<
>

Bradley: Seattle 'a welcome change'

SEATTLE -- In Chicago, Milton Bradley got showered with boos.

In less than three weeks in Seattle, he's already gotten showered with beer during a raucous clubhouse celebration in his honor.

The new Mariner and baseball's self-described bad guy has a message before his return on Friday to the Windy City, where he had a disastrous 2009 season with the Chicago Cubs.

"We have fun every day," said Bradley, who is on his eighth team in 10 seasons. "Everyone makes it easy out here. Every day, guys are great, whether you are up or down. That's something I haven't had my whole career. That is something I can't say I've had in any other place."

Not in Chicago. Not in Texas or San Diego. Not in Oakland, Los Angeles, Cleveland or Montreal, either.

And he's hitting just .167 in 14 games entering the Mariners' road trip opener Friday night at the Chicago White Sox. Imagine the love he'd have for Seattle if he were hitting, say, .200.

The Mariners believe he's on his way.

Two weeks ago, Bradley wasn't having fun. He was 1 for 21. The man who told The Associated Press last month he was baseball's Kanye West had just flipped off heckling fans during a game at Texas.

Then Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu had a sitdown with his new slugger.

Wakamatsu said Bradley was "remorseful" for reacting to the Rangers fans. He said Bradley "opened up and talked about the pressure" to carry his new team, which had traded failed and expensive pitcher Carlos Silva for him in a December swap of unwanted players.

Silva, however, has found new life in Chicago. The pitcher is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts for the Cubs this season.

Wakamatsu asked Bradley to rely on the team to share his burden.

The manager helped reduce Bradley's pressure by moving him out of the cleanup spot after just five games there. He's batting sixth now.

Wakamatsu declined to directly answer this week if Bradley will return to the cleanup spot soon.

He is 6 for 21 (.286) with eight RBIs in his past eight games since the move. He is tied for second on the Mariners with 10 RBIs. And he's one spot in the lineup below his proclaimed idol, Ken Griffey Jr.

Bradley was Griffey-esque in his welcome-to-Seattle moment on April 13, a few days after Wakamatsu's chat. His three-run home run in the eighth inning sent the Mariners to a 3-0 home win over Oakland.

Bradley was mobbed at home plate, then again immediately after the game inside the clubhouse. The scrum moved into the showers, where teammates soaked Bradley with frigid beer. The joyous roars echoed off the shower tiles and into Wakamatsu's postgame interview room down the hall.

"Just having fun," Bradley said. "That's all they've been doing since I got here. It's a welcome change."

It was his first homer to give his team a lead in the seventh inning or later since Sept. 22, 2006, when he was with the Athletics.

"That couldn't have been better timed," Wakamatsu said.

The win took the sting out of Seattle's 2-6 start and began a surge. It's up to seven wins in eight games for the Mariners, who after a winter of splashy acquisitions expect to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Bradley is in the second year of the $30 million, three-year contract the Cubs gave him following his breakout 2008. 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 RBIs there.

His 2009 season ended with the Cubs suspending Bradley after a verbal altercation with their hitting coach, and after he criticized the atmosphere of the organization.

Bradley rested through Wednesday's win over Baltimore with tightness in his left calf. Wakamatsu expects the 32-year-old to be back in left field at Chicago on Friday.

No matter how Chicagoans greet him, Bradley has already hinted at how he'll approach his return.

When three Chicago writers walked to his locker at the Mariners' spring training camp last month, Bradley cut off an attempt for an interview by saying "no chance" and "beat it." He told them, "You ran me out of town."

Then, as he was walking away, Bradley turned back, flashed a peace sign and said, "Peace."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.