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Mariners playing game of risk with Bradley

He's played for a progressive thinker like Billy Beane, an old-school tough guy like Lou Piniella, in the Dodgers' laid-back, Southern California setting and now in the Pacific Northwest, where life couldn't be any mellower for Milton Bradley.

Yet, no one has been able to tame baseball's angriest man. Bradley is on his eighth team in 11 years, all of whom agree his hitting skill is matched only by his persistent rage against the world.

Now it's the Mariners' turn, as they're hoping (praying) for a .300 average from Bradley, a few home runs, a high on-base percentage -- and a summer without any blow-ups.

To which we say: good luck.

The probability of peace is low, given that Bradley has already started nuking away. Just last week, in an interview with the New York Times, the troubled outfielder indicted the Cubs and their fans for his disappointing offensive numbers in 2009.

The problem, Bradley said, "was something with Chicago, not me."

The not-my-fault alibi is more than lame, it's a red flag for a veteran player who still doesn't get it. The Cubs were so put off, they did more than unload Bradley this winter, they agreed to take on one of the game's worst pitchers, Carlos Silva, just to make sure Bradley never showed his face in Chicago again.

The Mariners, in turn, are trying to be fair with Bradley. Clean slate, no questions, no pre-existing prejudice. But there's pressure for both parties here, particularly on the M's, who paid the Cubs $9 million to complete the deal.

But Bradley is out on a limb, too. He has two years left on a three-year, $30 million deal, and unless he finds a way to control his anger -- and stay off the disabled list -- this might be the last major contract of the 31-year-old's career.

After all, how many more GMs and managers would tolerate Bradley's mood swings? One talent evaluator who's crossed paths with Bradley in the last decade likened the slugger to a roulette wheel. "He has a very inconsistent personality," said the source. "You never know what you're going to get when he walks into the clubhouse from one day to the next."

Maybe Oprah could help Bradley. Or perhaps Doctor Phil's man-to-man approach might work. Bradley can be well-spoken, at times thoughtful. No one disputes his intelligence. But the hair-trigger temper has otherwise overshadowed Bradley's greater achievements on the field, which include a .321 average with the Rangers in 2008, along with a .436 on-base percentage that was tops in the big leagues.

The Cubs were counting on that offensive prowess when they signed Bradley. At $10 million a year, it was a reasonable contract -- Bradley was actually the lowest paid of the Cubs' starting outfielders -- and an equally sensible gamble.

If anyone could understand and penetrate the core of Bradley's rage, it would be fellow hothead Piniella. But the experiment failed miserably. Bradley batted just .118 in the first month of the season and, although he improved over the course of the summer, Bradley felt he'd been unfairly pressured by the Cubs.

"Two years ago, I played, and I was good," Bradley told the Times. "I go to Chicago, not good. I've been good my whole career. So, obviously, it was something with Chicago, not me.

"Just no communication. I never hit more than 22 homers in my career, and all of a sudden I get to Chicago and they expect me to hit 30. It doesn't make sense. History tells you I'm not going to hit that many. Just a lot of things that try to make me a player I'm not."

Piniella says Bradley had it all wrong, that the Cubs were merely looking for a little more life in the lineup. By the season's end, Sweet Lou and Bradley were finished with each other; all that was left was for GM Jim Hendry to find someone willing to put up with their troubled star.

You could flip a coin and say the Mariners were either brave or naïve in volunteering to take on Bradley. Six months from now they'll be hailed as visionaries -- or just the latest in a long line of employers who couldn't reason with Bradley. Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik has faith in manager Don Wakamatsu, who he says, "allows players to be who they are."

But that $9 million check the Mariners wrote means Wakamatsu has the corporate gun to his head. It's not just that Bradley can disrupt a clubhouse; he's a poor defender who's stuck in left field as long as Ken Griffey Jr. occupies the DH spot.

Is Bradley really worth the trouble? The Mariners, who were last in the AL last year in runs, think so. Or hope so. More likely, they're just praying.

Reyes' never-ending saga

Anyone with a heart has to feel a little sorry for Jose Reyes, who's been diagnosed with possible irregularities in his thyroid. The Mets' shortstop is out for at least a week while undergoing further tests. It could be a month before doctors figure out what's wrong.

Understand this about Reyes: he's a simple, uncomplicated ballplayer without any of the social perks bestowed upon Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez or Dave Wright. When Reyes missed the last four months of the 2009 season with a hamstring injury, the world as he knew it turned into a black hole.

As Carlos Beltran explained to reporters the other day, ""Knowing Jose, he can't live without baseball. This is what he does."

There's been speculation in the New York media that Reyes' mysterious condition is somehow linked to steroids or HGH. He has, in fact, been linked with Canadian physician Tony Galea, who's been charged with illegally smuggling HGH into the U.S.

But it's also true that Reyes has never failed a steroids test, and that HGH is not believed to cause hyperthyroidism. Reyes says the irregularities in the blood tests are a mystery to him, which is why he looked understandably scared over the weekend talking to reporters.

"I just have to find out what's going on," Reyes said. "We're talking about my health."

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