MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Bradley taking short side trip to rotation

Bradley taking short side trip to rotation

D-backs right-hander Archie Bradley is going to be a starting pitcher. Bank on it.

It just won't happen this week or next month or most likely anytime this season. Bradley came out of Spring Training in the bullpen, and there is no indication that Arizona plans to move him into the rotation -- this year.

It's all about a growth process, a chance for the seventh player selected in the first round of the 2011 Draft to put the struggles he has had the past two seasons behind him and build off success he has enjoyed in his initial efforts out of the 'pen.

How strong are the D-backs' feelings about patience with Bradley?

So strong that even now, with Shelby Miller out for the season with a partial tear in his right elbow ligament, and Braden Shipley, sent back to Triple-A Reno after one start in Miller's place, manager Torey Lovullo is not wavering.

"Archie is staying in the bullpen," he said. "He has been very effective there. He has dominant stuff."

What goes unsaid is right now it's a matter of creating confidence. Bradley has dominated hitters all his life -- until he got to the big leagues.

In 34 starts the past two seasons, Bradley was 10-12 with a 5.18 ERA. The more glaring number was 89 walks in 177 1/3 innings. Yes, he is a hard thrower and strikes hitters out and is never going to be a Clayton Kershaw type in terms of control, but 4.5 walks per nine innings is a recipe for failure in the big leagues.

Bradley, who made only one relief appearance in the Minor Leagues, has been in control in his introduction to a relief role in the big leagues. In nine appearances, he has allowed three earned runs in 17 1/3 innings, giving up 12 hits, striking out 22 and, most impressively for those evaluating his development, issuing only four walks.

Bradley fans seven over 3 1/3

The D-backs have been cautious in their usage of Bradley. He made back-to-back appearances only once, April 29-30, but Arizona did not bring him back again until last Friday at Colorado. And Bradley threw only a combined 18 pitches in those two games, fewer than he has thrown in any of his other nine appearances.

What it's all about is getting Bradley back to where he feels good about himself and thinks positively about dominating hitters.

This may be Bradley's seventh year in pro ball, dating back to Rookie ball in 2011, but he is still only 24. There's no sense rushing things, having him take a step forward and then two steps backward.

So far, so good.

How good?

So good that Bradley has explained, "The bullpen has helped me out a ton. When that phone rings, you've just got to be ready. When that phone rings, whatever you're doing, it doesn't matter. When that phone rings, it's a different train of thought -- just be ready to go."

So good that when the media aren't speculating about a possible return to the rotation, there is a curiosity if Bradley could wind up in a closer's role in light of the inconsistency of 40-year-old Fernando Rodney, who may be 8-for-10 in saves but has given up 15 runs and seven walks in 11 2/3 innings.

The D-backs' hierarchy, however, is wisely remaining calm, pushing aside the various speculation, just encouraged to see the confidence that is growing within Bradley.

"He has been pretty dominant in the bullpen, and we feel that's where he has shown comfort," said Lovullo. "So for right now, we want to continue with that and allow him to continue to be as dominant as he has been. It makes a lot of sense."

Not that Lovullo thinks the bullpen will be a career decision.

"Long-term, we feel he's going to be a starter, but that's a conversation for a different point in time," said Lovullo.

No problem, said Bradley.

"I'm so locked in with the way I'm throwing the ball right now," he recently told the media. "Obviously, I've heard the talk, and we've talked a little bit, but I just told them, 'Look, man. I'm in my tunnel right now. You guys put me where you want to put me.'

"I'm locked in and focused on doing my job. This is what you want to have happen. You want to throw the ball well and put your name in these conversations to be in the rotation or be the closer, the back-end guy or the long guy. To me, it doesn't matter."

And when the time comes, Bradley will go into Arizona's rotation, ready to become the dominant right-hander scouts envisioned when he came out of Broken Arrow High School in June 2011.

Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.