Bradley to make spring debut

Bradley to make spring debut

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers are planning on Milton Bradley making his first Cactus League appearance as a designated hitter on Friday night against the Angels.

The plan is for Bradley to play in that game and the next afternoon against the Mariners. He'll take Sunday off, then be used as designated hitter on both Monday and Tuesday.

At that point, the Rangers should have a better idea if Bradley can play the outfield or will have to start the season as their designated hitter. The third option would be to have him start the season on the disabled list, but that doesn't appear likely at this point.

"Hopefully, that's not likely," manager Ron Washington said on Tuesday before the Rangers' game with the Athletics.

Bradley is still recovering from Sept. 27 surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. His only appearance in an actual game this spring was last Friday on the Minor League side. He made six plate appearances and was 3-for-5 with a walk.

The original plan was to have Bradley do that again on Saturday and Sunday, but the Rangers nixed that the when he reported some soreness in the knee. Bad weather kept him from going back out there on Sunday, and the plan for him to DH in Minor League games now seems to have been scuttled.

"That doesn't do anything for him," Washington said. "He feels like those boys don't have anything for him. He expects to beat their rears. That's what big leaguers do."

The Rangers signed Bradley in the offseason to be their right fielder, but knew because of the surgery that it would be close as to whether he would be ready for Opening Day. That's turning out to be the case, and it factors into the Rangers' discussions when looking at the Opening Day roster.

"It all depends on how he feels," general manager Jon Daniels said. "As it stands today, it looks like he'll at least be ready to DH. We've still got two weeks left. We want to see how he responds to baseball activities in the next 10 days or so."

The Rangers were hoping that Bradley would be ready to play the outfield before they left Arizona, but their final game here is a week from Thursday. Bradley probably won't be ready to play the outfield until Wednesday at the earliest.

"I would say it's going to be close," Washington admitted. "Before we get him in the outfield, we wanted to see him in the outfield down here. If not, we'll just take it slow and see whether when we can get him into the outfield."

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The Rangers have an outfield ready if Bradley can't go out there. They can go with David Murphy in left, Josh Hamilton in center and Marlon Byrd in right with Frank Catalanotto in reserve. Bradley would then start the season as the DH until he's ready to go to the outfield. He prefers it that way, rather than being put on the disabled list.

"If that's the decision they make, that's fine with me," Bradley said. "I don't have a problem. I want to be with the team. I would hate to be rehabbing somewhere else. I want to contribute and play my role."

Washington is still determined to use Bradley as his cleanup hitter. Hamilton has been in that spot in Spring Training and his numbers have been terrific. But Washington still thinks Bradley is the better option in the regular season.

"I don't want to put that on Hamilton," Washington said.

The Rangers are also trying to decide between Jason Botts and Kevin Mench for the final spot on the bench, but they could carry both for the first two weeks of the season. The Rangers will have an extra roster spot because they won't have to call up a fifth starter from the Minor Leagues until April 12.

Washington wants to carry an extra position player, but much depends on the status of the club's starting rotation. Washington said the Rangers might need an extra reliever if their starting pitchers aren't ready to throw 90-100 pitches the first time around. Right now, they are on target to do that.

If Bradley were ready to play the outfield, they could use that extra spot for another infielder, either Edgardo Alfonzo or Ryan Roberts. But if Bradley is limited to DH duty then the Rangers would probably opt for an extra outfielder.

The Rangers wait on Bradley.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.