he needs and he's going to be fine. We thinkhe's in a good place."

Sunday's rest defused a potentially touchy reunion with theCubs, for whom the 31-year-old former All-Star began a tumultuous2009 in the cleanup spot. He lasted just 19 games in that placewith Chicago, batting .179 with just two home runs and five RBI atcleanup. He hit just .257 overall with 12 home runs and 40 RBIbefore getting suspended by the team for a run-in with his hittingcoach. He later said the team and city mistreated him.

That prompted a response earlier in spring training from Cubsgeneral manager Jim Hendry, who said: "I think it's time maybeMilton looked himself in the mirror. He just didn't swing the bat.He didn't get the job done. It's really unfortunate that you ...try to use the other areas for excuses."

Hendry said signing Bradley to a three-year, $30 millioncontract before last season was "a mistake." He added theatmosphere of the entire organization has improved since theoutfielder was traded to Seattle for pitcher Carlos Silva inDecember.

Sunday, Bradley cut off an attempt for an interview by threeChicago writers by saying "no chance" and "beat it." He toldthe writers "you ran me out of town," then flashed a peace signand said, "peace."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella asked about Bradley before the game.

"How's Milton doing? Tell him I said hi," Piniella said.

"He got off to a little bit of a rocky start with the bat. He'scertainly very capable of being a productive fourth hitter. He'sover there in Seattle, and we wish him well."

Piniella said he didn't think the media "ran" Bradley out ofChicago.

"I don't think the media was unfair to anybody," he said."Look, the amazing thing about Milton was he played in a lot ofball games and he played hard when he played. He just didn't,offensively, do the things that Jim envisioned when we brought himover here. But, look, he's a Mariner. We got Silva. We're happywith Silva, he's in our rotation. So let's hope that both playershave a positive impact for both teams."

Bradley has generally been a happy camper with the Mariners thismonth. He's been laughing alongside locker neighbor Ken Griffey Jr.and stealing bases, plowing into catchers at the plate anddevilishly laying down bunts during spring games.

Last week, the former Expo, Indian, Dodger, Athletic, Padre,Ranger and Cub told The Associated Press: "If I was a musician,I'd be Kanye West. If I was in the NBA, I'd be Ron Artest. Inbaseball, they've got Milton Bradley.

"I'm that guy. You need people like me, so you can point yourfinger and go, 'There goes the bad guy."'

The offensively challenged Mariners are in need of a happy,productive Bradley - or a happy, productive anyone.

Wakamatsu reiterated that the No. 3 hitter ahead of Bradley, inthe other key run-production spot, will be new first baseman CaseyKotchman. Kotchman has never hit more than 12 home runs or drivenin more than 68 runs in a season, and is better known as adefensive whiz.

Wakamatsu says Bradley will play left field most days forSeattle. He will also be an occasional designated hitter againstleft-handed starters to give the 40-year-old Griffey a break.Griffey had his second arthroscopic knee surgery in 12 months inOctober to remove a bone spur.

"I've talked to Milton about being the DH against somelefties," Wakamatsu said. "Given the issues we've had withGriffey's knee, we can massage (the lineup)."

Though he struggled in the cleanup spot for the Cubs, Bradleyhas thrived there previously. The two seasons the former leadoffhitter batted cleanup the most were in 2003 and '08. He hit .321 in'03 during his final season with Cleveland, and again had a .321average with a career-high 22 home runs and was an All-Star withTexas while batting fourth 114 times in '08.

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