Bradley looks the part on big league mound
Righty brings heat to loaded Rockies lineup, fanning six in three innings
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Archie Bradley era for the D-backs began in earnest on Monday night against the Rockies at Salt River Fields, and the first returns were, well, electrifying.
Bradley struck out the first two batters he faced on seven pitches on the way to six whiffs in the three innings he pitched. He walked two and allowed a hit, all in the second inning, and pitched out of a bases-loaded jam to boot.
It was an auspicious debut for Bradley, making his first start in a Sedona Red D-backs uniform. Arizona won, 5-0, and Bradley earned his first win.
Bradley said he was nervous, but he surely didn't show it.
"Were there nerves? Oh, definitely, but I get nervous before any game," Bradley said. "You're not human if you don't. But it's not until I get that first pitch over do I really settle down and get into it. It was a good way to start. It's good to start out with a strike because then you can expand and do some different things. I liked the way the first inning went, and I was able to build off it."
Actually, Bradley threw his first four pitches over the plate, with Drew Stubbs opening the game by facing three blazing fastballs for called strikes. Michael Cuddyer didn't fare much better, taking a called first strike and ultimately swinging and missing on a 1-2 count.
"He was pretty much in control out there," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said about Bradley. "We all know what his capabilities are, what he's accomplished in the Minor Leagues, what he's projected to accomplish up here. It's good to see him go out and execute that way. We just want to keep him headed in the right direction. He's somebody who can be very important to our team this year."
The D-backs and many of their fans had been anxious to see Bradley, who was 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA and 162 strikeouts last season at two Minor League levels, including 12-5 with a 1.97 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 21 starts for Double-A Mobile.
Bradley turned out to be as poised in an interview session as he was on the mound, smiling for the microphones and cameras. He's 21 and a golly-gee kid from in Muskogee, Okla. Clean cut, as friendly and genuine as they come.
"I had a lot of fun out there," Bradley said. "It was fun to finally face someone without a Diamondbacks jersey on. It felt really good to be on this side, in big league camp. Obviously, you couldn't ask for a better debut. I got the adrenaline going, I got to compete, and it felt good."
The Rockies put an "A" lineup out there in what was the back end of a split-squad, day-night doubleheader for both clubs: Stubbs, Cuddyer, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki were the first four Major League batters Bradley faced.
The seventh pick overall by the D-backs in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Bradley is only three years removed from pitching for Broken Arrow High School, where he was 12-1 as a senior and led his team to an Oklahoma state championship. With his pro experience limited to the lower levels of Arizona's Minor League organization, it's safe to say the lineup Colorado put out there Monday night is the best ever pitted against him.
"It was very challenging and fun. It was very exciting, too," Bradley said. "I've watched those guys for a couple of years now, and to finally be on the mound looking at them in a game and to get them out, that was very exciting and fun, too.
"You look out there and there are Gold Glovers, Tulo, Cuddyer ... I didn't really study them for this start. It was a spring start. I don't know them that well. But at some point, I'm going to face them again, whether it's this year, next year or whenever it is."
And when that may be is the real question.
Bradley was a candidate to come out of camp in the big league starting rotation. But that possibility started to dim when the D-backs signed free agent Bronson Arroyo late in the offseason to a two-year deal, guaranteeing him $23.5 million. Barring injury, Arizona's rotation should be Patrick Corbin, Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill and Arroyo, who was scratched from a start against the Padres on Tuesday because of a sore lower back.
But how are you going to keep Bradley down on the farm after he's whiffed CarGo?
"I don't know about that," Bradley said. "It's up to Gibby and the people who make that decision. I'm just trying to prepare myself, and tonight was a good start."
Will Bradley be disappointed if the has to go back to the Minors to start the season?
"No, not at all," Bradley said. "I understand it's a process. The only thing I can do is pitch and be ready when it happens."
Gibson said on Monday that no decisions have been made yet on the 25-man roster for March 31 against the Giants at Chase Field. He didn't discount Bradley being there, but he didn't give the possibility much credence.
"We look far beyond that," Gibson said. "You guys know that. We've talked about that. We're going to keep him healthy, keep him on the right track, developing, so at any time this year we need him, he could be an asset to us."
Gibson said this past weekend that Bradley has "something most guys don't have, and we'd like to see him use it." Bradley complied by throwing about 95 percent hard fastballs, with a few breaking pitches. He didn't even attempt using the changeup.
It may have been a spring game, in a Minor League-sized stadium, but Bradley rose to the occasion.
"You can only put so much on bullpens or live BPs," Bradley said. "But once you step out on the mound and things actually matter, the results count, that's when you can really see where your stuff is and really evaluate yourself."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.