Mariners’ Bradley plays with all-out intensity

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Umpire Dan Bellino was back behind the plate for Seattle’s game Thursday against the Cleveland Indians, which made everyone pay extra attention when the Mariners’ Milton Bradley batted.

Bellino is the ump who kicked Bradley out of a game last week, thinking the Mariners’ left fielder had tried to show him up by dropping his bat and starting to take off his gloves after a called third strike.

Bradley had no apparent issues with the umpire this time, flying out twice and walking once, although he didn’t go through the day unnoticed.

Ask Cleveland catcher Lou Marson.

After his walk in the fifth inning, Bradley took advantage of pitcher Joe Smith’s deliberate motion and stole both second and third base.

Ryan Garko then hit a chopper toward third base and Bradley hesitated for a moment before bolting toward the plate. Third baseman Jhonny Peralta fielded the ball and threw home to Marson, who had the ball with Bradley still about 10 feet away.

Bradley lowered his shoulder and delivered a huge hit, sending Marson tumbling. The catcher held onto the ball for the out.

Bradley does have a “history” with the Indians, having played there from 2001-2003 before he ran afoul with the club in spring training and was traded to the Dodgers just before the 2004 season (for a package that included Franklin Gutierrez going to the Indians).

After the game, Indians manager Manny Acta said he saw “no malice” in Bradley’s collision and called it a sound baseball play.

That’s how the Mariners saw it, too, that Bradley is an all-out kind of player and it doesn’t matter that it’s spring training.

“It was outstanding to see him steal two bases,” said bench coach Ty VanBurkleo, who ran the team while manager Don Wakamatsu handled the other split-squad game against the Royals. “He said his legs are feeling great. Milton plays hard. He looked good.”

Lee plays catch, feels better

Cliff Lee played catch again Thursday morning without problem, which was encouraging if not revealing in terms of how much time he’ll miss. Lee suffered a strained lower abdomen muscle on March 15 and isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the season.

He played catch Tuesday and felt some discomfort. Head trainer Rick Griffin said Thursday that Lee felt better this time.

The report was more encouraging on another pitcher who is coming back from injury — right-hander Doug Fister.

Fister, hit by a line drive in the first inning of his start Friday, checked out fine Thursday morning, one day after he pitched in the bullpen. Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair said Fister would pitch an inning or two in a minor league game today, then come back on two days rest and pitch Monday against the A’s.

“Then we’ll look at it and see where we are,” Adair said.

Left-hander Garrett Olson, who injured his left ring finger more than a week ago when he was hit by a grounder during a fielding drill, will throw in the bullpen today.

“Then we’ll evaluate after that and see if he’ll pitch in a minor league game or live batting practice,” Adair said. “We’re not sure yet.”

Sweeney continues hot hitting

The Mariners have eight days to finalize their 25-man roster, and Mike Sweeney is forcing them to make it a tough decision to the very end.

Sweeney homered in the Mariners’ 8-7 split-squad loss to the Royals, giving him two home runs this month and a .577 exhibition average.

It has clearly been enough to make the team from a hitting standpoint, but the Mariners must decide if they can afford to keep two DHs in Sweeney and Ken Griffey Jr.

“He’s making the decision hard for us because he’s hit and he looks ready,” Wakamatsu said.

“I was talking to Casey Kotchman this morning and telling him not to put a ceiling on what he can accomplish,” Sweeney said. “I told him to expect to be great every day and I realized that was my goal this spring. I strongly desire to be a Seattle Mariner again this season. I’ve got a week left to win a job and I need to be great every day, every opportunity.”

Of note

The Mariners optioned first baseman Mike Carp to Class AAA Tacoma. He hit .188 in 16 at-bats this month. … Instead of his usual between-starts session in the bullpen, left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith pitched an inning in a minor league game Thursday. … Michael Pineda, a 21-year-old right-hander whose stuff is as impressive as his size (6-foot-3, 243 pounds), pitched two scoreless innings against the Indians, allowing one hit and striking out two. The Mariners will be careful with Pineda this season after he experienced arm problems last year. “He’s special, there’s no doubt about it,” Adair said. … The Mariners acquired minor league infielder Edgar Trejo from the Brewers for cash considerations. The 20-year-old was an Arizona League All-Star in 2007 but has been recovering since 2008 from a left knee injury. He played in 75 games last year for the Brewers’ Class A teams in Helena and Wisconsin.

Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog

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