VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Milton Bradley and J.D. Drew have made things a little easier on manager Jim Tracy. The two veterans are battling for the Los Angeles Dodgers' center field position and spoke together about the competition during a recent batting practice session.
"He was telling me he's not trying to step on any toes," Bradley told the Los Angeles Times. "We are in agreement that we want what's best for the team. We want everybody to fulfill his potential.
"I'm more comfortable in center field; he doesn't want me to be uncomfortable. If he can play right field without aggravating his knee, that would be great. But if his knee is acting up, he'll let me know and he can shift over for a couple of weeks."
Drew, who played center field in high school, was an All-American at the position at Florida State and has seen some time at the position in the majors. He would prefer to play center to ease the wear-and-tear on his surgically repaired, and oft-injured,
The free agent signee, who spent the last seven seasons as the right fielder in St. Louis and Atlanta, had no problems with his knee last year. But he underwent major knee surgery after the 2002 season. Chasing balls into the right-field corner and having to stop abruptly on the knee caused part of the problem, Drew indicated.
Bradley was the Dodgers' center fielder for much of last year
before moving to right when the team acquired Steve Finley for the playoff push.
Bradley said Feb. 22 he gladly made the switch because he felt
it was the best way for the team to make the playoffs. But he also
said he was told at the time that the switch was temporary. And his comfort level isn't as good in right.
"My first game in right was in San Diego, and my heart was beating out there," he told the newspaper. "I felt out of position. I didn't get a flyball until about the seventh inning, and until I did, I didn't feel right."
Tracy has said Bradley, Drew, left fielder Jayson Werth and backup outfielder Ricky Ledee all will see time in center this spring. But he said Werth will be in left when the season starts April 5, leaving the battle for center to Bradley and Drew.
Whatever decision Tracy makes, Drew said he will respect. Drew and Bradley discussed a variety of topics. Both appear to understand what each other is saying.
"I talked to Milton just to clarify that I'm not here to take his position," Drew said. "I let him know the main reason I was thinking about center field was to put less pressure on my knee.
"Our outfield can be the best in baseball with the speed we have. So we talked about a lot of things, positioning, communicating before the pitch, all sorts of stuff."