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12/08/08 9:12 PM EST

Bradley lunches with Rays

Slugger would fit in with team's plans to increase offense

LAS VEGAS -- Lunch with free-agent outfielder Milton Bradley kicked off the first day of Winter Meetings for the Rays at the Bellagio Hotel.

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman called the meeting "a get-to-know-you session" that took place between Friedman, Rays manager Joe Maddon, Bradley and three of his agents.

"We have a tremendous amount of respect for Milton as a player and felt like it was a good opportunity to sit down and learn a little bit more," Friedman said. "And it was a great meeting. ... He was very impressive today. Obviously, he's an extremely talented player."

Maddon sounded equally impressed with the meeting.

"He's very honest," Maddon said. "Honest, open and intense."

Maddon made no secret of the fact he has long admired Bradley's play.

"The thing about him that always stands out to me, this guy works an at-bat as well as anybody in either league," Maddon said. "I've never seen him throw an at-bat away. I don't care what the score is, the inning is, whatever. He has the same quality at-bat every time up. And I've always respected him for that."

In the past, Bradley has had some problems checking his emotions. When asked about those problems, Maddon said: "People grow up, people change."

"I think a lot of it, from what I can gather at the end of the day, is this guy is really all about winning," Maddon said. "He wants to win. He truly does. He's an intense young man. And he's open and honest, which I can always appreciate."

Bradley already was in Las Vegas to attend Saturday night's Manny Pacquiao-Oscar De La Hoya fight, which helped facilitate Monday's meeting.

One of the Rays' goals heading into the Meetings was to add some offense, whether it's at the designated hitter spot or in right field.

Bradley is a switch-hitter and hit .321 with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs in 126 games for the Rangers in 2008, when he played for $5 million.

The Rays are looking to be opportunistic in the current economic climate. If the free-agent market reflects those conditions, free agents such as Bradley might be more willing to sign for less, and Tampa Bay could come away with a bargain.

Friedman said the Rays plan to meet with two to three additional free agents this week.

"It's very helpful to sit down and talk about different things and meet face to face -- talk about various things as you're going through this and meeting with different people," Friedman said. "It just helps the decision-making process. And again, there's a lot of variables that go way beyond even just having a meeting. And so, I'm not sure how things are going to shake out, but it's an important step for us."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.