D-Backs sensation makes bid for spot in rotation
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP)
Archie Bradley took the mound in his first major league bullpen spring training session, with many eyes and more than a few camera lenses focused in on him.
The hard-throwing 21-year-old Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander and might-have-been Oklahoma Sooner quarterback was in the spotlight as the team's pitchers and catchers went through their first workout of the spring on Friday.
It was the official first spring workout for any major league club, coming exactly 100 days since the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. Pitchers and catchers report for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. The other 28 teams get underway next week.
Bradley is making a bid for a spot in the opening day rotation. Even if that doesn't happen, it won't be long before Bradley is with the big league club.
''That's what I'd like to think,'' Bradley said. ''That's ultimately the team's decision, but I feel if I keep working and keep doing my thing, then eventually - whether it's Day 1 or in September, it will happen.''
''Anything they say you try to pick up on and see how you can fit it into what you do every day,'' Bradley said. ''You just listen. That's what I'm trying to do.''
Bradley has risen rapidly through the minor league system since Arizona made him the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft. A standout football player as well as baseball player in his hometown of Broken Arrow, Okla., he committed to play football at Oklahoma before choosing baseball instead.
Although still a big Oklahoma supporter, he has no regrets about his choice.
''This is definitely a lot easier game physically,'' he said. ''I have a lot more fun playing baseball than I do football and I just think where I saw my future at the time was baseball, and I still think it's there.''
Bradley has a fastball that has hit 99 mph and is consistently in the 93-94 mph range. He also throws a curve, but he knows his success in the majors is in the development of a change up.
''That as the main focus in the offseason,'' Bradley said. ''I played catch with it every day. Then, especially getting here early, that was my main thing, get a couple of bullpen sessions in before we started and kind of really see where it was at and how much I had a handle on it.''
Last year, his second in pro baseball, he went a combined 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA with Class A Visalia and Double-A Mobile. He struck out 162 and walked 69 in 152 innings.
At Mobile, where he was 12-5 with a 1.97 ERA, he was named Southern League pitcher of the year.
''He's met every challenge,'' Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said.
Bradley stands 6-foot-4 and weighs about 225 pounds.
''He's big-bodied. He's got good mechanics. The ball comes out of his hand well,'' Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. ''He's got multiple pitches and he's a prototypical dominant starter.''
In the same breath that he says Bradley ''has a long way to go,'' Gibson adds, ''hopefully he can have a huge impact on our success this year.''
Bradley will get a fair shot at the opening-day rotation, although his chances might have dimmed when Arizona landed free agent Bronson Arroyo on Friday.
Bradley said he wants to make the final decision tough on the team, working to pitch his way onto the squad much as left-hander Patrick Corbin did a year ago.
''My goal's not to win the fifth spot,'' he said. ''It's just to go out there and have fun and put pressure on them, just compete and do what I know how to do.''
He knows not to try too hard.
''I think if I come in here and try to earn the spot from Day 1 and just try to go all-out, I'm going to end up getting hurt or just doing something I'm not supposed to do,'' he said. ''So I'm just trying to take it easy, ease into it and then when it's time to start playing, pick it up a little bit.''
Bradley seems to handle all the attention and expectations with ease.
''Maybe some of that has to do with football, his football upbringing, calm under pressure,'' Towers said. ''In the pocket, you don't want to have those happy feet. I think he's been preparing himself for this for some time.''