D-backs’ Archie Bradley a strong candidate for closer role in 2020
PHOENIX — Things didn’t get off to a solid start for Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley in 2019.
The pitcher went from not being named the team’s closer to enduring a brutal stretch from May to June where he sported a 7.83 ERA and picked up a loss in his only start, leaving manager Torey Lovullo to relegate him to more lower-leverage situations.
But while the team moved in a different direction, going with the more experienced Greg Holland, Lovullo and Co. kept their confidence up with the hurler, with the added expectation that Bradley could one day take over as the closer.
The decision to stick with the reliever paid off in late July, as Holland was demoted to a lesser role in the bullpen after five consecutive blown saves, providing Bradley, who had been working his way back to his previous form, another shot at seizing the opportunity in front of him.
On July 30, Bradley showed improved play, picking up his first save while bringing more stability to the backend of games.
From there, the pitcher found a consistent groove, picking up 18 of his 19 save opportunities to go along with a 2.10 ERA in 25.2 IP (25 games). His elevated play helped keep the D-backs in the thick of the NL Wild Card race for most of the second half of the season.
Taking into account his past successes, and seeing what he accomplished over the last 25 games, has Bradley done enough to solely take over as the team’s closer moving forward?
“I think he’s earned that right. I think we would be crazy not to consider him as one of our lead candidates to be the closer,” Lovullo said ahead of the team’s season finale Sunday. “He has 18 saves right? He’s been pretty darn good, and those are three hard outs to get. So he’s earned that right.”
Lovullo, however, isn’t one to jump the gun with spring training still roughly five months out.
“I will strongly consider him, but we’re too far away from next spring training to be able to have that conversation,” Lovullo said. “But what I do like to do is by the end of spring training is sit the guys down and let them know what their roles are and we’ll let it play out over the course of this spring and offseason and see where we go.”
Even though Yoan Lopez, Kevin Ginkel and Yoshihisa Hirano, among others were also used to close out games over the course of the season, Bradley certainly outperformed the group in 2019.
Bradley is arbitration-eligible the next two seasons, becoming a free agent in 2022 and giving the D-backs a chance at a consistent closer in the coming years.
If Bradley can settle in long-term, it could pay major dividends for a D-backs team looking to get back into the playoffs after missing the past two seasons.
– Eduardo Escobar was presented with the fifth-annual Luis Gonzalez award ahead of Sunday’s tilt with the San Diego Padres.
The award is given to the player who best exemplifies the D-backs on and off the field and is voted on by teammates, coaches and staff.