Out until healthy, Bradley adjusting

Out until healthy, Bradley adjusting

CHICAGO -- This is not how Milton Bradley wanted to start his tenure with the Cubs.

The outfielder knows he's battled a series of injuries, and now he's sidelined with a nagging groin injury. He knows he has a reputation for being volatile and then his first at-bat on April 16 at Wrigley Field ended with him being ejected for arguing a called third strike with home plate umpire Larry Vanover.

He has not talked to the media since he collected his first hit in Milwaukee, which also is his only hit so far, and doesn't like having reporters hovering near his locker in the cramped Cubs clubhouse.

"It's been frustrating," Bradley said after Thursday's game. "You come in here and all they want to talk about is how often you get hurt and your attitude and everything. I've given them an example right off the bat. I just don't feel like getting caught up in all the negativity.

"I'm a positive person, an upbeat person," he said. "I'm trying to focus on what I'm trying to do here. My teammates are behind me and the more reporters get in my face, the more I talk, the more things get written the way I don't say them or they're taken out of context, and that's when you lose teammates and you lose fans. The best strategy for me has always been to not say anything."

Which is the approach he's taken, until Thursday when he called MLB.com over for a one-on-one conversation.

"I can sit here and think about the questions I'm going to get and the perfect answer to come up with," he said, "but when it comes to that time, and somebody throws a question at you, just the way they ask it or the question, might make me look perturbed at the question they're asking. I just prefer not to talk. I told Peter [Chase, media relations director] and everybody, and they suggested I talk. But I just don't want to do it."

On Thursday, after the Cubs lost 7-1 to the Cincinnati Reds, reporters tried to ask Bradley a question but he chose not to answer.

"When I turn around and people are standing at my locker every time, I'm trying to figure out why, because I've already told them I don't want to talk," Bradley said. "That's the only thing -- I never had a problem with the media until I started reading stuff that wasn't what I said.

"I never had a problem in my life until I started playing baseball," he said. "All of a sudden, there are all these things. I just want to be me. I just want to be that guy who plays baseball and enjoys his teammates and has a good time. That's what I do."

Bradley and Cubs manager Lou Piniella met prior to Thursday's game, and the end result was the outfielder being benched until he's 100 percent healthy, and when he is, he'll be bumped to sixth in the order.

How close is he to coming back?

"I want to say I am, but I'm not," Bradley said.

On Wednesday, Bradley made his first start since April 12, and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He is 1-for-23 with the Cubs so far, and has been bothered by a strained right groin that forced him out of the April 12 game in Milwaukee.

"He's not 100 percent," Piniella said of Bradley, who signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Cubs this offseason. "When he's 100 percent, I'll put him out there to play. Until then, I'll use [Reed] Johnson and [Micah] Hoffpauir in the outfield."

Bradley had told the Cubs he was ready to go on Wednesday, or at least he thought he was.

"I thought I was getting better to the point where I thought I could play at a decent pace," he said. "The ball went into the bullpen the other night and when I threw it in, I couldn't get in my proper throwing mechanics, so I kind of pulled at it again and aggravated it and never let it get to where it needed it to be."

On Thursday, Hoffpauir started in right and had trouble fielding two balls, and after the game, Piniella said he would probably go with a more defensive alignment and start Kosuke Fukudome in right and Reed Johnson in center.

"I don't play people unless they're totally healthy," Piniella said. "That's been my M.O. throughout my managerial career. With Milton, when he's ready to play, I'll put him out there.

"I told him basically I'll take him out of the fourth hole when he comes back and put him in the sixth hole where he might be a little more comfortable and we'll go from there," Piniella said. "When I get him out there, I expect him to run hard and play hard the way he always has."

Bradley has batted fourth all season between Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.

Piniella was asked if Bradley has a responsibility to address the press.

"Look, I think you can make it much easier on yourself communicating," Piniella said. "That's basically up to the individual. At the same time, you're in the public limelight and people want to know what's going on."

Bradley was hoping he could have a clean slate in Chicago.

"I'm just not into negativity," he said. "I can see already I'm going to be that guy that since nothing else is going on in here -- 'We're going to harp on Bradley all year and see if we can get him to snap.' I'm not going to go for it.

"You can't get a good story if I don't talk to [the media]," he said. "You'll make something up like you always do. If I talk to you, you're going to make something up, and if I don't talk to you, you're going to make something up. So just go ahead and make something up and leave me out of it."

There was no talk about putting Bradley on the disabled list to give him time to heal. He had been bothered by the sore groin before the April 12 game, and does not appear close to being ready to come back. Piniella said he is available to pinch-hit.

Bradley also is waiting for a hearing on his appeal of a two-game suspension issued by Major League Baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson after the outfielder argued a called third strike by home plate umpire Larry Vanover on April 16. That's a matter of principle.

"It was a surprise to me," Bradley said of the suspension. "I had no idea I touched him. They need a video forensic scientist to find a frame that shows I touched him with the bill of my helmet. It is what it is. I'm appealing because I didn't feel that I touched him. I just want to say that I didn't do it, and didn't do it intentionally."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.