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Bradley Respects Prime Example

The newest Dodger's mother sees some of her volatility in her son, who has a history of clashes.

April 06, 2004|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Putting Milton Bradley or his family in an uneasy situation is never a good idea. Just ask the gunman who robbed the grocery store in Long Beach where Bradley's mother worked as a cashier for more than three decades.

The gunman approached Charlena Rector, called her an insulting name and demanded money from her register.

"I told him, 'My mother didn't raise no 'b,' " Rector recalled Monday, "so if you want it, get it.' "

The gunman helped himself to the cash but left his fingerprints on the drawer, leading to his arrest.

Rector says she sees some of her volatile side in Bradley, the Dodgers' new center fielder who spent much of his first day at Dodger Stadium answering questions about his character after being unloaded by the Cleveland Indians over his behavior.

"Milton's not temperamental until somebody insults him," Rector said. "Then, he'll embarrass you. [Cleveland Manager] Eric Wedge insulted him, so Eric Wedge got embarrassed."

Rector was referring to the clash between Bradley and Wedge last Wednesday, when the manager confronted the outfielder in front of his teammates for failing to run out a popup that landed in the infield for a hit. Bradley said his speed was limited by a slight groin strain.

The incident -- the latest in a series of episodes that included a run-in last season with Dodger catcher Paul Lo Duca -- prompted the Indians to trade Bradley to his hometown Dodgers on Sunday for outfield prospect Franklin Gutierrez and a player to be named.

"It kind of caught me off guard, [Wedge] coming at me, asking me about my effort," Bradley said. "It was just a power trip or something."

Bradley's mother was not so diplomatic. "Eric is a nobody that had an ego trip about it and he wanted to appear to be big," she said.

Regardless of the particulars of the incident, the Dodgers said they were going to wipe the slate clean as Bradley starts his career in Los Angeles, with the hope that the 25-year-old can funnel his fervor into production on the field.

"The same reason maybe that ended up leading to Milton's situation last week in Indians camp is probably the thing that gives him an edge on the field and that makes him the player he is," Dodger General Manager Paul DePodesta said.

Bradley, a career .265 hitter who is being counted on to boost an offense that last season scored the fewest runs in the major leagues, got off to a good start Monday by going two for three with two walks during the Dodgers' 8-2 loss to the San Diego Padres. Bradley had to use right fielder Juan Encarnacion's glove and third baseman Adrian Beltre's cleats because most of his gear was on a truck with the Indians' equipment bound for Cleveland.

"I just happened to bring two of my own bats," Bradley said.

Bradley exhibits an easygoing demeanor that belies his widespread characterization as a hothead. Right fielder Dave Roberts, who played with Bradley in the minor leagues, said Bradley was basically a good guy who "stays to himself and doesn't say a whole lot."

Rector called her son a victim of media misperception and said a lot of his alleged indiscretions have been blown out of proportion, including the incident with Lo Duca last June in which Bradley unfastened his batting gloves before beginning a home run trot.

"When Milton hit the home run, he did the routine he'd been doing since he was 12 years old," Rector said. "He didn't even know Lo Duca was upset until he came back [in the dugout]."

Lo Duca, irked because he believed that Bradley was showing up the pitcher and the Dodgers, said discord no longer exists between the players.

"Let's settle that right now, we're fine," Lo Duca said. "We've been talking, I gave him a hug, and everything is cool."

Asked whether he was a head case, Bradley said, "Make your own assumptions. That's all a lot of it is, speculation. Nobody takes the time to get to know a person."

Bradley said the Dodgers were his first choice when he learned he would be traded because he could be closer to his mother, who is recovering from breast cancer in Long Beach.

Bradley credited his mother with teaching him the proper values and keeping him on track academically as a youngster. When his grades faltered in middle school, she told him he couldn't play sports until they improved.

"That's where I get my determination and my will and beliefs," Bradley said. "She worked at a grocery store for 35 years. It's special for her to see me play and to wear Dodger blue."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

First Impression

A look at how Milton Bradley fared on his first day as a Dodger:

* First inning: Single to center.

* Third inning: Single to right.

* Fifth inning: Flyout to left.

* Sixth inning: Walk.

* Eighth inning: Walk.

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