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BRADLEY WILL SIT 5 GAMES HE WON'T APPEAL MLB SUSPENSION.

Byline: Rich Hammond Staff Writer

Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley received a five-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Wednesday, one day after his bottle-throwing incident with fans in right field at Dodger Stadium.

In a soft-spoken apology, Bradley said he would seek anger-management counseling.

Bradley, who also was fined an undisclosed amount, began serving the suspension Wednesday without appeal and will miss the rest of the regular season, but he would be eligible to return for the playoffs. The Dodgers do not plan any further punishment for Bradley, who has a history of on-field tantrums.

``From the bottom of my heart, I apologize for the outburst,'' Bradley said in a pregame news conference. ``An anger problem is one of those things I can't handle by myself. I have to take the steps to get help. Getting upset has caused me to hurt family, hurt friends, hurt my team and the fans out there.

``I need to talk to somebody about anger and just try to find a way to channel that elsewhere. People seem to be scared of me, or think that I'm going to snap on them at any moment, and things shouldn't be that way. My competitive nature brings out the best in me, and it brings out the worst in me, too. I just want to make sure that it never again happens that way.''

Team owner Frank McCourt and manager Jim Tracy said they both saw the incident as a ``blessing in disguise,'' because it prompted Bradley to seek help and could avoid further, and worse, incidents.

In the eighth inning Tuesday, after he committed a two-run error in right field and had a bottle thrown at him, Bradley walked over and slammed the bottle into the first row of seats near the foul pole. He then took off his cap and uniform top and argued with fans near the dugout after being ejected.

``I'm not trying to convince (anyone) that I condone what I saw (Tuesday) night,'' Tracy said. ``It was wrong. He embarrassed himself, he embarrassed the organization. He realizes that. He admits as much to that. And now you've got to move forward, you've got to keep trying to help the guy.''

Dodgers officials unilaterally supported Bradley's embrace of counseling, which was something of a departure from their previous stance. Bradley had been ejected three additional times this season, and after each incident, team officials went to great lengths to defend Bradley's conduct to reporters.

Tracy said he had six or seven meetings with Bradley this season regarding temper-related issues, but that he wasn't aware of any times that team officials had encouraged Bradley to seek counseling. Tracy and McCourt resisted the idea that the team hadn't done enough to help Bradley with his anger problems.

Under collective-bargaining rules, teams cannot demand that players undergo counseling, and McCourt suggested there would be no formal process for ensuring that Bradley actually does seek assistance.

``It's up to him to adapt his behavior,'' McCourt said. ``It's not up to us to make sure he's showing up somewhere on Tuesday at 9:30. It's the results that we're looking for. I trust that he was being very, very honest with me and that he's going to do what he says.

``I'm very confident that we'll see a different pattern of behavior. If we don't, we'll address that issue at that point in time. I'm hopeful that we won't see any behavior like we've seen, and Milton is hopeful.''

This was Bradley's second major incident of the season, following a game June 1, during which he dumped a bag of balls on the field. Tuesday's incident raised more concern because it was directed toward fans.

Mario Garcia, a 33-year-old resident of West Covina, was identified by Dodgers security officers as the person who threw the bottle. He was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department a few hours after the game and charged with throwing an object on the field with the intent to interfere with play.

``I don't really blame that guy,'' Bradley said. ``He shouldn't have thrown a bottle, but I shouldn't have reacted that way. That's what hurt me the most. I go out there and give everything I've got. I lost a ball in the lights and everybody's coming down on me. I felt bad enough about that, and then I felt disrespected by getting a bottle thrown at me and I reacted stupidly and it's an embarrassment that it happened.''

McCourt said he believed stadium security handled the matter properly, and said ``neither Milton's behavior, nor the behavior of the fan, is condoned. We want to have a family atmosphere here, and we're not going to condone activities such as throwing bottles on the field.''

Tracy and McCourt both said they would be comfortable having Bradley on the field in the playoffs and wouldn't fear another incident.

Teammates admitted some disappointment in Bradley, who will miss a potentially huge series against San Francisco this weekend, but offered support.

``I don't blame him at all for his actions,'' said outfielder Jayson Werth, one of Bradley's closest teammates. ``Crazy things happen on the field, and sometimes you react negatively.''

Rich Hammond, (818) 713-3611

rich.hammond(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) BRADLEY

(2) Jim Tracy, right, says Milton Bradley's antics Tuesday `embarrassed the organization.'

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 30, 2004
Words:898
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