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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

April 7, 2010 at 11:47 AM

Milton Bradley’s start not a crisis, but worrisome

miltonsigns.jpg

Update 7:15 p.m. OK, Bradley just launched a two-run homer in the first inning. That should help considerably. As I wrote, it doesn’t take long to turn a slow start into a good start.

I know some people are already concerned about Milton Bradley .

In the big picture, of course, 0-for-7 after two games is completely insignificant. Players in the midst of great seasons have back-to-back hitless games all the time. Justin Morneau, to take one example, started off 0-for-8 after two games last year, and finished with 30 homers and 100 RBI despite missing most of September with an injury.

So struggling in the first two games doesn’t mean anything. Just ask Boston’s David Ortiz, who lashed out at reporters yesterday after his second straight hitless game. He didn’t like it when it was suggested that a slow start by him for the second year in a row could become a big talking point. Here’s his response, according to ESPN.com:

“Good,” he said, turning to face the reporters encircling him. “You guys wait ’til [expletive] happens, then you can talk [expletive]. Two [expletive] games, and already you [expletives] are going crazy.

“What’s up with that, man? [Expletive]. [Expletive] 160 games left. That’s a [expletive]. One of you [expletives] got to go ahead and hit for me.”

All that said, with Bradley, who has struck out four times in nine plate appearances, and been thrown out stealing after one of his two walks, getting off to a fast start might be more important than the average player.

When the Mariners acquired him in December, Cubs GM Jim Hendry and manager Lou Piniella both said they believed that Bradley’s subsequent problems in Chicago stemmed from his slow start.

“Bottom line, he got off to such a bad start, and the expectations were so high for all of us, when expectations were not met, and there was criticism in his direction, he didn’t handle it well,” Hendry said in that December interview.

And Piniella told me in a phone interview I did with him shortly after the trade: ” I think getting off to a slow start hurt him. I can surmise that he probably put too much pressure on himself, and things compounded on him.”

How slow of a start did Bradley get off to last year? Simply dreadful. On a six-game road trip to start the season, he went 1-for-17, the lone hit coming in Game 4. After 11 games, Bradley’s batting average stood at .042 — 1 for 24. He didn’t reach .200 until May 27, and by that time, things had already spiralled out of control for him in Chicago. No need to rehash all that.

I truly believe this is a better situation for Bradley than Chicago, that the dynamics are in place for him to thrive. Whether that happens or not will be critical to the M’s success. We’re already seeing that the offense is going to be a challenge. As I wrote in a previous post, and as has already become apparent, the Mariners need Bradley’s production from the cleanup hole.

Keep in mind, again, Bradley could go out and go 3-for-4 tonight, drive in a few runs, and suddenly a poor start has transformed into a fast start. That’s the way a season unfolds. But the longer he goes without getting into the hit column, the greater the concern.

(Photo by Associated Press shows Bradley signing autographs Monday at the Oakland Coliseum).

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