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D-backs RHP Archie Bradley gets in curveball work vs. Brewers

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

PHOENIX — Archie Bradley earned his due respect two years ago by posting a 1.73 ERA in his first year out of the Diamondbacks bullpen.

He earned a few black eyes because of that respect last season, when the scouting report and reputation caught up to Bradley’s abilities as a hard-throwing relief pitcher. In strategy heading into 2019, it’s up to him to get back ahead of the curve while game-planning.

But to do so this spring, Bradley is getting back to the basics regarding a pitch-mix that made for a strong 2017 season.

“I know he’s trying to work on some things, locating the fastball and using that breaking ball a little more,” manager Torey Lovullo said.

Friday in a 6-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Friends of Phoenix park, the D-backs reliever got in work against the heart of the Brewers’ order.

His second spring outing lasted an inning, and he allowed three singles, including those to Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain. Bradley also struck out three batters, including Christian Yelich and Travis Shaw, the latter of whom smacked Diamondbacks starter Zack Godley for two home runs on the day.

The biggest priority, Bradley said, was working his curveball into form — results out of sight and out of mind.

“Getting back to throwing it again, throwing it for strikes, throwing it where I want to and having the shape I’m wanting it to have,” he said.

“I did great. Did some things that I normally wouldn’t do in certain situations.”

Last season, Bradley’s cracked finger nail impacted how he threw the pitch, sometimes to the point he went away from it entirely. While he attempted to use a sinker to add diversity to his mix, using the curve less didn’t only take away a strength. It hurt the value of his fastball, his best pitch, as well.

“He can throw his fastball by anybody, we know that, but there are certain hitters at certain times who will lean on it,” Lovullo said, echoing problems from the middle of last year. “To not be so one-dimensional I think is one part of his goal and to be able to finish off hitters with more than his fastball, that’s another part of his goal.”

Bradley made 13 more appearances in 2018 compared to 2017. He recorded nine more holds but blew two more saves with more appearances to finish with a 3.64 ERA.

The right-hander’s pre-All-Star numbers (1.97 ERA and .189 opponent average) inflated after the break (6.58 ERA and .290 opponent average) as Arizona’s season went south in the final month.

While Lovullo admitted he put a great deal of thought into how he used his bullpen arms, perhaps to a fault, he said this spring that he would’ve done the same thing again.

That’s perhaps why the D-backs kept Bradley on ice longer than usual as they expect to lean heavily on him again in 2019.

There’s competition that could challenge Bradley in his super relief role for the D-backs.

Expectations are high after veteran reliever Greg Holland closed 2018 strong for the Washington Nationals, then signed with Arizona. And the there’s second-year pro Yoshi Hirano, who went an inning with a walk, no runs and no hits or strikeouts on Friday.

Lovullo sees it as a sign that Bradley appears more concerned with himself than however the spring outing went. Or how the bullpen situation shakes out.

“The thing I like the most about Archie is he knows what he’s trying to get to,” the manager said. “He knows what didn’t work, what didn’t feel right last year, and he wants to simplify that, go back to the basics and maybe relearn or reuse some of his tools.

“That to me is the ultimate sign of becoming an established big-leaguer.”

BASE HITS

— Godley allowed five hits and three earned runs Friday, the scores coming from two Shaw home runs. Godley didn’t walk a batter and struck out three in 4.0 innings.

“Felt really good. Continuing to build on everything I’ve been working on coming into spring. Honestly, I think even the pitches that were hit well I thought were pretty good pitches,” Godley said.

— Second baseman Andy Young, acquired in the Paul Goldschmidt deal this offseason, recorded two hits, including a lofting home run in the sixth inning.

“He’s got thunder in his hands, there’s no doubt about it,” Lovullo said. “You see when he takes BP, the ball takes off.”

Third baseman Wyatt Mathisen also homered for the D-backs.

— To feed the crossover fans of the Cardinals and Diamondbacks, here are a few comments from Bradley, a former Oklahoma quarterback commit out of high school on Oklahoma quarterback and potential No. 1 pick Kyler Murray:

“Heisman trophy winner, best player in college football. Obviously I’m not in the deep-down meetings and understanding what’s going on there. In terms of watching the guy play, the guy can play.

“I just feel like a kid who wins the Heisman Trophy, who in terms of what you’re looking at outside of the size checks every box from the throws to the speed to everything … if size is really the only thing, look at Baker Mayfield, Drew Brees.”

— Lovullo said he will begin merging his best players together in games after the weekend trip to Mexico. That will give him a better idea of how to construct the batting order.

As for center fielder Ketel Marte potentially acting as lead-off man, Lovullo said he wanted the converted infielder to focus on one thing at a time.

“I’m going to take a slow look at it,” Lovullo said.


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