Bradley at peace with D-backs' rotation battle

Bradley at peace with D-backs' rotation battle

Part II of a series looking at some of the candidates for the final spot in the D-backs' starting rotation. (Pt. 1: Robbie Ray)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Archie Bradley is in a fierce battle for the No. 5 spot in the D-backs' Opening Day rotation, but the right-hander seems more at peace than ever this spring.

Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Patrick Corbin and Rubby De La Rosa were given spots when camp opened, which leaves Bradley fighting Robbie Ray, Zack Godley and Tyler Wagner for the final starting slot.

"Essentially, this is my third camp where I'm competing for a rotation spot, and this is easily the most relaxed I've been," Bradley said. "I guess it's just maturation. I finally understand I'm competing against myself. I'm not competing against Robbie or Godley or whoever else they say is in this competition."

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One of the D-backs' two first-round picks in 2011, Bradley pitched so well during Spring Training last year he forced the D-backs to deal Trevor Cahill to clear a spot in the rotation.

In Bradley's first four starts of the year, he went 2-0 and had a 1.45 ERA. He seemed to be rolling.

Then on April 28, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez hit a line drive back up the middle that struck Bradley in the side of the face. Remarkably, Bradley avoided serious injury, but after spending two weeks on the disabled list, he was not the same pitcher.

Bradley struck by comebacker

"I was throwing well, and then [getting hit] happened, and I could never get back to where I wanted to," Bradley said. "At this level, anything you do wrong gets exposed. I learned that when I wasn't able to locate stuff and I wasn't able to get ahead. I couldn't do the things I wanted to do."

Bradley tried to pretend there was no hesitation in getting back on the mound after the injury, but in doing so, he may have made it the distraction he hoped it wouldn't become.

Another stint on the disabled list and time in the Minors made 2015 an unpleasant one for Bradley, but he finished on a positive note during instructional league and then rededicated himself during the offseason to being ready to go.

"Archie had a really good winter," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "He's worked hard."

In addition to physical conditioning this winter, Bradley also worked on his mind.

"I'm honestly more focused on this team," Bradley said. "I think the thing I've been focused on the most [is] saying 'we' and 'us' and not so much about me. This is a team thing, and it's going to take all of us this year."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.