SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The lack of proven pitching depth in Arizona has opened the door for Archie Bradley to make a run at the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day rotation.
At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Bradley certainly has a frame that can fill up a doorway. He looks the part of the budding ace, and prospect evaluators remain high on him even after injuries and growing pains turned 2014 into a forgettable season. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Bradley 21st on his Top 100 prospects list, and Baseball America still pegs Bradley as the top prospect in the Arizona system.
A year ago at this time, Bradley arrived in camp with even more buildup. But he lost some of his golden-boy luster after he missed two months early in the season because of an elbow injury and his numbers took a hit upon his return. Bradley posted a 3-7 record with a 4.45 ERA and averaged 5.3 walks per nine innings in three minor league stops in 2014.
Some of Bradley’s wounds were self-inflicted. By his own admission, his priorities were out of whack last spring.
“There were so many expectations," Bradley said. "I was so concerned with what everyone thought and what the media thought, instead of really worrying about myself and what I could control. I was so caught up in making this team and making that fifth spot [in the rotation], I kind of lost sight of the more important goals in front of me -- like what I could do every day to get better.”
The competition for rotation roles is a free-for-all in Arizona's camp. Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson appear to have a claim on two spots, and Chase Anderson gave himself a leg up with a 9-7 record and 4.01 ERA in 21 starts as a rookie. After that, who knows? Trevor Cahill and Rubby De La Rosa are in the mix, and Vidal Nuno, Robbie Ray, Allen Webster, Randall Delgado and Andrew Chafin will get innings in the Cactus League. Daniel Hudson is coming back from his second Tommy John surgery, and the Diamondbacks signed Cuban pitcher Yoan Lopez to an $8.27 million deal in January.
Then there's Bradley, the former 2011 first-round pick who is still trying to settle on his repertoire and pitch mix at age 22. He throws a fastball in the mid-90s, a slider/cutter, a knuckle curve and a changeup. But as pitching coach Mike Harkey reminds him, he has the stuff to succeed as a two-pitch pitcher in the big leagues provided he can command the heat.
“When I think about who I want to pitch and be like, I think about Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan,” Bradley said. “Those guys dominated games with their fastball. I'm not saying I'm those guys, but I think I have similar stuff as far as the way I can throw. I just need to be more consistent with the fastball. If you can get guys out with your fastball, the secondary stuff will come along a lot easier.”
After an offseason spent hunting and attending Sooners football games back home in Oklahoma, Bradley arrived at his second major league camp looking a bit more comfortable. He made a nice opening statement with two shutout innings against Colorado in his Cactus League debut Thursday.
“He pitched with a purpose,” said Arizona manager Chip Hale. “Our minor league guys who saw him when he was really good a couple of years ago said, 'That's the Archie Bradley we drafted.'"
Melvin managing to remain directionally-challenged
A two-time Manager of the Year, Oakland's Bob Melvin has proven he can be a leader. But he has some issues following directions. When Chip Hale served as A's bench coach for three years under Melvin, Hale usually drove to the park because Melvin had a knack for getting lost.
Hale left Oakland to take the Arizona job over the winter, and the Diamondbacks hosted the Athletics in an early Cactus League game Friday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Melvin made it to the park for the game, but it wasn’t exactly a snap.
“I told him to use [the GPS] on his phone, but he has a hard time with that,” Hale said. “He texted me last night and said, 'Leave some bread crumbs on your way in.'"