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Bradley, Drew Talk It Out

Times Staff Writer

With Manager Jim Tracy seemingly uncertain how to handle a delicate situation involving center field, the two players who expressed desire to play there got together and ironed it out.

Funny how simply standing together in the outfield during batting practice and chatting can clear up a problem.

Milton Bradley and J.D. Drew shared with each other their reasons for wanting to play center and extended an olive branch.

“He was telling me he’s not trying to step on any toes,” Bradley said. “We are in agreement that we want what’s best for the team. We want everybody to fulfill his potential.

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“I’m more comfortable in center field; he doesn’t want me to be uncomfortable. If he can play right field without aggravating his knee, that would be great. But if his knee is acting up, he’ll let me know and he can shift over for a couple of weeks.”

Drew had major knee surgery after the 2002 season and partially blamed the injury on having to come to abrupt stops after chasing balls into the right-field corner. The knee gave him no problems last season.

“I talked to Milton just to clarify that I’m not here to take his position,” he said. “I let him know the main reason I was thinking about center field was to put less pressure on my knee.

“Our outfield can be the best in baseball with the speed we have. So we talked about a lot of things, positioning, communicating before the pitch, all sorts of stuff.”

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Bradley willingly moved from center to right last season after Steve Finley was acquired at the trading deadline. He didn’t talk about it at the time, but the move made him apprehensive.

“My first game in right was in San Diego, and my heart was beating out there,” he said. “I felt out of position. I didn’t get a flyball until about the seventh inning, and until I did, I didn’t feel right.”

Tracy said he planned to use not only Bradley and Drew in center during spring games, but also Jayson Werth and Ricky Ledee. Werth is the starting left fielder, and Ledee is the fourth outfielder.

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It was photo day Sunday, and the Dodgers donned game uniforms without their names on the backs for the first time. Nobody really seems to care about the absence of names, but several players commented that the numbers ought to be larger to help fill the space where names would have gone.

“If putting my name on the back helps me hit a slider, I’d like it there,” Werth said. “But it doesn’t, so I don’t care.”

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Closer Eric Gagne said he was nearly recovered from the mild knee strain that has kept him from practicing for three days. He plans to resume practicing before Wednesday.... Left-hander Mike Venafro, who had been sidelined for several days because of a pulled hamstring, threw Sunday.... Rain washed out practice, but pitchers threw in the bullpen and position players hit in the batting cage. Brad Penny had another strong bullpen session, increasing the number of pitches he threw to 50.... Odalis Perez said he believed his biceps soreness is the result of weightlifting and not pitching. He expects to resume throwing in two or three days.... Tracy and General Manager Paul DePodesta began holding individual meetings with position players and will continue to do so through Tuesday.

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