Bradley's injury opens spot for Johnson

Bradley's injury opens spot for Johnson

ATLANTA -- Reed Johnson didn't start the opener of the Cubs' road trip in Atlanta despite going 9-for-19 in the previous homestand.

It doesn't look like manager Lou Piniella will have much trouble finding Johnson playing time on the rest of the trip, however.

Milton Bradley had to leave Tuesday night's 6-5, 12-inning loss after coming up lame in the fourth inning. He is questionable for the rest of the series and could be out much longer.

Bradley strained his right calf trying to beat out a grounder to second baseman Kelly Johnson. He was replaced in the bottom of the inning as Johnson took over in center field and Kosuke Fukudome moved to right field.

Although Bradley hasn't been on the disabled list, the Cubs have gotten little so far out of the three-year, $30 million contract they gave him as a free agent this winter.

Bradley was bothered by a sore left quad in Spring Training and had a right groin strain in April.

Coming into the Atlanta series, Bradley was hitting just .224 with five homers and 14 RBIs.

Bradley had showed life at the plate recently, going 8-for-20 in the Cubs' recent homestand.

Now, he's suffered another setback.

"He hasn't been on the DL, but it's not as if he's been available all the time either," Piniella said before Tuesday's game.

With Bradley day-to-day at best, Piniella will have room for Alfonso Soriano, Johnson and Fukudome in the outfield.

Johnson was 1-for-3 after replacing Bradley, lifting his average to .296. He has three homers and 14 RBIs.

Fukudome is batting .312 with five homers and 20 RBIs.

The Cubs will know more about Bradley's status after he is evaluated again on Wednesday.

Limping noticeably, he immediately headed to the clubhouse after returning to the dugout and quickly departed for treatment.

Bradley wasn't available for comment after the game.

The 32-year-old Johnson got significant playing time last season, batting .303 in 374 at-bats. He's not a home run threat like Bradley, but if he keeps up his hot streak at the plate, there could be a silver lining to Bradley's latest injury.

Pitching matchup
CHC: LHP Ted Lilly (6-4, 3.50 ERA)
Lilly leads the Cubs in wins and quality starts (seven) after beating the Dodgers, 2-1, in his last start on Friday. He gave up four hits, including a homer by Matt Kemp that landed in the basket rimming the left-field bleachers. When he pitches seven or more innings, Lilly is 2-2 with a 1.55 ERA in four starts. He will miss Wrigley Field, as four of his six wins have come at home. Lilly went 2-0 against the Braves last season.

ATL: RHP Derek Lowe (6-3, 3.49 ERA)
Lowe proved to be his biggest critic after his last start, saying he "pitched poorly" against the Diamondbacks on Thursday at Chase Field. The big right-hander gave up a season-high 10 hits in seven innings in the loss. He was charged with five runs (three earned) in the hard-luck loss. He has pitched at least seven innings in four of his past seven starts. He ranks among the league leaders in wins, innings pitched and games started.

The Cubs bullpen had a season-high streak of 15 1/3 scoreless innings before Tuesday's meltdown. ... Chicago won all six games with Atlanta last season. ... The Cubs are 0-2 in extra-innings games on the road. ... Kevin Gregg had seven consecutive saves before giving up a game-tying two-run homer to Jeff Francoeur. He is now 8-for-10 in save chances.

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Up next
• Thursday: Cubs (Carlos Zambrano, 3-2, 4.22) at Braves (Jair Jurrjens, 5-2, 2.59), 6:00 p.m. CT
• Friday: Cubs (Ryan Dempster, 4-3, 4.48) at Reds (Micah Owings, 3-6, 5.10), 6:10 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Cubs (Sean Marshall, 3-4, 4.73) at Reds (TBD), 6:10 p.m. CT

Guy Curtright is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.