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Published: 4/10/2003

Bradley is off to stronger start

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - Milton Bradley didn't accomplish much on the playing field for the Cleveland Indians last season, his first full year in the majors.

The center fielder, who turns 25 on Tuesday, was slowed by a broken orbital bone in his left eye and an emergency appendectomy.

Then he went overboard on his birthday last April15 and spent the night in a Cleveland hospital due to a severe case of intoxication.

In 98 games, Bradley batted just .249 with nine homers and 38 RBIs. He also struck out 58 times.

“It was a tough season all the way around,” Bradley said. “There weren't many positives that came out of it.”

Bradley, acquired in a July, 2001, trade from the Montreal Expos in exchange for pitcher Zach Day, worked diligently in the weight room in the off-season. He's 20 pounds heavier now than he was last year, and he's using a heavier bat while batting leadoff for the Tribe.

So far, his hard work has been paying dividends.

Bradley opened last night's 5-2 win over the Chicago White Sox at Jacobs Field with an infield single. He added a sacrifice fly in the second and threw out a runner at the plate in the third.

Bradley has hit safely in all seven games.

“I was a good hitter all the way through the minor leagues, but when I got to the majors, it just kind of stopped,” he said. “After last year, I knew I had to get stronger, both physically and mentally, so I can hold up over the long haul.”

Bradley gives the Indians speed and power at the top of the lineup, which they've lacked in recent years.

“Milton's done a very good job of going out there and playing the way he's capable of playing,” manager Eric Wedge said.

Bradley, a switch-hitter, enjoyed his best season in 1999, when he set career highs for batting average (.329) and homers (12) and tied his career high for RBIs (50) at Double-A Harrisburg.

“I'm not what you'd consider a true leadoff hitter,” he said. “I'm just going to go up there and swing away.”

ODDS & ENDS: Left-hander C.C. Sabathia, who hyperextended his left elbow in the seventh inning of his last start, threw in a bullpen session yesterday and has been cleared to make his next start Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. “He had a solid bullpen outing,” Wedge said. “There were no problems. He said he's good to go for Saturday.” ... Jeremy Guthrie, the Tribe's No.1 pick last year, was lifted in the second inning of his second start yesterday for Double-A Akron, but he is expected to make his next start. He had a strained trapezius muscle. ... Shane Spencer, the ex-Yankee who signed with the Indians as a free agent in the off-season, made only his second career start at first base, replacing rookie Travis Hafner.



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