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Bradley gets job in center in Kotsay's absence

PHOENIX -- Milton Bradley felt like he had a kindred spirit
in Mark Kotsay. The two Oakland outfielders are next-door neighbors
in the Athletics' clubhouse and are close in other ways too.

"I look in his eyes and I see the same fire I have in my
eyes," Bradley said. "It's tough not seeing him in there and not
playing with him on an everyday basis."

Kotsay was scheduled for back surgery Thursday in Los Angeles
and likely will be sidelined for three months. Dr. Robert Watkins
was to repair a herniated disk that has bothered the 31-year-old
center fielder for the past two seasons.

"We'll have to deal with it," said Bradley, who becomes
Oakland's starting center fielder. "I know he agonized over it the
past couple of years. It's good he's taking care of it so he
doesn't have to go out and play in pain."

Kotsay first injured his back running into the outfield wall
while with the San Diego Padres in 2003. Kotsay started 96 of the
A's first 111 games through Aug. 6 last year, but the back problem
limited him to 25 starts over the final 51 regular-season games.

"Mark has been battling this for a couple years, and it's
become more frequent," A's general manger Billy Beane said. "He
was a zealot in following his offseason therapy but when there was
a relapse in the first week of spring training, it was time to take
more aggressive action."

Kotsay rarely asked out of the lineup with the A's, and was
usually given time off after long plane trips.

"The first thing is I hope he gets better," A's outfielder
Nick Swisher said. "He's been hurting, and we've all seen it.
Losing him is a big blow."

Kotsay's absence in the clubhouse has also been felt.

"Mark is very much the core of the personality of this team,"
Beane said. "He's a leader and personally I want Mark to be the
player he can be. He wanted to wait until the last possible moment.
He's concerned about not being around."

A's manager Bob Geren plans to flank Bradley with Shannon
Stewart in left field and Swisher in right. Bobby Kielty, who is
recovering from knee surgery, becomes the top backup.

"The bigger question is who is the guy behind Milton," Beane
said.

Possibilities include Swisher, Charles Thomas, Hiram Bocachica
and Ryan Goleski.