Bradley not warm to playing right

Updated: February 22, 2005, 9:33 PM ET
Associated Press

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Milton Bradley reported a day early and was just as quick to predict he'll be the center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I'm starting and I'm playing," Bradley said Tuesday at Dodgertown. "My thoughts are I'm the center fielder and that's where I'm going to be playing."

Dodgers manager Jim Tracy wasn't as committed to Bradley in center. He did say he has a good idea who will be the starter against San Francisco on April 5, but refused to elaborate.

With the addition of outfielder J.D. Drew, who patrolled right field for six years in St. Louis and then last year in Atlanta, Bradley could be shuffled to that position.

The reasoning would be that Drew, who came to the Dodgers saying he wanted to move to center, would have less chance of aggravating his oft-injured knee not having to deal with the corner caroms of right field.

Those caroms often force outfielders to field balls with their backs to the field and then turn and throw, which could cause Drew to wrench his knee.

"There is not an opening-day center fielder right now," Tracy said. "We're going to see all three guys [including left fielder Jayson Werth] in center field during spring training."

Tracy went on to say that Werth will be in left when the season starts, leaving Drew and Bradley to battle for center.

Drew also reported to camp Tuesday, but left quickly because he was ill and did not speak to the media.

Moving Bradley out of center would not be unprecedented. It happened last season after the team acquired Steve Finley for the playoff push.

Bradley said that was a special circumstaance because he was told the team needed Finley to make the playoffs.

"I thought that our best chance to make the playoffs was to get Steve Finley, so I said, 'No doubt, I'll move to right,' " Bradley said. "But I was told it was only temporary."

Drew has played just 30 games in center the last three years, but did play 97 at the position for the Cardinals in 1999. Bradley, known for explosive behavior, did not seem perturbed by Drew's request to play center.

"It doesn't matter. It's all right," he said. "I'm coming in here thinking I'm going to play my rightful position. I'm the best center fielder in camp and that's where I expect to be playing."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press