Bradford proves he can hang in Rangers' rotation

Texas' second-year lefty struck out six Cubs after earning starting role during spring

March 31st, 2024

ARLINGTON -- was almost mellow as he walked from the Rangers' dugout to a stage situated in the middle of the infield on Saturday evening.

The 26-year-old left-hander was the first Rangers player to be presented with his World Series ring about an hour before his start against the Cubs. As the presentation continued for the rest of the players and staff, Bradford returned to continue his pregame routine with catcher Jonah Heim.

A graduate of Aledo (Texas) High School, about 34 miles west of Globe Life Field, Bradford grew up a Rangers fan, and being able to contribute to the club’s first World Series was more than he could’ve dreamed of.

After receiving the World Series rings, Bradford did his part to contribute to Texas' repeat efforts, as he earned the win in the Rangers' 11-2 victory over the Cubs at Globe Life Field.

“I tried to go through the normal routine today and kind of celebrate everything after the game,” Bradford said. “It's always an honor to get to pitch for the hometown team, especially on a weekend like this. … We had the ring revealed to us last night and so, all those emotions, I lived through that last night. Then today I was able to be just business as usual.”

Bradford allowed two runs over five innings, while striking out six Cubs batters. His lone mistake came when he hung a middle-middle fastball to Dansby Swanson, who promptly drove it over the left-field wall for a two-run shot that allowed Chicago to briefly take the lead in the second inning.

After the Swanson homer, Bradford only allowed three more baserunners over his final three innings, inducing a double play to end the fourth and immediately extinguish his final threat.

Bradford’s six strikeouts marked the second-highest in his short big league career (eight on June 29, 2023, vs. Detroit).

“I think if there's one thing I learned last year, especially making starts, it's that this offense can put up a lot of runs pretty quickly,” Bradford said. “They do a great job of smashing baseballs, so my job after giving up that two spot in the second is to keep my head on straight and you go out there and give the team more innings and turn it over to the guys in the back of the ‘pen.

“I think it was about learning that progression, whereas last year the game could have sped up a little bit on me.”

And while Bradford surely set the tone on the pitching side, the Rangers' high-powered offense picked up right where it left off last season, with 16 total hits and home runs from Adolis García, Jared Walsh and Josh Jung. Five Rangers starters had multihit nights, led by Corey Seager, who went 4-for-5 with four singles.

“It's amazing,” said Walsh, who was a triple shy of the cycle in his first start with the Rangers. “Obviously Marcus [Semien] sets the tone and then everybody follows after that. I certainly wouldn't want to pitch to this lineup, and it seems like every guy in the lineup can really slug a little bit, too. It's one of the deepest lineups in baseball, so the fact that I can contribute, it's exciting.”

Bradford, the second-year lefty, worked throughout spring to earn a spot in the Rangers' rotation, and while it’s unclear how long he’ll stay there with the signing of Michael Lorenzen late in camp, Bradford has proven that he can hold his own at the big league level.

In his debut season in 2023, Bradford posted a 5.30 ERA in 56 innings. He appeared in 20 games, but started just eight of them. He eventually became a vital piece of the Rangers’ bullpen in the postseason, allowing just one run in 7 2/3 innings over five appearances.

Rangers manager Bruce Bochy has praised Bradford’s development throughout his short time with the big league club, as he’s gone from being an occasional spot starter, to a long relief arm, to a valuable contributor in any role the coaching staff asks of him.

“Cody, he's not going to get fazed by [anything],” Bochy said. “He just keeps that focus out there and doesn't let up on it. He's well prepared going into the game. He knows what he wants to do. He knows occasionally he's going to make a mistake here or there, but he doesn't let it affect his pitches after that. It's a pitch at a time with him.”