First thing’s first: please join me in welcoming Jeffrey Bellone to the Inside the ‘Zona team! Jeff has been writing baseball for quite a while now, most recently at Beyond the Box Score, and we’re really excited to have him. He’ll be writing regularly at both sites for the foreseeable future. Click here for more about Jeff, here to see his debut Inside the ‘Zona piece about Brandon McCarthy‘s HR-yielding ways, and here to check out his work at Beyond the Box Score. Oh, and do me a solid and follow him on Twitter, ok?

Meanwhile — having trouble keeping track of the D-backs’ active roster? You’re not alone. The transactions page at the mothership shows 25 different transactions for the month of June, 14 of which happened in the last week. The biggest recent news might be that J.J. Putz was designated for assignment.

Putz was not doing so hot this year — as the D-backs’ press release notes, he had a 6.59 ERA in limited action. But 13.2 IP is a tiny sample, and his FIP mark (3.53) was actually lower than last season’s (3.83), in which he had a 2.36 ERA. I can’t conclude that Putz has nothing left to give — the main barrier to getting production from him has been injury, and by all accounts that’s not a barrier right now.

Still, I’m thrilled by the move. Putz was DFA’d on the day Ender Inciarte was reinstated from the 7-day concussion DL, but his real replacement had been called up the day before. Matt Stites, scion of the questionable Ian Kennedy deal that also brought Joe Thatcher to Arizona, was given a tenuous “future closer” label last summer. Now we finally get to see what he’s capable of at the big league level.

And that’s the trick. Dropping Putz gets him out of the way to get younger and to see what the team has in Stites. That’s exactly what the rest of this season is for: putting the team in a position to get lucky. And as an added bonus, the D-backs are getting younger in the bullpen. Because relievers can’t do side sessions or extra batting practice to work out kinks, it’s especially important to go young in the bullpen; a young struggling reliever can be sent down, whereas a veteran has to be kept in place. Oh, and young guys are cheaper…

The links:

  • From James Wagner at the Washington Post, a piece on how the nationals are using Livan Hernandez as kind of an uber-BP pitcher (h/t Evan Kendall). Take a look for yourself — isn’t this an amazing idea? In reality, there probably aren’t that many Hernandezes with that kind of rubber arm, with stuff so close to major league stuff and with a willingness to take on this batting practice role. But there have to be some more. Hell, you could even expand on this — what about a quad-A starting pitcher who threw from the left side throwing extra sessions for Gerardo Parra? I know energy is a finite resource in a baseball season, but players have to do batting practice to stay sharp anyway. The D-backs would do well to explore this idea.
  • At ESPN, the D-backs drifted back down from 27th to 29th in the site’s Power Rankings. Noted there that through yesterday, the D-backs were still in the league lead in games played by two games, with a whopping 79. Yes, Australia… but the Dodgers got way more rest than the D-backs at the outset of the season. Two off days this week is a welcome change. By the way, the fact that the Dodgers got a lot more rest at the beginning may be part of why the D-backs showed a much more pronounced Australia hangover. But rest assured, the Dodgers felt it too.
  • The D-backs’ playoff odds have dropped all the way to 0.3%, per coolstandings and FanGraphs. Ouch — the only team with a worse chance is the Astros, who managed to take three of four games against the D-backs not too long ago. As Jeff explained on Thursday: “Can we all just accept that 2014 is a lost cause, already?” By the way, take some time to read Jeff’s post and weigh in on whether you think the team should do one of those quick-pitch rebuilds, a full rebuild, or stand pat.
  • If you and I have talked baseball, you probably know how much I like the idea of “starter by committee” — splitting starts among three or more pitchers. Last week, Nick Piecoro had a great piece about the Astros’ tandem pitching system in the minors and the feasibility of doing something similar at the major league level. As much as this is a pet issue for me, I’ll admit I had no idea that Tony La Russa tried something like this (for “about a week”) in 1993 — that’s the kind of thing that makes Piecoro who he is. But I’m shocked by the coincidence. That’s almost exactly the model I push: a rolling “rotation” of ten pitchers, with each expected to throw about three innings every three or four games. Here’s me on the starter-by-committee approach. And yes, I know just how difficult it would be to shift the paradigm — the fact that people believe that is, separately, a reason why it’s very unlikely to happen. But the fact that it’ll be difficult for people to buy in is not a counterargument to the argument that it could work.
  • At Venom Strikes, Joe Jacquez covered the Bob Nightengale report that the Padres were discussing the possibility of trying to re-hire Kevin Towers in the wake of firing Josh Byrnes. That would be entertaining. Thomas Lynch thinks it’s time to trade Brad Ziegler. Maybe so, but he’s a significant asset with that amazing contract. I think it’s a question of the marketplace, because we aren’t necessarily talking just about 2015 or 2016 here — I think there’s a good chance that before Ziegler comes to the end of that deal, the D-backs might be able to sign him for longer in an under-value, low-risk kind of way.
  • I’ve pretty much skipped the whole throwing-at-Ryan-Braun thing, but I agree with others: what’s the point? Throwing at him was yet another sign that the team is already bailing on 2014. I mean, I’m not saying I didn’t get a bit of a thrill, I’m just saying it was a cheap thrill. Check out David G. Temple’s breakdown at FanGraphs, which has all of the GIFs you want it to have.
  • I found it remarkable that of Ben Lindbergh’s list of PECOTA over- and under-performers, only one D-backs player made the list: Brandon McCarthy. We just covered that, as you know from reading this post’s first paragraph. But, yes: this team is what it was supposed to be, so you can’t point to any couple of players and hang the team’s rough season on their shoulders.

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