Bradley to work on honing command, avoiding walks

July 22nd, 2016

CINCINNATI -- D-backs pitcher looks like a guy who's starting to figure it out.

After coming out of his first six starts of the season with a 5.66 ERA, he's posted a 3.38 ERA over his last seven outings, including four quality starts. But underlying that 3.38 ERA is a problem -- in 40 innings, he's walked 20 batters.

Friday's start against the Reds exemplified the problem, with Bradley walking a season-high five men and hitting another, allowing three runs over five innings as Arizona fell, 6-2.

"You play with fire, eventually you're going to get burned. Tonight I did," Bradley said. "I was able to get out of situations, which is still a sign of good progressing and maturing and making good pitches when I need to, but it'd be nice to go through an outing and just kind of make things a little easier on myself. Just time after time, I just keep putting myself in bad situations. I've got to find a way to get out of it."

All of Bradley's damage came in the first inning -- a leadoff single to , a walk to and then a three-run homer to . Even though he didn't give up any more runs, he had a baserunner in each of his five innings, including four with at least one man in scoring position.

This is a problem that Bradley knows he has to fix.

"This is probably a little bit of a trend that he's in, when he gets into trouble and he's able to pitch out of it," manager Chip Hale said. "He and [quality assurance coach] Mike Fetters and [bullpen coach Garvin Alston], they're working hard on having better command, like you say, earlier in the inning and making pitches instead of waiting until guys are in scoring position."

The problem doesn't come down to just one thing for Bradley. Some of it, Hale acknowledged, could be due to a lack of feel for certain pitches or a mechanical problem, although he described Bradley's mechanics as "solid."

There's also the issue of pressing. When Bradley gets behind early, like many young pitchers, sometimes he can try to be too fine with pitches on the corner and end up digging himself bigger holes.

"That's one of the issues," Hale said. "You see what happens when you don't. Guys like Votto take you out to the opposite field. You just don't want to put yourself behind in the count. That's a really tough thing to do in this league."

Pitching from the stretch has a multiplicative effect on Bradley. Once he gets there, he has to exert more effort, which often leads to more walks, which keeps him in the stretch longer.

"I think I've had one inning in the last three starts where I've worked a whole inning out of the windup, so it's a lot of stress, a lot of high-pressure situations," Bradley said. "Pitching out of the stretch isn't as easy as pitching out of the windup. You're constantly thinking, constantly working, trying to make that perfect pitch to get out of an inning. By doing that, your pitch count runs up, you walk guys."

Bradley knows that his walk issue is one that has to be resolved. Currently, as one of the most stable members of a rotation with a bottom 10 ERA in baseball, he knows that the D-backs need him to eat more innings regardless of the fact that he's still just 23 years old.

"I know I'm still learning, but this team is looking for innings, it's looking for depth and I'm trying to be the guy that can do that," Bradley said. "I'll look at it and just try to fix it."