The health of Milton Bradley should not concern you Cubs fans!
All throughout the Bradley pursuit, critics have questioned 2 things about the 30-year old veteran – his ability to stay healthy and his affinity towards being a “hot-head”. Today, I’ll focus on the latter – his health.
Bradley has played in over 100 games in only 3 of his 9 MLB seasons. 2 of those came in back-to-back years in 2003 and 2004 for the Cleveland Indians (his next best year to his 2008 career year) and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (when he only hit .267 with 19 home runs and 123 strikeouts). He has reached the 500 at-bat plateau only once – in that 2004 MLB season. During the 2007 MLB season, his season was cut short after only 61 games after a bizarre incident in which he tore his ACL in an altercation with an umpire and a cooler in the dugout. And while he was ready to go for the 2008 MLB season, he played in 126 games amassing 414 at-bats. His numbers were phenomenal – .321 batting average, .436 on-base percentage, 22 home runs, 77 RBI’s and 80 walks. He credits Frank Thomas with teaching him patience at the plate during the 2006 MLB season. That has helped Bradley increase his on-base percentage in each of the last 4 baseball seasons. The only concern from 2008 was that he only played 20 games in the outfield, with the rest of his playing time coming at DH.
In the National League, there is no designated hitter. So if Bradley wants to get at-bats (obviously), then he needs to play the outfield. How many games will he play? That is a great question. The Cubs say they have done their due diligence on his health. Cubs athletic trainer Mark O’Neal examined and tested Bradley over a 2-day period in California. He passed all those tests with flying colors. The Cubs have gotten assurances from both Bradley and the Rangers (his former team) that his knee injury was a think of the past by the middle of the 2008 MLB season.
Bradley has undertaken a rigorous off-season regimen that is focused on mimicking the stresses and actions a player goes through on a daily basis during a competitive baseball game. Bradley has lost 15 pounds in the process and has strengthened his entire body. The Cubs also have depth in the outfield. Bradley will primarily play in right field, but can also play all 3 outfield positions. Kosuke Fukodome and Joey Gathright will be able to spell Bradley from time to time. And it won’t be a surprise to see Pinella go with a Fukodome / Bradley combo every once in a while to get 2 left-handed bats in the lineup against a righty. From all indications, Bradley is already ready to go for 2009. I know we’ve all heard that before, but I guess we should give him the benefit of the doubt – - at least until that first injury sidelines Bradley for a game or 2.
Let’s hope he limits his extracurricular activities (like the one shown below) too – we’d hate to see another freak Bradley injury all because he didn’t like the strike called against him in the 3rd inning of a cold game in April…