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Arizona Diamondbacks: Bradley Ready to Compete for Starting Spot

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Archie Bradley ( Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Archie Bradley ( Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
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Of six considered for a spot in the rotation, Archie Bradley of the Arizona Diamondbacks is in contention

Right-hander Archie Bradley of the Arizona Diamondbacks does not sound like a player on the bubble. Though that’s his current state, Bradley remains excited, animated and eager.

When pitchers and catchers arrived earlier this week at the Diamondbacks’ Salt River spring training venue, that was his projection. Sporting a full, lumber jack-like beard and radiant personality, Bradley spoke like a pitcher who already wrapped up a spot in the five-man rotation. Instead, Bradley remains one of six competing for those five precious spots.

Here at the advent of camp, three appear to be secure. Zack Greinke is considered the Diamondbacks’ number one pitcher and followed by Shelby Miller, Robbie Ray, and newly acquired righty Taijuan Walker. That leaves lefty Patrick Corbin and Bradley fighting for the final spot.

If Miller, coming off a 2-11 season, fails to recover from his disastrous 2016 season, there could be as many as two slots open behind Greinke, Ray, and Walker.

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For now, Bradley remains pumped for the opportunity and ready to pick up from last season. In his final nine starts of the 2016 campaign, Bradley went 4-1 with four no-decisions. In gaining his final victory of the season on Oct. 1, Bradley fanned a career-high 11 Padres and suffered only one defeat from Aug. 18 to the end of the season.

“In the last month there, we were going through a tough time, but those starts meant something to me,” Bradley said in the clubhouse at Salt River. “That mattered to me and my career. I wanted to finish strong and then build on that. It was a challenge I set for myself.”

Save Greinke’s 13-7 season, Bradley finished with an 8-9 mark and represented the closest of any Arizona starter to a .500 season. Working out at the Salt River training facility since Jan. 3, Bradley said he is in a position to feed off the success from last season and enthusiastically embrace the future.

“From day one of camp, you want to win a World Series, and everything is geared toward that goal,” he said. “There’s good competition here, and that’s good. I feel very positive and confident.”

Going forward, Bradley says he’s the first to forget last season’s 69-93 mark and not prepared to read any tea leaves.

“During spring training last year, expectations were outrageous,” he said. “We all bought into that. Now, there are no expectations, no hype, no media stuff and we only listen to the fans.”

At this point, manager Torey Lovullo has not committed to the rotation, and would only say, “we have six outstanding starters. The competition is strong, and we’ll see how this plays out.”

One medical front

On Tuesday, the Diamondbacks announced bench coach Ron Gardenhire was stricken with prostate cancer. That’s the same disease which Arizona president and CEO Derrick Hall faced and conquered.

For now, Gardenhire, 59-years-old, will have surgery shortly, and take a leave of absence from the club.

“I’m going to fight it and deal with it,” he said in a statement released by the Diamondbacks. “It’s a bump in the road, and it’s not how I envisioned starting Spring Training with a brand new team, but it’s part of life. With the backing of this ball club, we’ll get through it and I’ll get through it.”

Next: bench competition heats up

Gardenhire was hired to be manager Torey Lovullo’s bench coach. Now, Gardenhire is expected to miss the next four to six weeks. If his recovery goes as scheduled, he could be at Lovullo’s side for opening day. That’s Sunday, April 2 when the Diamondbacks host the San Francisco Giants.

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