The Texas Rangers announced on Sunday night that Cody Bradford will be called up on Monday and will start the first game of the series against the Atlanta Braves. Dane Dunning and Nathan Eovaldi will be given an extra day of rest. A corresponding move to get Bradford onto the 26-man roster has not yet been announced.
It has been a long journey for Bradford to get to this day. He went through a few ups and downs from the time he was drafted to making his debut tonight for the Texas Rangers. His story is one of struggle and having to come out the other side. That path is much like the stuff he brings to his starts. He does not have above average stuff, but still is able to succeed at an above average level.
Cody Bradford's journey to his Texas Rangers debut
Bradford was a 2019 sixth round draft pick out of Baylor. He had missed most of the 2019 season with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. The Rangers still chose him in the sixth round. That was the same draft that saw Texas draft his Baylor teammate Davis Wendzel with the 41st pick. The Rangers drafted Bradford based on what he did in 2018 when he was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year.
Bradford had to wait a while to start his professional career. He was expected to start his career in 2020. The pandemic happened and all of minor league baseball shut down. Several minor-leaguers were called to the alternate site to get workouts in, but he was not among those players.
Finally in 2021 nearly two years after being drafted, over two years after his last competitive pitch he finally got his start in High-A Hickory. Bradford ended up pitching for Hickory through July 2021. His best start was a six-inning masterpiece on July 22nd that saw him strike out 14 against Asheville. He then made one more start for Hickory before being promoted in August to Frisco to finish off the season.
In 2022 he started the season with Frisco. The progress he showed in 2021 disappeared and he really struggled in the first half of 2022. Bradford had an 8+ ERA for the first two months of the season. He was miles away from Arlington even though Frisco is just a 45-minute drive from Arlington.
Bradford is too good of a pitcher and too cerebral of a pitcher to keep down for too long. He started to figure things out by the end of May. He reached a turning point in a start on June 17th. He faced Midland and struck out 11 that night.
He had been building to that performance the prior two starts, but broke through that night. He still had a few bad starts but they were outnumbered by his good starts. He made 14 more starts and allowed two or less runs in 10 of those starts. His best month was August. He went 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA, and 30 strikeouts to three walks. He finished the 2022 season strong and went into the offseason with momentum.
The Texas Rangers took a risk and chose not to add him to the 40-man roster in the offseason. He was exposed to the Rule 5 draft because of that decision. The Rangers did lose Mason Englert to the Detroit Tigers. No one chose Bradford and the Rangers risk worked out.
Corey Bradford's stats with Triple-A Round Rock
That brings us to 2023. The Rangers moved him up to Triple-A Round Rock. He had been in Frisco from August 2021-September 2022. It was time to really prove himself against the top minor league competition.
Bradford broke camp with Round Rock and has pitched at an elite level this season. His first start was a 5 1/3 inning appearance, with zero runs, six strikeouts and two walks. He finished the month of April with a 5-0 record, 0.64 ERA, 25 strikeouts to eight walks. He had his "worst" start of the season in Reno. He still went 5 1/3 innings, only gave up two runs. had five strikeouts to four walks. He enters this start tonight with a season line of 5-1, 39 2/3 innings, with 37 strikeouts.
He has clearly earned this opportunity. The Rangers telegraphed this move last week when they DFA'd Ian Kennedy to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. The question for the Rangers and for Bradford is if this is a spot start or the start of a long-term role with the Rangers.
Cody Bradford's Stuff
Bradford brings a four pitch mix into the start against the Braves. He has a low 90's fastball, a low 80's changeup, a mid 80's slider, and this season has added a cutter to his repertoire. Bradford recently was interviewed by Baseball America and had this to say about adding the cutter.
"The Rangers' pitching department helped me find the right characteristics this offseason,and narrowed down what they wanted out of it and how they thought it would play the best"- Cody Bradford
He also told Baseball America that he uses that cutter to get ground balls. He will have to be on with his control to have success. His first start will be against the Atlanta Braves. A very tough assignment for his first time out. I expect him to really work his secondary stuff and use that to make the fastball seem faster than it is.
The Braves come in as one of the best offenses in baseball. Bradford will need to stay away from the middle of the plate, hit the corners and get ground balls. He also will need to walk the tightrope between working the corners and not walking batters. The good thing for Bradford is the Rangers do believe in him. If he struggles tonight is it not the end of the world. If the Rangers did not think he could do this, they would not be calling him up tonight.
It has been quite the ride to get to this point. Bradford being promoted tonight will show other prospects such as Cole Winn, Jack Leiter, and Owen White that on-field success and off-field work will lead to them getting promoted.