D-backs send Bradley down but see him as big part of future

Archie Bradley went 2-1 with a 5.25 ERA in four exhibition games with the Diamondbacks this spring.

Chris Carlson

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Right-hander Archie Bradley impressed major league scouts with his repertoire and his composure this spring, and when scouts talked about him one afternoon at Salt River Fields, it evolved into a discussion about the number of true aces in the major leagues.

The Diamondbacks are among the believers, of course, but they announced Thursday that Bradley will open the season at Class AAA Reno, the better to polish the command of his 99-mph fastball, which they feel is the last step in his preparedness. 

"We saw a very talented young man. He’s close," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He’s somebody we look at who could really help us throughout the year. We think this is the way to go about it.

"Fastball command is No. 1. He gets in bad counts, then he leaves the ball up and it gets hammered. He has better stuff than that. You are going to get hit. Nobody is not going to get hit. When you get into trouble, you have to be able to manage your way through the situation."

The move leaves Randall Delgado as the apparent final piece of the starting rotation, although Gibson would not confirm that Thursday, saying that Bo Schultz and Josh Collmenter remain in the mix. Delgado gave up two runs and seven hits in four innings of a 9-1 split-squad loss to the Reds on Thursday.

Bradley, the seventh player taken in the 2011 draft out of Broken Arrow (Okla.) High, was disappointed but accepting.

"I think I can compete (in the majors) now. That’s just the way I am," Bradley said. "But at the same time, when I look at what I did this spring, there are still some things I need to polish out and get better at. I think that is what this is all about. Go down there and prove to them that I can do that, and everything will work out."

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Patrick Corbin’s season-ending elbow surgery moved everyone up in the pecking order, and the nature of the game is such that Bradley or Schultz, or possibly both, could be called on to start at some point this season. Because of injuries and a suspension, the Diamondbacks used nine starting pitchers last season, and six made at least 19 starts. Brandon McCarthy’s injury history suggests he will miss some time, although his goal is to pitch 200 innings this season. McCarthy has spent time on the disabled with shoulder issues in each of the last five years. He has made 25, 18 and 22 starts the past three seasons, missing the final month of 2012 after being struck in the head by a line drive.

"If we need (Bradley), we’d like him to be a good option," Gibson said. "We want him to continue to develop, and when he gets here, we want him to stay here. A lot of guys come up, they have some success, and it seems like it gets hard. We are trying to avoid that." 

Bradley, 21, was 2-1 with a 5.25 ERA in four exhibition games this spring, the last against the Australian national team March 21 in Sydney. He had 6 1/3 scoreless innings in his first two starts, giving up three hits and striking out nine, before running into more difficulty his final two games. He had 13 strikeouts and nine walks in 12 spring innings.

"Camp overall was a huge learning process," Bradley said. "Learned a ton. Learned a ton about myself. What I need to do to compete and stay up here. Just be more consistent. That’s the biggest thing. That’s the thing I did my first two starts. I was very consistent in everything I did. the last two, I kinda got away from that. Lost control a little bit and couldn’t really get it back."

As he has continued to develop his changeup during the spring, Bradley showed more of his early form in a camp intrasquad game Thursday, giving up one run and three hits in five innings. He struck out five and walked two.

"I was a lot more consistent, got a lot more first-pitch strikes," Bradley said. "Controlled the count a lot better, which is what I need to do. That is what is going to get me back up here. So just build on that and keep getting better."

Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley, who has 40 quality starts in the last two seasons, sees a bright future for Bradley.

"He’s going to be very special. He’s going to help us win up here. He’ll be a part of this," Miley said. "He has a wonderful arm, no doubt about that. There are some things to learn, and I think he did a great job understanding and talking to pitchers" during spring training. 

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