When Josh Collmenter started the season in the rotation many fans were chomping at the bit for him to fail so they could call for one of the fresh arms lurking in the Dbacks system. He probably didn’t even stand a chance in this role. When Kirk Gibson named him the #3 starter-not the #5 as predicted- even more eyebrows were raised.
May 28, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Josh Collmenter (55) pitches the ball against the San Francisco Giants during the eighth inning at AT&T Park.
However, everyone went along with the decision- after all, just about every move the front office has made in the last 18 months has seemed to work. Think back to spring training 2011 when Gibby named Ian Kennedy as his opening day starter, a move that surely surprised a lot of people but ultimately was dead on.
Unfortunately for Collmenter and the Dbacks though, the 26 year old righty struggled mightily out of the gate giving up six homeruns in his first four starts and saw his ERA balloon to 9.82. Following his start against the Phillies on April 24th he was pulled from the rotation. While this decision seemed to be inevitable for weeks leading up to that point, something else surprising happened that day. Collmenter wasn’t sent down to an affiliate to figure out his issues, he was simply moved to the bullpen. He would sit in the bullpen watching his teammates play for ten days without the opportunity to contribute on the field.
This was arguably the best thing that could have happened to the second year player. With Wade Miley securing his place in the rotation now- much like Collmenter did last year as a rookie- the Michigan native is back in his long relief role where he has thrived. The biggest argument against Collmenter is his inability to adjust to hitters the third time through the order. Hitters would adjust and start teeing off on Collmenter sometime in the fifth or sixth inning. Most expected it, all hoped it wouldn’t happen. But put him in a relief situation and this eliminates that potential. Even better is that he trained all offseason and spring training for the starter role so his arm strength and stamina allow him to easily throw two, three or even four innings as needed.
Collmenter got his first chance at relief on May 5th against the Mets throwing three shutout innings, scattering three hits while striking out three. Since moving to the bullpen, he has the third best ERA (2.12) on the team-behind Hernandez (.84) and Breslow (2.08). He has also accumulated 12 1/3 innings of work- the second most on the team. In fact, over his career as a reliever, the deceptive righty has thrown 26 1/3 innings of relief while posting a very impressive ERA of just 1.72.
Now, getting smacked around on a regular basis as a starter can do nothing but kill a pitchers confidence. But there is no shame in being ‘just’ a reliever in this league and the fact that Gibby & Co. had the confidence in Collmenter to let him remain with the club during his struggles may have just saved the sophomore’s season. Something that is important for us as fans to remember as well- he is just in his second season and 26 years old. If the organization had the patience to stick with him, the least we can do as fans is get behind him and pull for the right hander to continue with his recent success as our long reliever.