Bradford adds another gem to dazzling start to season

April 11th, 2024

ARLINGTON -- When walked off the mound at Globe Life Field a week ago after twirling a quality start against the Astros, the 26-year-old left-hander said he blacked out.

This time, he was wide awake. For the second start in a row, Bradford completed his outing against the A’s and was met with roaring cheers from the crowd as he received yet another ovation.

The hometown kid -- who grew up in Aledo, Texas, went to Baylor and was drafted and developed by the Rangers -- has been the story of this early season for Texas.

On Wednesday night, Bradford tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the A's, propelling the Rangers to a 6-2 win to even the series. He was removed at 94 pitches with two outs in the seventh inning after allowing a two-out single from Darell Hernaiz and a walk from nine-hole hitter Lawrence Butler. Bradford continued his hot start to the season nonetheless.

“I definitely was looking around a lot more,” Bradford said of the ovation from the crowd. “I’m not a big rah rah guy, so I'm not gonna bow or anything like that. But I try to give a tip of my cap when the fans are showing appreciation like that. It's really special.”

Additionally, he struck out seven batters -- one off from his career high of eight, which he posted on July 29, 2023 against Detroit -- while inducing 17 swings and misses.

The only run Bradford surrendered against the A’s was unearned, lowering his ERA to 1.40 in 19 1/3 innings this season. Over that time, he’s allowed just 10 hits, two walks and struck out 17 batters, good for a 0.62 WHIP. He has an opponent slash line of .145/.169/.203/.372.

He’s thrown more innings and given up fewer runs than Rangers ace Nathan Eovaldi in the young season.

Bradford has always had phenomenal command and control, throughout his Minor League and big league stints last season. Now, adding his curveball back to his repertoire has given him a new weapon to attack hitters with.

Bradford said he was shocked at the pitch's effectiveness early this season.

“I think the curveball has been a big pitch for him,” manager Bruce Bochy emphasized. “He's throwing it very effectively. He's throwing for strikes. It's just getting better and better. So there's another pitch that hitters have to deal with. I think that's made him even better. It's all about trying to improve, get better and he's done that.”

Bradford has now authored back-to-back quality starts (7 2/3 IP, 1 ER on Friday vs. Houston), the first two of his young career. He joins Max Scherzer in 2023 (3-0 from 8/3-14) as the only Texas pitchers since the beginning of 2015 to earn wins in each of their first three starts of a season for the club.

Bradford is also just the third pitcher in franchise history to go 3-0 with an ERA figure of 1.40 or lower in his first three starts of a campaign, joining Matt Harrison in 2011 (3-0, 1.23 ERA) and Tom Cheney in 1963 (3-0, 0.00).

Bochy has praised Bradford’s preparation and execution as he’s learned throughout his short time in the Majors. That and his refined pitch usage have led to his hot start early on.

“I think, not just for me, but I think any pitcher when they're executing at a high level they have good results,” Bradford said. “I think preparation is everything. It's something that everybody can control and you don't have to have the best stuff to prepare well and learn how to do a scouting report. I started doing it in Double-A and found something that worked last year in Triple-A and seems to still be working now.”

Bradford’s continued success may eventually put the Rangers in a pickle, though.

Michael Lorenzen just made what the staff expects to be his final rehab start at Triple-A Round Rock and should enter the rotation within the next week to 10 days. Max Scherzer is moving faster than expected following offseason back surgery and could return by late May. Jacob deGrom and Tyler Mahle aren’t far behind either, with a Trade Deadline target date for return from Tommy John.

The rotation will quickly go from five arms to nine in the blink of an eye.

But as general manager Chris Young always says: you can never have too much starting pitching.

“I'd say bigger than starting," Bradford said. "I just want to help the Texas Rangers win baseball games. I think growing up a local kid, it means a lot seeing this team win, not just for me, but for my family and for the whole DFW area. Whether that's in the starting rotation or in the bullpen, I want to serve this team and if I can serve them well, eating up innings as a starter right now until some of the big guys get back, then that's what I want to do. But I just want to win baseball games.”