Bradley 'fired up' with Phillies. Will he close?

January 18th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- wore a black Ric Flair-themed Christmas sweater on Monday’s introductory Zoom call with reporters.

Perhaps he can turn the Phillies’ bullpen from woof to "Woooo!" in 2021.

“I’ve very fired up,” Bradley said.

The Phillies announced Bradley’s one-year, $6 million contract on Monday. He projects as the closer, although manager Joe Girardi said nothing has been decided. For his part, Bradley preferred to use his time on Monday to discuss Philadelphia’s chances to win. There will be plenty of time to talk about roles, he said.

The Phillies’ chances remain cloudy, however, at least until president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski fills the remaining holes on the roster. But Bradley’s arrival helps a bullpen that had the second-worst ERA in baseball history in 2020, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Bradley, 28, has a 2.95 ERA and 28 saves across 221 appearances over the past four seasons with Arizona and Cincinnati. He earned a career-high 18 saves with the D-backs in '19.

“I was very intrigued by Philly,” Bradley said. “The team they put together over the past few years, I mean, when you get a guy like Bryce Harper to commit [13] years to a place, there is something good going on there. Hopefully with me being on board, we can get our guy J.T. [Realmuto] back, but I’m going to have a lot of opportunities to pitch and I’m going to have a lot of opportunities to contribute, and ultimately, that’s what I want to do. I don’t care what role it’s in, I want to take the ball and provide quality innings for this team.”

Bradley adds velocity to the bullpen, too. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.2 mph in 2020. (It averaged 95.5 mph in '19, but he believes it will return to form with the return of a 162-game schedule.) Only two returning Phillies relievers threw harder: (95.3 mph) and (95.3 mph).

Adding bullpen velocity has been a point of emphasis this offseason. The Phillies acquired (98.4 mph) and (96.9 mph) in trades over the past month. Waiver-claim acquisitions (97.0 mph) and (94.3 mph) also throw hard.

“I’ve always liked hard throwers,” Dombrowski said. “It’s been that way my whole career. Wherever I’ve been, we’ve had hard throwers in our bullpen.”

Hard throwers or soft throwers, the Phillies just need people to get outs. They believe they are moving in that direction.

“We’ve improved ourselves, but we can continue to work on improving ourselves, too,” Dombrowski said. “We’re open minded to future additions as we continue to talk in this free-agent market, so we’ll continue to work on it, but I do think we’ve significantly improved ourselves.”

“I've been excited about the guys they've brought in,” Bradley said. “Coonrod, Alvarado. We have [Héctor] Neris coming back. A lot of guys that have a lot to prove but have a huge upside and throw really hard. When you look at completing a bullpen and being able to put a bullpen that can cover [innings] 7-8-9, that's what you're trying to lock down. It's very intriguing, because you have guys with great stuff. When you put them in the right spot, it's a very magical thing, watching a bullpen go to work.”

Bradley, Neris and Alvarado each have closing experience. Coonrod even saved three games in September for the Giants.

The Phillies should have options.

“I think coming into this year, flexibility is extremely important,” Girardi said. “Just because of what we went through last year, and we’re not exactly sure when we start, how we start, if players are going to be vaccinated -- we just don’t know. But in the perfect world, I’d like to set up roles so everyone knows what their role is. I think it’s easier for players to be successful. I think it’s easier for players to prepare. Now look, there may be a day when you go to a guy and say, ‘If this situation comes up, these three guys are coming up in the eighth instead of the ninth, this might be a day where I’d like to use you in the eighth instead of the ninth.’ But I’d want to establish roles if we could.”

“All that stuff will work itself out, trust me,” Bradley said. “I want to take the ball in the ninth, I want to take the ball in any situation. But I want to talk about me being a Phillie, I want to talk about how we’re going to get better and how this team is going to get ready to try to win a World Series.”

To clear room on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated outfielder for assignment.