Bradley Not Concerned about Early Injury

Milton Bradley (AP)

That didn't take long. After walking in the first inning of his Cactus League debut, Cubs right fielder Milton Bradley had to leave the game because of "mild tightness" in his left quadriceps. The following day, he showed up at camp ill and was sent home.

Bradley and the Cubs downplayed the injury. One of the big concerns about Bradley is whether he'll be able to play a full season in the outfield after serving primarily as Texas' DH last year.

"You work out hard, you get tight," Bradley said.

The 30-year-old Bradley, who has a history of disabled-list stints, played only 20 games in the field last year for the Rangers. The Cubs had hoped to use the tests of Arizona's notorious "high skies" and the big outfields in the Cactus League to get a handle on how Bradley looks.

Bradley is one of two key outfielders for the Cubs this year. He was signed to supplant Kosuke Fukudome in right after Fukudome flopped badly from June on last year. Bradley is a switch hitter, while Fukudome bats left-handed. GM Jim Hendry made it a priority to get "more left-handed" in the offseason.

Fukudome currently is with Team Japan preparing for the World Baseball Classic. The Cubs say they'll have their scouts monitoring Fukudome in Asia. They say he worked on his "core" physical fitness in the offseason. Manager Lou Piniella, who soured on Fukudome late last year, appears to be giving him the benefit of the doubt, saying that he needed time to adjust to life in North America after a long career in Japan and to the more rigorous major league schedule.

NOTES, QUOTES

--3B Corey Koskie, who has sat out the past two seasons after suffering a concussion in 2006, signed a minor league deal with the Cubs. He was invited to the team's big-league camp and will try to earn a reserve role.

--1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir made a good first impression (Piniella is big on first impressions) as he tries to nail down a backup spot that has been all but promised to him. Hoffpauir hit a grand slam against the Dodgers in the Cactus League opener and hit a three-run homer in the third game. He hit 25 homers and drove in 100 runs in 71 games for Class AAA Iowa last year, and he batted .342 (25-for-73) with two homers and eight doubles for the Cubs. The Cubs like him because he bats left-handed and can give 1B Derrek Lee a break now and then.

--RHP Ryan Dempster likely won't make his first spring start until early in the upcoming week because he was experiencing stiffness in his neck. Dempster, who said he is fine, is a possibility to start the April 6 season opener at Houston after wresting the title of ace away from RHP Carlos Zambrano late last season.

--CF Joey Gathright is an option to be a fill-in leadoff man. The speedy Gathright, whom the Cubs signed in the offseason, led off the second Cactus League game and went 3-for-3 with a run and a stolen base. LF Alfonso Soriano likely will be the everyday leadoff man. When Soriano gets a day off, IF Aaron Miles could lead off. Gathright had 21 stolen bases in 25 attempts for Kansas City last year. However, he had a low on-base percentage of .311 and is at .328 for his career. SS Ryan Theriot led off the third game of the exhibition season.

--INF Jake Fox is bidding to make the roster as a backup. Fox, who was drafted as a catcher in 2003, is a longshot because of the presence of 1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir and because Fox bats right-handed. In the second game of the spring, Fox homered. He has 105 minor league homers, including six last year for Class AAA Iowa and 25 for Class AA Tennessee. Fox's future may be in the American League as a DH. He has taken grounders at first and third this spring.

--LHP Ted Lilly tuned up for the World Baseball Classic with two scoreless innings against the Rangers in the third game of the exhibition season. Lilly is one of four Cubs in the WBC. He's pitching for Team USA. C Geovany Soto will play for Puerto Rico, RHPs Carlos Marmol will pitch for the Dominican Republic, and RF Kosuke Fukudome is playing for Japan.

Zambrano (Venezuela) turned down a chance to participate. Piniella isn't crazy about 17-game winner Lilly leaving, saying that the Cubs can better monitor his workload if he stays with them. But there isn't anything the Cubs can do, and they won't stand in players' ways if they want to play for their countries.

--With the Cubs taking it easy on RHP Rich Harden (shoulder), Zambrano (shoulder, eye) and Dempster (neck), and with Lilly getting set to join Team USA for the WBC, Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild were getting early looks at candidates for the fifth starting spot, including LHP Sean Marshall and RHPs Jeff Samardzija, Chad Gaudin and Aaron Heilman.

INSIDE THE NUMB3RS: 17 -- Lilly's victory total last year, the most by a Cubs left-hander since Ken Holtzman on 17 in 1970.

HE SAID IT: "I never had a problem. I liked the guy on the team." -- Piniella denying a report of a possible rift between him and INF/OF Mark DeRosa, whom the Cubs traded to Cleveland in the offseason.

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