The D-backs’ 2-4 week, complete with a sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, was one to forget — and yet just days after Archie Bradley took a line drive off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez, it sure seems like one we’ll remember for a long time. After Bradley was removed in the second inning of that Tuesday contest, the D-backs went on to win — the fourth time in four Bradley starts that the team has come away victorious. Best of luck to Bradley with his recovery, which is looking good so far.
In general, starting pitching has become a strength for the team after a shaky first week and a half of the season; the rotation now ranks 13th among all teams with a 3.97 starters ERA after a glimmering 6 inning start by Chase Anderson that saw him yield just two hits and one walk along with seven strikeouts (this is weird: he’s never recorded exactly seven Ks in an MLB start before, although he’s reached a career high eight whiffs four different times). The strong effort is making his rocky 5 ER start against Colorado look like the aberration, and while the rotation will undoubtedly be hit or miss the rest of the way, Anderson does look like part of the solution; preseason projections had him ranked first among the team’s starting five, and those are looking pretty good right now. Jeff and I talked through what we’ve seen recently from the rotation in Episode 25 of The Pool Shot:
The good news: Bradley got past his scare with just a sinus fracture, according to the team; as Bradley himself noted, he won’t know what his return to the mound will look like even though he doesn’t think it will affect him. He’s not alone on the comeback trail, however. It’s been about three weeks since Patrick Corbin and David Hernandez started throwing sliders in their returns from Tommy John surgery, and as Nick Piecoro reported on Tuesday, Corbin threw 35 pitches in a simulated game. Corbin also talked with Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Craig Grialou after the sim game, and it’s easy to get jazzed up about seeing him pitch again, maybe as soon as a month from now. We talked a bit on The Pool Shot about who might move aside to make some room, but as we said there, a month is a long time in baseball, and there’s a pretty good chance someone (Rubby De La Rosa?) will play themselves out of a role, or the problem will solve itself in some other way (knock on wood). It would be a pretty good problem to have, obviously, but the D-backs do have crazy depth in fringy starting candidates, and one can only hope that the whole “new meritocracy” thing will continue.
Meanwhile, it’s off to Colorado for a three game series, and it’s time to watch Mark Trumbo again. His approach could use some work, as Jeff wrote last week, but he has had some happy times in thinner air. We’re into Year Two of the Trumbo Era, and Trumbo hasn’t played at Coors Field since September, with a total of six games played in the Unintentionally Friendly Confines — and yet Trumbo has nearly as many home runs there (five) as he has had at Chase (seven). Yes, you read that right. Bring a hard hat if you’ve got outfield tickets.
Also, big news in our parts: this is the 500th post at Inside the ‘Zona. A lot of electrons and more than a few brain cells died in making that possible; thanks for reading, we appreciate it!
- In this space last week, we talked batted ball velocity, and I brought up Tomas’s first six batted balls that had been tracked; as Steve Gilbert wrote on Friday, Tomas was starting to work on a taking some more aggressive hacks. Could it have been not wanting to rack up a bunch of strikeouts in a brief cameo that started out as something of a brief one-a-day tryout? At any rate, the difference hasn’t yet shown up in the data.
- The Wade Miley trade makes some sense if you squint at it from certain angles, but it was always close to strange. On the one hand, the D-backs didn’t need roster filler, they needed talent, and a 2-for-1 like this one is puzzling in those circumstances, especially when both Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster had major league service time. On the other, if you stop thinking about probable quality and start thinking about probabilities of quality, exchanging Miley for two lottery picks starts to look better (and as one or two commenters have mentioned here, Webster could have a second life as an Eric Gagne-style closer). According to Rob Bradford of WEEI, it turns out that the D-backs offered Miley to Toronto for Daniel Norris. That would have been pretty damned cool. There just weren’t a ton of options; when dealing reliability for upside, you probably get the best value if you grab a prospect. In Norris, Nate Eovaldi and RDLR/Webster, it looks like the D-backs treated “could start 2015 with the big club” as kind of a prerequisite. If only Norris was a little younger, maybe? Like most folks who follow the D-backs, I’m re-learning that impatience can be a virtue… but let’s not forget how the saying really goes, and why.
- As Steve Gilbert reported, Enrique Burgos replaced Bradley on the 25-man, and when he got the news, he thought someone was trying to break into his apartment. Hard to say how long Burgos will be with the team, but chances are he’ll get bumped in favor of Robbie Ray tomorrow, who will take a turn or two in place of Bradley in the rotation. Burgos threw two innings last night with 31 pitches, but don’t be totally shocked if we see him out there again tonight; the bullpen isn’t exactly fully rested, and they’ll almost definitely be slimmed down to 7 pitchers on Tuesday. Hopefully that does give us one more chance to see Burgos before he’s returned to the minors, so if you need a primer, head on back to this piece from the end of spring training which breaks down Burgos’s breakout like we do how we do. If he gets sent down, no big deal; remember, the 40-man has no room, and just like Tomas was called up for that pinch-hitter role partly for that reason, Burgos is here now exactly for that reason. Although the dominant spring training didn’t hurt.
- Also from Gilbert: Oscar Hernandez is with the team now, learning how the majors work and following a day-to-day routine as a catcher. It was kind of weird to see him catching in between innings over the weekend just to help out — the man broke a hamate bone in his left hand. He was catching pitches with his left hand. That doesn’t hurt? We’re now at the far end of his stated six-week recovery time, so he’s probably fine. But that kind of brings up other questions, right? The team has every reason to slow play this, as this year will count as a full year for Rule 5 purposes as long as he spends 90 days on the Active Roster (25-man). Maybe we won’t see him until the end of June. At some point, though, this is going to stop looking like rehab. And after Jordan Pacheco helped Jeremy Hellickson make a mess of things on Saturday (and after he kicked a ball that day to end the game), it’s hard to see what’s standing in his way. Playing time is important, and maybe work as a backup catcher isn’t ideal for Hernandez. But it’s not like the alternative involves him playing every day, right? There are limits to how long the D-backs can put Hernandez on a rehab assignment, so think of this “hanging out with the club” thing as a first step meant to extend that timeline. And I believe that Jeff’s offer is still open if the D-backs want to shuttle Hernandez back and forth from extended spring to Chase Field once he’s put on the 25-man. Think about it, D-backs, and get back to Jeff. He might kick in some ham sandwiches.
- When the news broke that Jarrod Saltalamacchia was designated for assignment, I happened to be on Twitter, and I thought what everyone else thought when they heard the news. I aimed for a little gallows humor, but not long after there were questions upon questions about whether he fits. This is kind of a tough thing for us to figure out here at the site. There’s a difference of opinion, there’s a debate to which we can add, and the method for doing so happens to be right up our alley. But we also don’t want to be the sky is falling guys all the time, looking to find extra ways to beat up on the team with straw men (although a straw man could frame pitches just as well as Salty oh wait I said I wasn’t doing that). At the same time, we want to get out ahead of things and help frame the issues. Sure seems like there’s a clear answer when it comes to Salty. Yeah, it doesn’t look pretty behind the plate right now. But Salty’s not going to make it look better, he might come with a lot of salary tied to him, and he’s going to make the pitching staff worse. Pass. Hard pass. Fortunately, it looks like the team did actually move in that direction. Talking about it is not and never is a bad idea, so long as you have the right people in the room. Kudos to the D-backs for not doing something bad? Part of why it was not going to work was Oscar Hernandez… but let’s not count our chickens. Sometime before the ten-day DFA period expires on Thursday, Salty could get released, meaning a signing team would only be on the hook for the major league minimum for the duration of his contract.
- Terrible news from last week: Kirk Gibson has Parkinson’s disease. Nothing to say here other than good thoughts for Gibby, who is and has been a tremendous personality and competitor. The loyalty thing is pretty big, and so it’s really nice to see Gibby get the backup he deserves.
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