PEORIA, Ariz. - Off to the side of a batting cage, alone with his thoughts, Milton Bradley sat on a bucket of baseballs Friday and pondered his swing.
In mid-ponder, he glanced to his right and saw not one, not two but three photographers capturing his moment.
This did not sit well with Bradley.
“There’s plenty of other guys on the field, take their pictures,” he said, more grumpy than truly mad. “No more pictures of me!”
As Seattle Mariners camp has gone through five days, that ranked as an explosion of emotion – yes, it’s been that quiet at Camp Wedge all week.
As explosions go, it wasn’t much. Years earlier, on the same fields, Ken Griffey Jr. would chase photographers off when he was feeling out of sorts. And Kevin Mitchell? You don’t want to know.
Bradley’s first day in camp came the day position players reported for physicals, but Bradley was out on the field during stretch time, then took batting practice with teammates.
“I enjoyed being back with the guys today,” Bradley said.
It showed. Bradley exchanged hugs with a handful of players who approached him, smiled during conversations with a couple of coaches and trainers.
And when asked by public relations employees to do a couple of interviews after practice – one with television crews, one with all other media, Bradley agreed.
He had one stipulation: Baseball questions only – nothing about off-the-field legal issues.
Then, as he approached the print media, he added a second one: “No knee questions.”
Given those ground rules, the interview that followed was quick and relatively painless for both sides.
Asked if he felt pressure entering a contract year after his struggles in 2010 – when he batted .205 and appeared in only 73 games – Bradley shook his head.
“I always play like it’s my last game anyway,’’ he said. “Every pitch, every moment means the world to me, so I’m not going to take any different approach than that.’’
A bigger issue, perhaps, is where Bradley would play if he makes the team. There are a host of left-field options, starting with Michael Saunders, and Jack Cust has been called the Mariners’ full-time designated hitter.
Did he worry about competing under those circumstances?
“Nobody can compete with me when I’m Milton Bradley at my best,” Bradley said. “They pay me a lot of money because I can play, so I’m not really concerned about all that.”
Manager Eric Wedge, who famously clashed with Bradley when both wore Cleveland uniforms years ago, said Bradley might not win the left-field job – but then again, he just might.
“I don’t really want to throw a favorite on it,” Wedge said. “I respect everybody involved. But it’s safe to say if he’s healthy, he can have the greatest impact for us out there.”
Bradley sang Wedge’s praises, too.
“I’m glad he’s here,” Bradley said. “We needed that discipline, somebody to put that foot in your behind when you need it.”
There was one final question of Bradley. After completing his television interview moments earlier, he’d accepted a hug from a woman reporter. So when he was finished with the mostly-male group of writers and radio reporters, the last question was obvious.
How about a hug?
“No hugs,” Bradley said.