|No apologies from Bradley, just hard-nosed approach|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 07 March 2008 12:32|
Not for losing his temper, his run-ins with umpires and managers, or anything else in his enigmatic career.
``Whatever is the past is the past,'' Bradley said bluntly after warning a reporter that he'd cut short an interview if questions got personal. ``If you look at me and don't like me, then you've got a problem, I don't.''
In the clubhouse of the Texas Rangers, his sixth team in eight seasons, Bradley seems at ease. There are some dance moves alongside Marlon Byrd to the loud music blaring through the room, then a laugh shared during a conversation with a non-roster player.
``I'm not trying to please anybody,'' Bradley said. ``If the guys in here like me, then that's all I care about.''
Rangers manager Ron Washington, an Oakland assistant in 2006 when Bradley was there, doesn't expect - or want - Bradley to change.
``The same Milton I met for the first time, I just know he's a winner and if we get him healthy, he's going to be very productive,'' Washington said Friday.
The at-ease moments in the clubhouse are a side of Bradley that most don't get to see.
Instead, he is often associated with more-public temperamental incidents.
Bradley slammed a plastic bottle at the feet of a fan in the right-field seats at Dodger Stadium in 2004 after someone threw it on the field. With San Diego in the pennant chase last September, he tore the ACL in his right knee when he was spun to the ground by Padres manager Bud Black, who was trying to keep him from an umpire.
``I don't have any apologies to give about anything I've ever done,'' Bradley said before referring to a former major leaguer who works for the Dodgers. ``Sweet Lou Johnson told me don't apologize about stuff when you ain't sorry, so I'm not going to be doing that anymore.''
He was suspended for five games after slamming the bottle, and had a four-game suspension for tossing a bag of balls onto the field after an ejection. There was a dugout confrontation with Cleveland manager Eric Wedge during spring training in 2004 before getting traded to Los Angeles.
Bradley claimed umpire Mike Winters baited the player into the confrontation and directed a profanity at him last September. Winters was suspended the final five days of the regular season and didn't work the postseason.
Despite past incidents and being unable to play spring games now while rehabbing from the knee surgery, Bradley has gained the respect of teammates in Texas, as he did on previous teams, with his work ethic.
``You can never say the guy dogs it,'' pitcher Kevin Millwood said. ``You can tell just seeing him around the clubhouse that he's focused and he wants to play.''
Washington said Bradley has been on the bench during games, and quick to the dugout steps to congratulate teammates for things as simple as advancing a runner.
``He's a warmhearted guy, and he really cares and all he wants to do is be treated with respect, and you know, people just misconstrued his reputation,'' Washington said. ``He is a very, very, very likable guy, but once he puts on that uniform and gets between the lines, he's ready to beat you.''
When he's been healthy, the 29-year-old Bradley has proven himself a solid player (.273 career hitter in 691 games). But the outfielder has been on the disabled list 12 times since 2002 and played more than 101 games only once in his career.
Bradley said he finally reached the point this week where he could ``go out there and do what I want and not really think about it.''
He could start hitting in minor league games by the middle of next week, then will be the designated hitter in some Rangers games before playing the outfield.
It's not clear if Bradley will be ready to start in right field for the March 31 season opener. If not, he plans to DH in the middle of the batting order.
``Whatever happens, I'm going to be in there, and that's a win for me,'' Bradley said. ``I've worked hard to get be able to get back. At six months with an ACL, that's pretty remarkable.''
After being traded from Oakland last season, Bradley hit .313 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in 42 games with the Padres, who came up one victory shy of the playoffs. He hit .306 in 61 games overall with four DL stints (hamstring, oblique and calf muscle), and that didn't include the knee.
San Diego offered a one-year deal, but not salary arbitration. Bradley got $5.25 million from Texas and could earn an additional $2.75 million in performance bonuses.
``He's going to be great for this team. This team needed a little fire,'' Byrd said. ``You've got guys on (other) teams that, it's like when you see them and it really bothers you when you watch them play. ... Then you meet them and he's a great guy. But playing against him, you just can't stand him.''
That description fits Bradley perfectly.