M’s to Bradley: ‘Rely on us’
SEATTLE – The self-proclaimed bad guy of baseball is regrouping after one rough week with his new team.
The Mariners sat Milton Bradley down following an incident with fans on last week’s road trip and told him not to put so much pressure on himself.
Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said before Monday’s home opener against Oakland that he talked with his slumping slugger after he flipped off heckling fans from the outfield during the fourth inning at Texas on Friday night.
“He opened up and talked about the pressure. We talked a lot about relying on us to alleviate some of that and (how) he doesn’t have to carry this club by himself,” Wakamatsu said.
“He responded to it and was open,” the manager said, adding Bradley was “remorseful” over the incident.
In last week’s opener at Oakland, the 31-year-old well-traveled veteran shattered his bat into splinters after pounding it to the ground in frustration following a strikeout. He was booed all night by his former fans – Bradley spent the 2006 season and part of ’07 with Oakland.
On Thursday, the man who told The Associated Press last month he was baseball’s Kanye West blew kisses to Oakland fans behind third base after he chased a foul pop fly.
Bradley also tipped his batting helmet in the direction of Rajai Davis after the A’s center fielder jumped above the wall to steal Bradley’s second hit – and second home run – of the season from him.
He hasn’t had a hit since. He was 1 for 21 entering Monday, when he batted sixth after a day off on Sunday. He began the season in the cleanup spot.
“We talked and again. It’s trying to get him to understand he doesn’t need to carry this club and put all that pressure on himself,” Wakamatsu said. “There are going to be people looking for him and I understand that, but lead by example. He was remorseful in our conversation. He cares a lot. And lot of fans don’t realize he cares sometimes too much about his performance.
“Doesn’t matter whether you have seven games or seven years, everyone is susceptible to pressure. It’s learning how to deal with it.”
Last month in the spring training camp of his eighth team in 11 seasons, Bradley claimed his own place in the game.
“If I was a musician, I’d be Kanye West. If I was in the NBA, I’d be Ron Artest,” he said. “In baseball, they’ve got Milton Bradley. I’m that guy. You need people like me, so you can point your finger and go, ‘There goes the bad guy.”‘
The Cubs gave him a $30 million, three-year contract before last season, months after he was a 2008 All-Star and hit .321 with a career-high 22 home runs for Texas. In his only season with Chicago, Bradley hit just .257 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in 124 games.
That season began like this one, with Bradley as the Cubs’ cleanup hitter. He lasted just 19 games in Chicago’s prime run-producing spot, batting .179 with two home runs and five RBI there.
His 2009 season ended with the Cubs suspending Bradley after a verbal altercation with their hitting coach.
Wakamatsu said he doesn’t think Bradley’s early self-imposed pressure in Seattle is from batting cleanup.
“I think (it’s) a new start and this club,” the Mariners’ manager said. “I think he has found a comfort level with the ballclub and in that, (he’s) not wanting to let his teammates down.”
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