MLB: Bradley’s return as M’s cleanup man lasts 6 inns
By GREGG BELL
AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE — Milton Bradley's return as Seattle's cleanup hitter lasted six innings and two strikeouts. Then, Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu removed the angry slugger from Tuesday night's loss to Tampa Bay.
The self-proclaimed Kanye West of baseball wasn't in the stadium immediately after Seattle's fourth straight loss. Multiple Mariners say Bradley was furious for leaving a 3-1 game following his second strikeout looking against James Shields, with the bases loaded in the sixth.
Multiple Mariners said Bradley's mindset late Tuesday night was "not good," though Wakamatsu deflected thoughts of an incident with a fiery former All-Star who is on his eighth team in 10 seasons.
"We just felt at that time, what went on with the two strikeouts, it was time to get him out of the ballgame," Wakamatsu said following the 5-2 loss. "It was just time to get him out."
Bradley went 0 for 3 batting cleanup for the first since April 9, when he was in the middle of a 1-for-22 debut for Seattle.
He and Wakamatsu were due to appear along with Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro Suzuki and Mike Sweeney at an elementary school Wednesday afternoon for the Mariners' annual education day in the Seattle community.
Bradley's benching was just one of many blights on yet another dismal night for a suddenly wayward team, one that has been expecting its first postseason since 2001. The Mariners lost for the fourth consecutive time at home by wasting yet another strong pitching performance. This time, Jason Vargas allowed four hits in 6 2-3 innings.
How bad have Seattle's fans soured on the Mariners' offense? The crowd of 14,589 — the second-lowest in Safeco Field's 10-year history — booed after Griffey, their 40-year-old civic icon, swung over a pitch from Shields that skimmed the dirt. That ended the "rally" in the sixth and kept the home team down 3-1.
Griffey was 0 for 4 with an RBI groundout in the ninth. He is batting .210 and has one extra-base hit in 19 games.
Seattle's latest embarrassment came after Wakamatsu held an afternoon meeting to stress better fundamentals from his hitters.
They have scored six runs in their last four games, and 88 in 26 games, the fewest in the American League. They have nine home runs all season, tied with Houston for fewest in the major leagues.
That is why Bradley was back batting cleanup Tuesday, because Wakamatsu said the 2008 All-Star with Texas is the one Mariners player best suited for the fourth spot, with potential for power and run production.
When he pulled him out of the cleanup spot last month, the manager said Bradley was putting too much pressure on himself to carry the team.
"If he struggles in that situation, we'll change it again," Wakamatsu said before the game.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said Monday he's been making a "tremendous" amount of phone calls in search of another hitter, but other teams are not offering because the trade market had yet to open.
"I expect something to happen. I don't know when. It might not happen now. It might not happen for a month from now," Zduriencik said.
"I'm certainly aware of what our strengths and weaknesses are on this club."