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Bradley growing into new bullpen role

MLB.com

PHOENIX -- This past offseason, D-backs right-hander Archie Bradley grew a brown, bushy beard that would make any mountain man proud. He said teammate Robbie Ray encouraged him to do it. Now Ray's clean-shaven, but Bradley's beard remains.

"I've never grown one, so here we go," Bradley said after pitching two clutch innings of relief at Chase Field sandwiched between starter Patrick Corbin, left-hander Andrew Chafin and closer Fernando Rodney in Sunday's 3-2 win over the Indians. "I've trimmed it and cleaned it up, so ..."

Full Game Coverage

PHOENIX -- This past offseason, D-backs right-hander Archie Bradley grew a brown, bushy beard that would make any mountain man proud. He said teammate Robbie Ray encouraged him to do it. Now Ray's clean-shaven, but Bradley's beard remains.

"I've never grown one, so here we go," Bradley said after pitching two clutch innings of relief at Chase Field sandwiched between starter Patrick Corbin, left-hander Andrew Chafin and closer Fernando Rodney in Sunday's 3-2 win over the Indians. "I've trimmed it and cleaned it up, so ..."

Full Game Coverage

Imagine if Bradley hadn't. A starter, who has had more injury than success in his short career, Bradley finds himself in this new role.

Thus far, he has backed up Corbin in his two appearances and has not allowed an earned run, giving up four hits, walking one and striking out eight in 5 1/3 innings.

"The ball is coming out of his hand really firm," Corbin said. "And his breaking ball has been pretty impressive. His fastball is flat out beating guys. They're getting late swings on it. If he can locate that and make good pitches with his breaking ball, not many guys are going to hit him."

Although new D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said this week that Bradley's still on track to transition back to starting, it's not hard to imagine him now as an eventual closer when Rodney either departs or flames out.

That's how effective he was on Sunday when he was really needed.

"This is all new to me," Bradley said.

Video: CLE@ARI: Diaz scores, Gomes safe after challenge

Bradley picked up for Chafin in the seventh inning after a pair of errors on a single play by shortstop Chris Owings and three instant replay challenges led to a Cleveland run with one out and runners on first and second.

Bradley first faced pinch-hitter Michael Martinez, who dropped a sacrifice bunt back to the box. Bradley's throw bounced in front of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and Martinez was initially called safe, apparently loading the bases.

Replay challenge No. 4 of the inning overturned that call, but the runners advanced to second and third.

"The key of that entire inning for me was Goldy picking up that ball," Lovullo said. "It got us a big out and we were able to preserve the lead at 3-1."

Video: CLE@ARI: Martinez out at first base after review

Well, actually Bradley preserved the lead. Cleveland's top two hitters in the batting order -- Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor -- popped out to short and grounded to second, respectively. Lindor was barely nailed at first by Brandon Drury's throw.

Bradley then went on to pitch around an Edwin Encarnacion base hit in the eighth. And one wondered whether Lovullo might be tempted to stay with the hot Bradley in the ninth, rather than go to Rodney, who's always heartache waiting to happen.

"I know Archie did a great job seizing control in the seventh inning and working a quality eighth inning, but we have a closer in Fernando Rodney and that's his job," Lovullo said. "It's Archie's job to hand it off to Fernando so as far as temptation goes, there was none."

When Santana hit a shot to right-center that could have been the game-winning homer, Lovullo might have had second thoughts.

Video: CLE@ARI: Rodney K's Lindor for final out of the game

Rodney said he watched the ball launched toward the swimming pool and asked himself the simple question: "Why?"

It died at the track, caught by David Peralta. That comes under the category of, "when things are going good ..." And they are going good. The D-backs' 6-1 start matched a franchised best set in 2000.

Asked what his thoughts were when Santana launched that shot, Lovullo said:

"It was probably the same thing you were thinking and everybody else. My heart skipped a beat, and I had to kind of swallow for a second and catch my breath. But that's what makes this game so great."

As far as Bradley goes, he's still a work in progress. Just like his beard, it's dependent on what transpires and where the season goes.

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.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Archie Bradley