Only two players really impressed me during the four days I spent at the A’s camp in Arizona (and yes, four days is a small sample size). One was Travis Buck, a giant of a man with a fearsome swing who probably will be on the A’s roster at some point this summer.
The other was Milton Bradley.
Now, I bring this up, because ol’ Milton is on the hot seat again, but fortunately for the A’s, not for the same reasons that he’s been there before. This time it’s strictly baseball. Bradley, until further notice, is the A’s center fielder, and how well he’s able to harbor that responsibility will go a long way toward determining the vibe of the A’s summer.
And based on what I’ve seen, that means there’s no reason for the A’s or their fans to panic.
I had a conversation with Bradley at a function for the team’s adverstisers in February, and it struck me that he seems far more aware of his importance to this team, and intent on making sure that some of his past problems don’t bite him. The addition of his 15-month-old son Jeremiah Christian clearly has mellowed him and seems to have reinforced to him how important it is that he stay out of trouble’s way. Thus, I think concerns over what happens to Bradley off the field or in his interactions with fans, while justified, are a bit overplayed.
As for between the lines, Bradley seems ready to fulfill the promise he’s always had. In the clubouse _ during business hours _ he still has an edge, and from what I can tell, that’s a good thing. He played his first few Cactus League games as if it was the middle of July. His bat-speed was phenomenal, just about every ball he hit was on the screws, and he handled center field with aplomb. In one game, he went 3-for-3 with a double, snared a low liner in center and threw a runner out at third base.
The big question is whether he can stay healthy, and I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude there. Bradley told me he worked hard this winter on preventitive measures, and they may work. But the bottom line is that he’s played more than 101 games only once in six full seasons, and center field doesn’t lend itself to being easy on the body.
But as long as Bradley can stay on the field, I have no doubt that center field will be held down just fine until Mark Kotsay can get back.