SEATTLE (AP)—From slumping slugger to would-be bunter to restored basher and recipient of a cold, celebratory beer shower—all in mere minutes. Milton Bradley(notes) finally got his true welcome to the Seattle Mariners.
And baseball’s self-proclaimed bad boy loved it.
“Just having fun. That’s all they’ve been doing since I got here. It’s a welcome change,” Bradley said of his eighth team in 11 major league seasons dousing him in suds late Tuesday night.
Bradley was the life of the Seattle’s party after hitting a three-run homer in the eighth inning to power his new team to a much-needed 3-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
“A great night for Milton,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “That couldn’t have been better timed.”
Bradley began the day in a 1-for-22 rut. His team of high expectations was 2-6 and hadn’t scored in 20 innings before he went deep.
It was the 31-year-old’s first homer to give his team a lead in the seventh inning or later since Sept. 22, 2006, when he was with the A’s.
A few days ago, Wakamatsu sat Bradley down after the mercurial left fielder flipped off fans during the fourth inning Friday night at Texas. The manager said Bradley “opened up” to him that he was feeling pressure to carry his new teammates as their cleanup hitter.
Wakamatsu told Bradley to “rely on us” more. He also lessened some of the burden by moving Bradley down two spots in the batting order.
Ziegler wasn’t buying it.
“They didn’t (trade for) him to move runners over in the eighth inning,” he said.
After the bunt show, Wakamatsu motioned to Bradley from the dugout to wait for a pitch higher toward the strike zone “and whack it.”
“He listened to me,” Wakamatsu said with wry smile.
Two pitches later, Bradley golfed Ziegler’s low fastball five rows into the right-field bleachers. As he stepped on home plate following his second homer of the season, Bradley raised both hands above his head. He pressed his palms together and jabbed them toward the sky.
“Don’t read anything into that. That’s personal,” Bradley said of the celebration.
“If you keep working hard, talent is going to surpass bad luck.”
Doug Fister(notes) (1-1) threw eight crisp innings for the Mariners, allowing three hits and walking one. It was the longest outing in the majors for the 26-year-old right-hander, who began last season as a Double-A reliever. It was also the longest outing this season for a Seattle rotation that has struggled without injured left-hander Cliff Lee(notes).
The Mariners left runners in scoring position in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings before Bradley came through against one of his seven former teams.
“We needed one thing to spark us,” Fister said. “That’s what tonight was. We just needed a little momentum, and that’s what we’ve got.”
NOTES: Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair said Lee (strained abdomen) looked great during a 63-pitch bullpen session. The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner is expected to make his season debut May 1 or 2, pending Wednesday’s hearing on his appeal of a five-game suspension for throwing over the head of Arizona’s Chris Snyder(notes) in a spring game. … A’s manager Bob Geren said he was hopeful 2B Mark Ellis(notes) would play Wednesday. Ellis missed the first two games of the series with a hamstring strain from Sunday’s game at the Los Angeles Angels.