The agent for right-hander Archie Bradley, one of the game’s top pitching prospects, says his client deserves to jump into the Arizona Diamondbacks’ struggling rotation. D-backs general manager Kevin Towers disagrees.
The back-and-forth between the two reflects not only the strain of the D-backs’ poor start but also the tension that exists over the perception that clubs sometimes hold down prospects because of service-time considerations.
"I think it’s very apparent what is going on in Arizona," Bradley’s agent, Jay Franklin, told FOX Sports on Monday night. "Every ballplayer that is playing minor league baseball works his tail off to get an opportunity to play in the big leagues.
"Archie Bradley has proven to the Diamondbacks organization that he has deserved that opportunity by keeping his mouth shut and letting his numbers speak for his chance to pitch in the major leagues."
Bradley, 21, has a 1.50 ERA in his first two starts for Triple-A Reno, with eight strikeouts and four walks in 12 innings. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, are 4-12 with a major-league-worst 7.16 rotation ERA.
Towers said in a telephone interview that the team’s reluctance to promote Bradley does not stem from a desire to avoid starting the pitcher’s service clock. (The team will need to keep Bradley in the minors through late April to delay his free agency by one season and through at least late May to ensure that he does not qualify for an extra year of arbitration.)
Instead, Towers cited two concerns:
* The pressure Bradley would face if the D-Backs promoted him in the middle of such a poor start.
* Bradley’s struggles in his last two starts of spring training, including his final outing against Team Australia, in which he allowed three runs and nine baserunners and a homer in 3-2/3 innings.
"I would not bring him up in this environment the way we’re playing," Towers said. "I know how it would be perceived if he came up: ‘Archie is going to save us.’ I don’t want to do that to a 21-year-old kid.
"If it gets to the point where we straighten this thing out and it’s a more positive environment here and he’s throwing the ball well, we’ll do it regardless of the clock."
To which Franklin replied: "Trust me, Archie thrives in that position. I’ve known him since he was 15 years old. He loves pressure."
But is Bradley, the seventh overall pick out of Broken Arrow (Okla.) High School, in 2011, truly ready for the majors?
He lost the competition for the fifth starter’s job to right-hander Randall Delgado in spring training, and Towers indicated that he is not quite a finished product.
"In spring training, if he had continued to deal, we would have started (the season) with him," Towers said. "His fastball command was not there in spring training. He’ll even admit that."
More than anything, though, Towers said he is trying to be protective of Bradley. He said it wouldn’t be "fair" to promote the pitcher with the team struggling so badly.
"Things are not going great with our starting pitching," Towers said. "When the environment is better and he might help us win ballgames, we’ll bring him up."