September 27, 2022

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Bradish overcomes nerves to prove he belongs

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BALTIMORE — If there were nerves — and Kyle Bradish made clear there were plenty — he didn’t show them. His first big league batter? Strikeout. His second big league inning? A two-run homer and plenty more to be shaken by.

But his final four frames? One hit allowed, his final 10 batters retired in succession and a quality start in his MLB debut amid a 3-1 loss to the Red Sox at Camden Yards, inciting the beginning of an expected prospect-laden campaign for these Orioles.

“I didn’t sense any sort of nervousness today,” said Brandon Hyde, his new manager. “I thought he looked like he was ready.”

But there was plenty of it.

Bradish, the Orioles’ No. 10 prospect, was making his first trip to Camden Yards on Friday. Walking from his hotel, he felt butterflies creep into his stomach. Roaming the halls of the clubhouse, receiving high fives from established Major Leaguers and seeing the media, dreams started to feel real, yet anxiety reigned supreme.

Walking out from the bullpen, nerves swirled — and came to a head.

“I always get nervous when I start,” Bradish said, “but today was a little extra.”

Nerves instead morphed into just the second quality start twirled by an Orioles pitcher this season.

“Going six innings in your first start against the Boston Red Sox, giving up two runs,” Hyde said, “that’s really impressive.”

That was the showcase Bradish provided on Friday night, a positive sign for himself, for the Mike Elias-led front office that acquired him just over two years ago and, most importantly, for the 15,685 in attendance that are growing restless in seeing the organization’s crop of top prospects ascend to Baltimore.

Bradish was just the first this season. Many more, highlighted by top prospects Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez, are expected to follow in somewhat short order.

“I think it’s important that we’re getting homegrown guys here and guys that either Mike’s acquired or drafted here in the last few years,” Hyde said pregame. “That’s fun to have these guys come up.”

If Bradish was just the opening act, he left plenty to be pleased about.

He saw successes and failures, confidence and nerves all in one outing, a learning experience he’ll carry forward as he hopes to make himself a stalwart in this rotation. He finished after six innings, giving up just three runs (two earned) against Boston.

His first big league at-bat was a strikeout-wild pitch that allowed Trevor Story to reach. He let a fastball catch too much of the heart of the plate to Christian Arroyo for a two-run homer in the second. Then he promptly saw an error let another run score.

Bradish would brush aside any such concerns. He needed just 43 pitches for his final four frames and he faced just one more over the minimum against his final 14 batters.

“He’s got some quiet confidence,” Hyde said. “He just seemed like the moment wasn’t too big for him today. … He just seemed like it was another start. I’m sure it wasn’t for him on the inside, but he didn’t seem rattled by anything.”

Friday was just one stop amid a long route. Acquired in the Dylan Bundy swap with the Angels prior to the 2020 season that saw Baltimore net four pitching prospects, Bradish was the second of that group to debut, following Isaac Mattson’s lead last season. The deal was the first trade executed by Elias that saw a roster centerpiece leave with an eye more geared on the future.

And the future arrived on Friday.

When Bradish pitched to a 3.68 ERA across two levels in 2021, striking out 131 batters in 100 1/3 innings, interest was further piqued. When he breezed through two Spring Training outings against the Yankees’ and Phillies’ varsity lineups, questions were raised about how long the Orioles could keep him from the Majors.

And with a performance like that against Boston, there may not be as much wondering where Bradish’s place is meant to be going forward.

“Bigger field, a lot more fans,” Bradish noticed. “But at the end of the day, it’s the same game I’ve been playing.”

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