Arizona Diamondbacks – could starters seek out Johnson?
By Mark Brown
Randy Johnson, inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, could energize starters.
Upon several occasions this season, Chip Hale, manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, told reporters success begins with the starting rotation. Sure, a team can exhibit great offensive strength and lead the league in homers, RBIs and just about every offensive category.
Yet, it’s the starting pitching which carries teams deep into games, minimizes pressure on the bullpen and genuinely gives their team a legitimate chance to win. Relative to the starters of the Arizona Diamondbacks, that has not been the case. Conversely, if a starter lasts beyond the sixth inning for the Arizona Diamondbacks, that triumph seems a cause for celebration.
Coming into Thursday’s matinee in Milwaukee, starters were 32-45, and presently, only two remain in the rotation from opening day. Both Zack Greinke and Rubby De La Rosa are on the disabled list, and Shelby Miler, the third starter from the original rotation, continues to languish in the minors. If Greinke’s 10 wins is subtracted, the remaining eighth have a combined 22 wins. Lefty Robbie Ray remains in the rotation, and left-hander Patrick Corbin (4-9), still among the five starters, has yet to win at home.
If the starters are not terribly productive, that could remain the status quo for the rest of the staff. Approaching Thursday’s game with the Brewers, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a run-differential of minus 79, fifth worst in the majors. Only the Reds (-143), the Braves (-134), the Phillies (-108), and American League-leader Twins (-85) have greater run-differentials.
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Game after game, when a starter suffers defeat, Hale repeatedly talks about location, and the need to keep the ball down and in to hitters. That’s especially true in Chase Field, known as one of the most hitter-friendly ball parks in America.
Not that a visit from a Hall of Famer and current member of the organization may help, but conversations between Randy Johnson and younger pitchers could be of benefit.
Before a recent game in Chase Field, Hale was asked about the value of Johnson and commencing a conversation with pitchers, especially with Miller, who struggled mightily this season.
All Hale would commit was, “I’m sure Randy has spoken with Miller,” and let the conversation fade.
One pitcher who has benefited from close-up and personal attention is Ray, a left-hander with untapped potential.
Ray started the 2015 season with Triple-A Reno. After a 2-3 mark in nine starts, Ray was called to The Show and proceeded to start 23 games last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Here, the native of Brentwood, Tenn, compiled a 5-12 mark, but posted a creditable 3.52 ERA. Ray struck out 119 batters in 127.2 innings, and, so far this season, he’s fanned 132 hitters in 109.1 innings. Hale continuously praises Ray’s “electric arm,” and points to promising potential of this 25-year-old.
While in Reno, Ray engaged in several conversations with Johnson. In nearly each exchange, the message remained constant. Which is why the organization could clearly benefit from an on-going approach between Johnson and starters with marginal production.
“(Johnson) stresses that the game you’re currently pitching act as the last game you’ll pitch,” Ray said before the Diamondbacks left on their current road trip. “He wants you to make every pitch count. That hit me, because you really don’t know what will be your last game.”
Ray’s next start in that Brewers’ finale on Thursday afternoon. That’s when the lefty matches up with Milwaukee right-hander Zack Davies. In his last six starts, Ray is 1-4 and one no-decision, and there appears no time like to present to adhere to Johnson’s sense of urgency on each pitch.