Every minor league baseball player covets a call from the majors, but getting called up to Triple A was a special moment in itself for Chasen Bradford.
A Henderson native who served as a bat boy at Cashman Field before going on to pitch for Silverado High School and the College of Southern Nevada, Bradford was promoted to his hometown 51s on June 9 from Double-A Binghamton.
“As soon as I told my mom, she couldn’t say anything,” said Bradford, 24. “She was speechless, so it was really cool.”
After four appearances on the road for the Mets’ top farm club, Bradford, a right-handed reliever, made his Las Vegas debut in Wednesday’s 8-2 win over Nashville.
Pitching in front of his proud parents and a half-dozen other enthusiastic family members — who bought out the 51s team store’s supply of No. 29 Bradford jerseys — he struck out two in 1 2/3 perfect innings.
“As soon as I was warming up in the bullpen, they started yelling for me. It was awesome,” he said. “My family has never seen me pitch professionally, so it was cool to be back here pitching in front of them.”
Considering the unheralded hurler was drafted in the 35th round by New York in 2011 out of the University of Central Florida, it’s pretty cool for Bradford to be pitching anywhere in Triple A this season. In fact, after his promotion to Las Vegas, Bradford tweeted, “Four years ago, I didn’t think it was possible to get where I am.”
“Just the round I was drafted in and being a senior, the opportunity, it’s much tougher to get all the way through the system being a low draft guy,” he said before Thursday night’s 6-2 win over the Sounds. “It’s amazing to be here.”
Making a steady climb through the minors, Bradford has risen a level each year and was lights out in Double A. He allowed only two earned runs in 25 1/3 innings (0.71 ERA) last season as Binghamton’s setup man and was solid as its closer this year, compiling a 2.02 ERA and 11 saves in 23 appearances.
“We know he’s got a bulldog mentality,” 51s manager Wally Backman said. “He’s a tough kid, a competitor, and a lot of people in the organization really think his sinker’s going to play in the big leagues.”
Making his first two Pacific Coast League appearances in the thin air of Colorado Springs, Bradford allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings. But he has settled down in his past three outings, scattering six hits and striking out five, with no walks, in 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
“It took the first couple outings. My adrenaline was rushing a little too hard,” he said. “That’s just how I’ve always been. My first outing in Binghamton last year, I was wild. But I get in a groove and figure it out after that.”
Las Vegas pitching coach Frank Viola, who also coached Bradford on the Single-A Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats in 2012, said “his sinker-slider is devastating.” But he’s more impressed with his makeup.
“I can’t really say he’s got big league stuff per se, when you match him up against other guys, but you can’t teach what’s in here,” the former Cy Young winner said, tapping his fist on his chest. “The kid’s got a big heart, and he’s got big cojones, putting it simple. He knows how to pitch.
“He’s a bulldog, he’s competitive, and he’s got all the qualities that you want in a relief pitcher.”
Bradford went 11-0 as a junior at Silverado en route to earning Nevada prep pitcher of the year honors and played two seasons at CSN before transferring to Central Florida, where he developed his go-to pitch.
“When I got to UCF, I learned the sinker. That’s where the ground balls started to come,” he said. “I don’t go for strikeouts a lot. It’s much easier to throw one pitch and get a ground ball than throw three and strike a guy out.
“I try to let them put the ball in play and get themselves out.”
Bradford said his work ethic was instilled in him by his older brother, Mark, who is in the U.S. Navy.
“I’ve always followed in his footsteps,” he said. “He taught me a lot, what a man is, and that hard work’s going to beat talent any day.”
Bradford said the day his brother threw out the first pitch at a Sand Gnats game on Chasen’s 22nd birthday is probably his fondest memory in baseball.
That might change if he gets the call to the majors.
“I would never count him out,” Viola said. “I think he’ll work his way up there somehow, someway, and I think he’ll be successful because of his attitude and work ethic and everything with that.”
■ NOTE — Travis d’Arnaud continued his tear for the 51s (43-31), crushing a towering three-run homer — his sixth in 11 games for Las Vegas — and two doubles in five at-bats to raise his average to .432 (19-for-44) with 15 RBIs and 12 runs. ... Darin Gorski had 11 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings for the 51s, who finished with 15 strikeouts.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.