Notes: Bradley getting center attention
Regular right fielder turning heads in lieu of shelved Kotsay
PHOENIX -- Milton Bradley spent most of 2006, his first season with the A's, playing right field. But he's seen plenty of action in center field over the course of his career, and it showed on Friday afternoon in Oakland's Cactus League home opener.In the first inning, Bradley used his glove to take away potential extra bases from Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy, making a long run to the warning track where he executed a backhanded snag of a high, drifting drive. In the second inning, Bradley made an impact with his arm, completing a double play by gunning down speedy Rickie Weeks, who was trying to advance from second base on a flyout to center. Oh, and his bat was pretty good, too. In three at-bats, he singled twice and ripped an RBI triple. "That's what grown men do," Bradley said. "This ain't my first rodeo. ... My confidence level is real high." With Mark Kotsay out with back tightness, Bradley figures to see quite a bit of time this spring -- and possibly beyond -- in center field, where he's played in 453 of his 622 career regular-season games. "It's back to the old stomping grounds," Bradley said, adding that he enjoys the extra responsibility that comes with being the quarterback of the outfield and helping the corner guys with positioning. But he also made it clear that he'd prefer to have a healthy Kotsay in center field. "We miss his presence. We miss what he brings to the game," Bradley said. "We need to get our captain back out there." Kotsay was in Los Angeles on Friday, having taken the results of his most recent MRI exam to a non-team doctor for additional evaluation. Bobby Kielty wasn't around, either; he underwent surgery to repair torn meniscus on Friday morning and will be out three to six weeks. Bradley's locker in the home clubhouse at Phoenix Municipal Stadium is flanked by those of Kotsay and Kielty, so he had a lot of elbow room on Friday. "The sniper missed me," Bradley cracked as he bowed his head. "I ducked."
Also in the game: Lefty Joe Kennedy said the adrenaline that came with his first starting assignment in a year and a half caused some problems on Friday, when he gave up four runs on six hits and two walks before being pulled with two out in the second inning."I didn't really know where it was going, it was moving so much," Kennedy said when asked if his command was off. "The first two weeks [of camp], I was right there with everything. But first game, you get a little amped up." Said manager Bob Geren: "Kennedy threw a lot better than the results. He really did. I thought he threw the ball well, and [catcher] Jason [Kendall] said he made some really good pitches." Relievers Kiko Calero, Alan Embree, Huston Street and Jay Witasick made some tough pitches, too, combining on four innings of one-hit work. Witasick, whose mysterious, mythical and potentially non-existent new "Sizzler" pitch was recently the subject of a tongue-in-cheek San Francisco Chronicle article, picked up the save with a perfect ninth inning and seemed to be smiling the whole time. Not long after he got on top of the rubber to start the inning, a small pocket of fans among the announced crowd of 3,483 started yelling, "Give 'em the Sizzler, Jay!" And yes, Witasick heard them. "I swear, I almost stepped off the mound and had myself a big belly laugh," he said. "A few years ago, I probably would have. Man, that was funny. This thing has just taken on a life of its own. It's awesome." After the second of Witsick's strikeouts in the frame ended the game, even Geren got into the act while rehashing the game with reporters. "Witasick looked great," he said. "Did he break out the Sizzler?" Sneak peek: The A's are known for putting together some of the funniest TV commercials in sports, and this year's batch has at least one instant classic and several chuckle-worthy moments. The classic is a flashback to Nick Swisher's Little League days. A young actor portrays Swisher hitting a home run, and Swisher himself is in costume as little Nick's celebrating father, who sports a mesh-and-foam trucker hat and one of the most ridiculous mullets in the history of the haircut. Other highlights include Rich Harden blowing a kiss to Geren in a spot that features Harden and Dan Haren trying to land the coveted Opening Day start; Bradley playing paddleball left-handed in a spot that highlights his and Swisher's ambidexterity; Kotsay yawning in the outfield as Harden racks up strikeout after strikeout; and Eric Chavez dropping everything in sight on a bad-hands day. Also amusing, perhaps unintentionally, is a spot that asks whether a ballplayer reveals a part of his soul during home run trots and shows game footage of several A's rounding the bases. One of the first players shown is Kendall, who enters 2007 with one home run in his past 1,374 at-bats. Filmed in January at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, spots from the "Athletics Defined" campaign will start airing on Bay Area stations during the second week of March. Geren said he enjoyed being part of the process, but he'd have liked a little more responsibility. "I was in three [commercials], and I have a total of one line," he said. "I yell, 'Kotsay!' in one. The rest was all facial expressions." High 5: Rule 5 outfielder Ryan Goleski, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, has impressed the coaching staff with his approach at the plate. "A lot of big guys come off the ball. He stays on it and gets through it," Geren said. "He's got tremendous power. A lot of talent." Goleski, 25, batted .306 with 27 homers and 106 RBIs while splitting last season at Class A and Double-A in the Indians organization. The Devils Rays made him the first pick overall in December's Rule 5 Draft, then sent him to the A's for $100,000. If he doesn't make the big-league team (and stick with it all year), he'll have to be offered back to Cleveland. "Obviously, he's going to get a nice, long look," Geren said. "And so far, everyone really likes what they see." Dribblers: Geren said Kielty's surgery "went very well. It was a small tear." ... Kotsay saw one doctor on Friday and is scheduled to see another one Monday. ... Shortstop Bobby Crosby looked a little stiff while running the bases with the rest of team in the morning, and his scheduled work in the batting cage was scratched. "He did very little. Almost nothing," said Geren, who added that the team's athletic trainers are being "extra cautious" with Crosby. ... Street likely won't pitch in save situations until later in the spring, when teams typically play their regulars longer. For now, he'll work early in games to face as many front-line hitters as possible.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.