SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The bottleneck at the bottom of the Arizona Diamondbacks rotation just shrunk all the more narrow when the organization signed veteran pitcher Bronson Arroyo, so it’s a good thing prized pitching prospect Archie Bradley isn’t trying to squeeze into it.
For him, the fifth spot isn’t the goal this spring. He’s at Salt River Fields, instead, to “just compete,” as he’d say.
“My goal is not to win the fifth spot,” the 21-year-old Bradley told the media Friday. “It’s just to go out there and have fun and put pressure on them and, like I said, just compete and do what I know to do.”
The baseball world, it would seem, is more emotionally vested in seeing the hard-throwing right-hander make the Diamondbacks rotation than Bradley himself.
They’ve lionized him by placing him high atop prospects list and comparing him to bygone superstars. Now, they’re in Scottsdale with cameras and voice recorders, surrounding his locker at the Diamondbacks’ spring training facility and crowding near the bullpen fence to watch him throw a baseball.
You’d never know as much — you’d never see the pressure to appease the masses — from a conversation on the matter with Bradley.
You’d also never figure that he’s the youngest guy at camp.
“I think if I come in here and try to earn the spot from day one or just try to go all out, you know, I’m going to end up getting hurt or doing something that I’m not supposed to do,” Bradley calmly explained to the aforementioned horde gathered around him.
General manager Kevin Towers, on the other hand, was clear: his pitcher was in Scottsdale to, yes, compete — to compete for a spot in the rotation.
“He knows he’s going to be competing for one of the spots in our rotation here,” Towers told the media Friday.
“I want him hungry, as was Corbin last year, and Skaggs.”
The Broken Arrow, Okla. native enters camp with 55 professional appearances under his belt. He’s 26-11 with a 2.76 earned run average and a 9.9 strikeout-per-nine rate in his minor league career.
Last season, Bradley logged a 1.84 ERA between two lower levels (High-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile) while going 14-5 in 152.0 innings pitched. He struck out 162 of the batters he faced, walking 69.
“He’s met every challenge,” Towers explained of his minor league effort to date.
“Regardless of whatever the outcome is,” he went on, “I think the experience is going to be good for him.
“You know, he’s going to come in and compete with several others for one of the spots here and be exposed to better hitters than he’s faced up until this point in his career.”
After completing the first official Diamondbacks pitchers workout of the year, Bradley seems to be on the same page as his GM.
As he said, his goal: “Just compete — show them the strides I’ve made, where I’ve improved from last season.”
And if he doesn’t squeeze into that spot by the end of camp, will he make his way the 20.8 miles down the road to Chase Field at some point in 2014?
“That’s what I’d like to think, yeah,” he explained. “Ultimately, that’s the team’s decision, but I feel like if I keep working and keep doing my thing, then eventually — whether it’s (Opening Day) or in September — then it will happen.”