MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

'Confident' Bradley looks set to cement closer role

D-backs' relief ace fans side to secure first career save

'Confident' Bradley looks set to cement closer role

"I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." -- Jon Landau, music critic, May 22, 1974

PHOENIX -- We saw the future closer for the D-backs on Sunday and his name is Archie Bradley.

It doesn't matter how the D-backs finally got to that point, just that they did.

Fresh off Fernando Rodney blowing his sixth save and a five-run lead to the Padres in the ninth inning on Saturday evening, Bradley came in to protect a 3-2 margin on Sunday. He threw 12 pitches and struck out the side, the final strike a nasty curve that San Diego pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez took looking.

Fired-up Bradley notches first MLB save

Bradley was electric and the crowd of 23,854 at Chase Field loved it, roaring to a crescendo with every pitch. Entering Monday, Bradley had a 1.23 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, mostly as a setup guy. Sunday was the first time manager Torey Lovullo used him in the ninth inning.

Now he knows what we all suspected. Archie Bradley was "Born to Run."

"It was fun. It was a different experience," Bradley said on Monday before his club opened a huge four-game series against the Rockies. "You're out there for the last three outs of the game, which sometimes are the most important. At the same time, I could lose the game, they can tie the game. I figured, 'Just do what you do all year and be aggressive. Just throw the ball.'"

Bradley's nickname origin

That he did, upwards of 95 mph. The question now is where the D-backs go from here. With 18 games left after Monday night, they are in a pitched battle with Colorado for the National League's top Wild Card spot.

If the D-backs prevail, they'll host the NL's Wild Card Game here on Oct. 4.

That night, do you want to take your chances with the erratic Rodney, who has 36 saves, but has blown 13 percent of his opportunities? Or would you rather rely on the seemingly unflappable Bradley?

"No, Fernando is our closer. There's no closer controversy," Lovullo said after Sunday's game. "We've had situations like this pop up in the past. It's just that we never had a chance to close Archie when Fernando was down. We made up our mind pregame [Rodney] was not going to be available. It's the first time that it stood out and it worked out very well. But there's no controversy. Fernando is our closer."

Rodney will be a free agent at the end of the season and there's no doubt that some people in the organization believe that Bradley is the future. Based on results, that future could be sooner rather than later.

Rodney has a 4.68 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. According to Statcast™, 33.8 percent of his pitches have been balls, the worst among big league relievers this season who work the ninth inning. He's blown two saves each against the Padres and Rockies, one each against the Pirates and Dodgers, and has been shaky on a number of other occasions.

Rodney, 40, has been doing this for a long time -- 15 seasons -- and has had his ups and downs: 48 saves for Seattle in 2014 and 16 between the Mariners and Cubs in '15. The D-backs are his eighth team. He has a career 3.75 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 297 saves.

Bradley, selected by the D-backs out of high school with the seventh pick of the 2011 Draft, had always considered himself a starter. In fact, his first 34 big league appearances in 2015-16 were all starts. He was 10-12 with a 5.18 ERA and struggled to stay healthy.

As a reliever, he has found his niche.

"In a confident way, I think I can do anything now," he said. "That's what the bullpen has made me realize. I don't care if I'm a long guy, a setup man or a starter. I feel like with my attitude and the way I approach my day-to-day activities, I can do anything, any role I'm given."

What's the manager telling him? What's his role for the rest of this season?

"It's going to be the same," Bradley said. "Rodney is our guy. I say that with full confidence. I'm trying to get the ball to him. The guy's coming up on 300 saves. He's been pretty much lights out this year. Yeah, I'm giving the ball to him and that's the way it's going to stay."

We'll see.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.