Lee lends his support to Bradley
First baseman demonstrates leadership in tough situation
CHICAGO -- First baseman Derrek Lee reached out to teammate Milton Bradley with a phone call to make sure he was OK after the Cubs outfielder was sent home in the sixth inning of Friday's game against the White Sox.
Bradley was disciplined by Cubs manager Lou Piniella, upset after the outfielder threw his helmet and overturned a water cooler when he had a bad at-bat in the sixth. Piniella had followed Bradley into the clubhouse, and there was an ugly verbal exchange.
"I was disappointed being sent home, not knowing what to expect," Bradley said.
Then, he got a phone call.
"I was just looking out for a friend and a guy who I spend a lot of time with," Lee said. "I was just trying to reach out and try to support him.
"That's what teammates do, you take care of each other We're together 189 days or whatever it is. We look out for each other."
Piniella met with Bradley prior to Saturday's game, which the White Sox won, 8-7, on a walk-off RBI single by rookie Gordon Beckham. Bradley started in right and was 1-for-5, hitting a single in the first inning. In their private meeting, the manager apologized for a derogatory comment he made that leaked out.
"There was an issue," Bradley said. "I don't want to have issues. I just want to play. [Piniella] didn't have to [apologize]. I got to admit, I shed some tears in there with him. So did he. He didn't feel good about the situation. He's working on being a better Christian and one of the things is watching your tongue, and so am I."
As far as Lee is concerned, the team has moved on.
"It's over," Lee said. "It was over yesterday. It's a non-issue."
Bradley is not only looking for a fresh start but a way to improve his performance on the field. He's far from the .321 average he posted last year with Texas, and which prompted the Cubs to sign him to a three-year, $30 million deal.
"We know the fans -- if he's hitting .300, they'll like him," Lee said. "[The fans are] the last thing he has to worry about. He just has to go play."
The Cubs are trying. Hitting coach Von Joshua and Bradley spent so much time in the batting cage in Detroit that Bradley said he had a cramped neck.
"It's just a matter of getting in a rhythm," Bradley said.
Lee said the outfielder, who has had his share of outbursts, is a good teammate.
"The thing with Milton is, we've all been fine with him," Lee said. "It's not like he's been a problem. I think there was an incident [Friday] and he got a little upset. I didn't see any of it. [Piniella and Bradley] spoke and it's over."
So Bradley isn't a bad guy?
"Not even close," Lee said. "He's not a bad guy. He doesn't have a bad bone in him. We see his temper and he's passionate, he wears his emotions on his sleeve, but that doesn't make him a bad guy."
"I have feelings," Bradley said. "It's weird for me. I either care a ton, or I don't care at all. Sometimes I care too much and it gets me in trouble. I'd rather feel something than nothing at all. A lot of people in my position would be like, 'What the heck, I got a lot of money.' I want to earn every penny. I don't want to be just hype. I want to live up to it."
More money, Bradley said, simply means he can eat a little more steak than Spam. What's worth more is having Lee on his side.
"He has that unbelievable spirit, that character," Bradley said of the Cubs first baseman. "He holds it together. He battles through whatever he has to battle through. Guys really look up to him and respect him. For him to reach out to me and tell me something good when everything was going bad, it meant a lot."
Bradley doesn't want much.
"I don't need to be, 'He's a great guy,'" Bradley said. "Just, 'He's all right.' I just want to be all right."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.