D-backs’ Archie Bradley replaces fake nails with renewed curveball

Feb 13, 2019, 4:06 PM

Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Archie Bradley delivers pitch to Colorado Rockies' Ian Desmond ...

Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Archie Bradley delivers pitch to Colorado Rockies' Ian Desmond in the ninth inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 10, 2018, in Denver. Arizona won 8-3. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Archie Bradley likes to take care of his fingernails.

It’s easy to see why. A Major League Baseball pitcher must work with his hands. If something gets in the way of that, it becomes a challenge, as the D-backs reliever became all-too-familiar with last season. Bradley said he smashed his index fingernail in a car door right before Christmas of 2017, and it became a lingering problem that hindered him all year.

It didn’t sound like that would be a problem when Bradley spoke at the first official day of spring training on Wednesday.

“Whoo, boy! This nail is solid,” he said. “I’m throwing some hammers this year. I’m going to have one of the best curveballs in the big leagues this year. It’s nasty. Nail’s healthy, no crack, I’ve been able to throw it all offseason, and you can hear in the tone of voice, I’m really excited to get back out there and throw some curveballs this year.”

According to FanGraphs, Bradley’s usage of the curveball from 2015 through 2017 was 24.2 percent, 23.6 percent and 21.4 percent of his pitches each year, respectively. In 2018, that number dipped down to 17.8 percent, a career-low. He relied on his fastball for 81.7 percent of his pitches, a career high. The rest of his pitches (0.6 percent) were cutters.

His 3.64 ERA in 2018 was more than double what it was in 2017 (1.73).

“It was unfortunate,” he said. “It really was, I felt like, a missing link last year. I felt like I was pitching with half of who I was. To be able to have some of the success I did last year and then some of the struggles with it as well, it was a great learning experience, I matured a lot. But definitely sitting here right now, I feel way more ready to go with a healthy nail and healthy curveball.”

In the meantime, Bradley used an acrylic fingernail to help him throw his curveball until that was deemed against the rules. “I would say this is like my 55th nail,” Bradley told’s Steve Gilbert last summer.

“It’s unfortunate, though, by having that acrylic nail, he was breaking a baseball rule, so we had him remove that nail,” Lovullo said, later commenting on a social media post from Bradley: “So once we learned of that tweet and saw that picture, we had him remove it.”

This offseason, Bradley made headlines when he tweeted out a photo of himself playing baseball with the caption “closing time.” A day later, he did the same thing again with the caption “start me up,” then took to Instagram to post a photo of himself with the caption “setting it up.”

In the context of the fingernail discussion, Lovullo was asked about his thoughts on his pitcher’s eccentric use of social media.

“I have some really intimate conversations with Archie about certain things,” he said. “Look, I have a threshold, and when you exceed that, I feel like I need to call you in and sit you down. So I’ve had a couple of conversations with Archie. We keep it light, we keep it as real as we possibly can, and he always understands where I’m coming from.

“Like all the players in there, they’re receptive to what I have to say, they believe in what I have to say, and we move on. But I do love that part of Archie. I do love that personality. He brings a little color to this organization. So, I don’t want that to go away. I just ask that he uses good common sense. And if I have to talk about something he’s doing, then it’s gone too far. That’s basically the line in the sand for me.”

The D-backs, and Bradley himself, hope that’s all in the past now.

“It wasn’t so much pain, the pain was tolerable. It was just the nail cracking itself and having to superglue it, there was a ton of rules I had to abide by, I probably opened my mouth a few too many times about it. I learned my lesson, it’s healthy, it’s going to stay healthy and it’s going to throw some good curveballs.”

His focus now can turn to bigger and brighter things: Bradley said his goal this spring is to add a third pitch. Which pitch he adds to his repertoire remains to be seen, as he said he’ll be “toying” with various things, but he did say onlookers can expect to see him experimenting with a changeup.

“If you need your nails done, I can probably do them for you now,” he said. “I can do it all myself. It’s a science, but I’ve got it down.”

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