Right now, Diamondbacks’ right-hander Archie Bradley believes he is in a good place. Coming off a season of injury, doubt and long, tedious bouts of rehabilitation, Bradley is ready to turn the page.
Still in the conversation for the final spot in the rotation, Bradley used his opportunity Wednesday afternoon to showcase talents of a former number one pick. That’s exactly Bradley’s history with the Diamondbacks as the native of Muskogee, Okla. was one of two, first-round selections in 2011. Taken number seventh overall (Trevor Bauer number three overall), Bradley turned down a football scholarship to the University Oklahoma for a chance to compete at the major league level.
Over the past few years, Bradley, at 23-years-old, was cited as the Diamondbacks number one prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com. Beginning with a stop at rookie Missoula right after the draft, Bradley began his ascent up the Diamondbacks ladder, and then earned a spot in the rotation last season. Off to a terrific start, his season was dramatically cut short when he was felled by a line drive to the face off the bat of the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez in a game at Chase Field last April 29.
The subsequent period of rehabilitation was as agonizing as the recovery. Instead of going back home to Oklahoma in the past off-season, Bradley stayed in the Phoenix area, intensified his workouts at Salt River, the Diamondbacks training site, and came to spring training with a clean slate.
If his effort Wednesday in the spring opener against the Rockies is any indication, Bradley entered the phase of further discussion. For two innings of work, he allowed no hits, walked one hitter and struck out one. In the end, he received the win in the Diamondbacks, 6-3 victory over the Rockies in the spring opener for both teams. Most important, he said the trauma of last season is behind, and he’s ready to compete.
“I felt really good, and it was great to get out and compete,” he said after his Wednesday outing.” I was happy with the way things went, and it’s good to get off on the right foot.”
To work his way back into favor, Bradley incorporated the central criteria which is the mantra of Mike Butcher, the Diamondbacks pitching coach, manager Chip Hale and other Arizona decision-makers. The standard is first-pitch strike, and have the batter make contact within the first three pitches of an at-bat. That way, Hale said, “that cuts down on pitches, and allows a pitcher to go deeper into games.”
For his part, Bradley agreed throwing strikes on the initial pitch of an at-bat is critical to a pitcher’s success. More important, that’s the goal, he pointed out, and consistency needs to remain paramount.
“It’s important for me to be aggressive in the strike zone,” he said. “That means getting the first pitch in there, and continue to be aggressive.”
Throughout his two innings, Bradley showed no signs of the malady which plagued him last season. Repeating to reporters, “I’m over it,” Bradley said he wants to put the entire experience behind. Bradley did pitch to Gonzalez, who was the third hitter he faced. On the first pitch, Gonzalez flied to center field, and for his two innings, Bradley faced seven hitters, one over the limit.
“(Bradley’s) fast ball was great,” said Welington Castillo, who caught the right-hander Wednesday. “His fast ball command was great, and his breaking pitches were down. He threw the way he is supposed to throw.”
ADDING A VETERAN
Signed last week to a minor league contract, Rickie Weeks will make his spring debut on Thursday. The 33-year-old will DH for the Diamondbacks in a game against the Rockies at Salt River.
“It’s a chance to compete for a job, and I’m excited about that,” Weeks said Wednesday in the clubhouse. “The outfield for me is a bit of transition, but I’m feeling good now,”
Weeks spent 11 seasons with the Brewers and played primarily second base. When Milwaukee released Weeks last season, he signed with Seattle as an outfielder and was subsequently released by the Mariners after 37 games and a .167 batting average. Now with the Diamondbacks, Weeks hoped to sign with a club during the off-season, but settled with Arizona after pitchers and catchers reported.
“I see the Diamondbacks as team of urgency,” he said. “I’m happy to be here, and hope to make a contribution.”
MORE OF THE ROCKIES AND BEYOND
The Diamondbacks and Rockies play each other again Thursday (1:10 p.m.) at Salt River. Lefty Robbie Ray, along with Bradley and others, remain in the mix for that final rotation spot.
Ray will be followed by Zack Godley, Tyler Clippard and Randall Delgado. Colorado manager Walt Weiss will start right-hander Jordan Lyles.
Right-hander Zack Greinek makes his spring debut for Arizona on Friday at Salt River (1:10 p.m.) against Oakland. Following Grienke for the Diamondbacks will be Tyler Wagner, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter.
On Saturday, the Diamondbacks play their first spring game away from Salt River. They take on the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in Glendale. Right-hander Shelby Miller gets the start, and will be followed by Braden Shipley, Yoan Lopez and Andrew Chafin. The Dodgers will start right-hander Kenta Maeda, who recently signed an eight-year, $25 million contract with Los Angeles. That includes $10 million per season incentive, and the Dodgers paid the Hiroshima Carp, his former team in Japan, $20 million as a posting fee.