They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. But for Archie Bradley, he's perfected the art of introductions.
The next time you see the word "debut" associated with baseball's top pitching prospect, he'll be stepping onto a Major League field.
Bradley won his Triple-A debut Sunday, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out three batters over five scoreless innings in the Reno Aces' 9-1 win over the visiting El Paso Chihuahuas.
Ranked fifth overall among MLB.com's top 100 prospects, the 21-year-old right-hander threw 54 of 87 pitches for strikes and also hit a batter in front of 5,640 fans at Aces Ballpark.
"It felt good. I had good stuff working, but the one thing I learned really quickly tonight from Double-A was that these hitters are smart and talented," said Bradley, who also singled, sacrificed and scored a run. "If you don't finish your curveball or fastball, they'll hit it.
"[Shortstop] Didi [Gregorius] and [second baseman] Nick [Ahmed] made a bunch of great plays behind me up the middle and [catcher] Bobby Wilson did a great job. The Chihuahuas made me work for it ... but on a grade scale, I'd give myself a B-minus or B-plus. Anytime you don't give up any runs, it's tough to complain."
Considering his track record, Sunday's performance should come as no surprise. In his five debuts at each Minor League level, Bradley (1-0) has a combined 0.81 ERA with 29 strikeouts over 22 1/3 innings.
He struck out all three batters he faced in his professional debut for Rookie-level Missoula in 2011 and fanned seven on Opening Day in 2012 for Class A South Bend when he yielded a lone run over five frames. Bradley worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings in his Visalia debut last year, then fired a complete game in his first Double-A start with Mobile in May.
On Sunday, the Oklahoma native retired eight of his first nine batters before running into trouble. He stranded the bases loaded in the third inning, left another runner in scoring position in the fourth and two more in the fifth, his final inning of work.
"There is always something to take from each outing," said Bradley, selected seventh overall in the 2011 Draft out of Broken Arrow Senior High School. "Obviously, the goal is to go deeper and be more efficient, but to get this game under my belt and out of the way was good."
Bradley was a Futures Game selection last summer en route to going 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA in 26 games across two levels and earning Southern League Pitcher of the Year honors. If he continues to improve in Reno, a promotion to Arizona may not be too far off.
"I was disappointed but not in a selfish 'I want to be a Major Leaguer' way," Bradley said of not making the big league roster out of Spring Training. "I want to help the D-backs win, but I understand it. I've struggled and I still have some things to work on. It's all about trusting the process."
In his Pacific Coast League debut, Bradley got support from center fielder Ender Inciarte, who was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Gregorius finished 3-for-4 with an RBI, a walk and two runs scored.
Chihuahuas starter Burch Smith (0-1) allowed four runs on four hits and three walks while fanning one over three innings.