SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Arizona Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale described Archie Bradley’s early work in spring training as “impressive,” adding he is “ready to face hitters.”
Bradley, who is coming back from a scary incident in which he was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez last April, agrees.
The 22-year-old right-hander said he hurdled that obstacle in his first time back on the mound last season against D-backs hitters in a simulated game at Chase Field. Cliff Pennington hit a line drive right back at him that barely missed.
“That was good for me. I kind of needed that ball to be hit close to me to see how I would react,” Bradley said. “It didn’t faze me, so I was ready to get going again.”
Bradley is competing for the fifth and final starting rotation spot with Zack Godley, Tyler Wagner and Robbie Ray. Hale likes what he sees so far.
“The other day I was watching him intently and he was hitting his spots,” Hale said Monday. “I always watch the catcher’s glove and it wasn’t moving a whole lot, he was hitting the glove almost every time. He needs to get going in these games and facing hitters to take that next step.”
Bradley’s focus is on himself and what he needs to do to earn the final spot in the rotation.
“Everything else will take care of itself,” he said.
As a rookie last season, Bradley made the rotation and came out on fire until the line drive sent him to the hospital. He briefly returned to the club but struggled with a shoulder injury.
The days that followed the face injury consisted of multiple doctor visits and appointments. But the results were negative for fractures and broken bones.
“There are so many things around your face, your orbital socket, nose, eyes, jaw and your teeth and the alignment of teeth,” Bradley said. “I was in and out of the doctor’s office just going through all the protocol to make sure everything checked out the way it should.”
Bradley isn’t the only pitcher to take a line drive to the head or face in the past few years, and Major League Baseball has taken steps to ensure pitchers safety.
According to William Weinbaum of ESPN.com, 20 big league pitchers will test newly-designed protective headgear that has been approved by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association this spring.
MLB vice president Patrick Houlihan described the new headwear to Weinbaum as “a hybrid of a cap and helmet.” The hat looks like a batters helmet but is thinner and has the top cut out. It is designed to protect a pitcher’s forehead and temple with an earflap for cover, depending on the pitcher’s throwing arm.
Bradley said he hasn’t thought about using any protective headgear during spring training.
“Maybe if I had gotten hit in the head it would be a little different,” Bradley said. “But I got hit in the face so I can’t wear a full facemask out there. I know they (MLB) are striving to get better at it and make better product, but for me it’s just not something I’m going to wear right now.”