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When the Padres begin their showdown series with the Dodgers in Los Angeles tonight, Milton Bradley will not be in the starting lineup. No surprise there.

In fact, Bradley has lived up to my expectations, almost to the letter, and as I stated them the day he became a San Diego Padre.

At the time, I said that Bradley was “a great baseball player … who gets on base, runs with abandon, plays an excellent outfield, and who can hit the ball well out of Petco Park.” I promised he’d win ball games for his new club.

I suggested that Bradley would “more than likely be able to contain himself emotionally for the three months left in the season,” and that “he might even make it the rest of the way without a single ejection, suspension, or run-in with a teammate, the manager, the law or a significant other.”

Well, with just the lone ejection at Arizona, along with the one episode of, shall we say, crowd interaction in Philadelphia, it’s apparent that San Diego has come out ahead in that area.

On the other hand, Bradley’s rep as a man incapable of remaining in the lineup with any consistency dogs him almost as much as the “erratic behavior” label. And I called that too.

I told you about the “five DL appearances in Bradley’s one plus seasons with the Athletics, and 10 in six years,” and added that “when it comes to durability, he makes J.D. Drew look like Lou Gehrig.”

The Padres elected not to place Bradley on the DL in August, thinking he might be out less then the minimum 15 days he’d have to spend there. No such luck. He sat from Aug. 4 to Aug. 19, when he had one at bat as a pinch hitter. Do the math.

Bradley might not play for 15 days this time either, as he’s out with a tricky oblique irritation, but since the rosters are expanded to include minor leaguers, there’s no need to place him on the DL. Otherwise, he’d probably be there.

As it stands, Bradley needs to play in 17 of the team’s remaining 20 games to avoid besting his career low of 75 games played while a Dodger in 2005. For perspective, consider this: Bradley has 12 home runs and 36 RBIs on the season. Khalil Greene has 20 and 78 respectively, and might very well lap him in both categories.

This is Milton Bradley. This is Milton Bradley, exactly. What you see is what you get; or as the Padres no doubt see it, don’t get. This simply is what he does, everywhere he goes.

So San Diego plays three in L.A., followed by a weekend series at home against the Giants. All are big games, with just a little thing called the postseason on the line. It would be better if the club’s left fielder, and arguably clutchest of sticks, was in the lineup.

But we make our own beds now, don’t we?

— HOWARD COLE

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