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Bradford starts season strong with Rangers


After a wild ride in the big leagues during his rookie campaign, Aledo native Cody Bradford went into the offseason with a checklist of things to work on in hopes of securing a roster spot with the Rangers coming out of spring training this season. 

Not only did he make the roster, but as of now he’s earned a spot in the starting rotation.

A big reason behind Bradford getting the starting nod for the Rangers coming into the season he credits to pitching coach Mike Maddux. At the end of last season, Maddux informed Bradford that he wanted him to develop a curveball to go along with his fastball and changeup. Bradford, who hasn’t featured a curveball in his repertoire since his days at Baylor, went right to work. 

With the help of the Rangers’ pitching development staff, he found a curveball grip that he began to have some confidence in as spring training started. Maddux worked with Bradford to sort through opposing lineups during the spring to find at-bats they wanted to start off with a curveball. 

The duo found a lot of success stealing strikes early in counts. Bradford believes that success in the spring is what instilled the trust in Maddux to put him in the five-man rotation to start this season.

“Maddux was, ‘I think, impressed with how far [the curveball] has come in such a short time,’” Bradford said. “I only started throwing it in December. I really think that’s the only reason I’m starting right now, or earned a spot in the rotation, is because he has faith in that pitch being a third quality pitch I can use to get through a lineup two to three times.”

Starting strong

Bradford earned a win in his first start of the season on Saturday, March 30, when the Rangers hosted the Chicago Cubs. He pitched five complete innings, giving up two runs on three hits. He also retired six of the 15 outs he was responsible for by way of strikeout.

“Towards the last outings in the spring, I started using [the curveball] later in counts,” Bradford recalled. “Then, in the first game on Saturday, I actually got a strikeout with it.

“I think if I had come into spring training, and had been still fastball-changeup heavy like I was out of the bullpen last year, I would say I’m probably not starting right now,” he added.

While he’s earned a spot in the starting rotation early this season, there are several key factors in play that will determine if that will last, and for how long. Chief among those factors is his performance. 

To this point in his career, Bradford has been nothing short of reliable for the Rangers. Each time his number was called in 2023, he performed better than the outing before.

The lights never appeared to be too bright for the young left-hander, even in the World Series against the Arizona last October. Stringing together a few more solid outings following his first start of the year on Saturday will go a long way to making his case to stay in the rotation.

Other factors  

The rest of the factors are all things out of his control. At the top of that list is the signing of Michael Lorenzen. The Rangers signed the nine-year veteran to a one-year deal in free agency back on March 22. An All-Star in 2023, Lorenzen started the year in Detroit pitching for the Tigers before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies last July. While not a starter during the Phillies’ playoff run last season, Lorenzen threw 5.1 innings during the playoffs without surrendering a run.

Due to his late addition to the Rangers, Lorenzen is presently with the Triple-A Round Rock Express. He is expected to make a couple of starts for Round Rock before being brought up to Arlington to join the Rangers’ pitching staff.

To go along with the anticipated addition of Lorenzen to the rotation, the Rangers are also expecting Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom to return from injury and settle back into the rotation. The Rangers placed Scherzer on the 15-day IL on March 28, setting him up to return as early as April 12. 

The timetable for DeGrom’s return following season-ending surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament nearly 10 months ago is a bit more murky. The Rangers placed the right-hander on the 60-day IL on March 22, indicating he could be ready to return as soon as May 21. However, in an interview with MLB.com back in February, DeGrom stated August was a more realistic timetable for his return. 

Team player

Regardless of which role he is tasked with taking on, Bradford is just grateful to be part of the Rangers.

“If the team sees a better fit for me in the bullpen, then I might slide back into a long-relief role like last season, and that’s totally fine,” he said. “I just want to serve the team wherever I can be used.”

Bradford is currently slated to make his next start on Friday, April 5, when the Rangers welcome the Houston Astros to town for Game 1 of a four-game series. Barring any changes to the rotation after that start on Friday, Bradford should get the ball again on Wednesday, April 10 for Game 2 of a three-game set against the Oakland A’s at Globe Life Field. First pitch for both games is slated for 7:05 p.m.


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