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Arizona Diamondbacks – bullpen shuffled

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Right-hander Josh Collmenter of the Arizona Diamondbacks, along with two others, were cut by the team

LOS ANGELES – Maybe this was a move which should have come earlier in the season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Then again, this was likely a consequence of the protracted and elongated major league baseball season.

In a series of moves before Saturday’s game with the Los Angeles Dodgers here, the Arizona Diamondbacks said farewell to righty Josh Collmenter and outfielder Michael Freeman. These players were designated for assignment. If not claimed by another team within in the next 10 days, each is released outright.

At the same time, the club sent left-hander Zac Curtis to Triple-A Reno, and recalled Adam Loewen and Steve Hathaway, a pair of lefties from the Triple-A Aces.

After dropping the 2015 Opening Day game against the San Francisco Giants, Collmenter has been in a freefall ever since. Eventually losing his spot in the rotation, the native of Homer, Mich. ended the season by starting only 12 games of the 44 contests he appeared.

Finishing last season with a 4-6 mark and a 3.79 ERA, his numbers ballooned this season. At the time of the Diamondbacks’ decision to part ways Saturday, Collmenter was 1-0 with a 4.84 ERA in 15 games. Collmenter started the season on the DL with right shoulder tightness, and used sparingly out of the bullpen.

“Tough day for the organization,’ manager Chip Hale before Saturday’s game. “Josh was an opening day starter, won a playoff game for this franchise, and gave us some great games. But, it’s time to move on as an organization, and start looking at younger guys.”

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While Collmenter was the head-liner, the Arizona Diamondbacks also sent Curtis, loser in Friday’s bullpen impulsion loss to the Dodgers, back to Triple-A Reno. In their place, Loewen and Hathaway were at Dodger Stadium Saturday, and ready for duty. While the team seems to address the issue of productivity, or lack thereof, these moves also address the nature of a lengthy major league season.

Perhaps more than most teams, the Diamondbacks’ efficiency from the bullpen, in recent weeks, has been non-existent. With the arrival of Loewen and Hathaway, Hale has the option to throw fresh arms in the fray, and at the same time, see how these players react to pressure situations at the major league level.

“Both Loewen and Hathaway earned their way up here,” Hale added. “Were excited to see what they can do.”

These moves also address two other issues.

Since the trade of closer Brad Ziegler to Boston just before the recent All-Star game, Hale has had to rethink his personnel. Set with Tyler Clippard as his seventh inning pitcher, Daniel Hudson as the set-up reliever and Ziegler as the closer, now that pattern and order was disrupted. Clippard was moved to closer, and Hale then used relievers in match-up situations.

“Yes, there was a takeaway when we traded Ziegler,” Hale said. “At the same time, this gives us an opportunity to look at others. We’re not sure who will emerge as the closer, but this is an opportunity to several to step forward.”

The consensus within the organization points to a new direction. The bullpen cannot continue to implode, and Hale cannot continue to give excuses for poor performances. With Loewen and Hathaway, the pair represents the Diamondbacks’ ultimate quest to improve.

“We wanted to get (Loewen and Hathaway) here and have a look,” said Dave Steward, the club’s general manager. “In fact, this is on-going process and guys here are all auditioning.”

Loewen, at 32-years-old, was the highest drafted player from Canada. The native of Vancouver was selected as the fourth pick overall in 2003 by the Baltimore Orioles, and appeared in 55 major league games with the O’s and Phillies. At Reno, the 6-5, 245 pounder was 3-2 and a 3.62 in 33 games.

Hathaway, who will 26 on Sept. 13, was the Diamondbacks’ 14th pick in the 2013 draft and out of Cambridge, Mass. Combined with Double-AA Mobile, and Reno this season, the 6-0, 182-pounder was 2-3 and a 2.48 ERA in 37 games.

The issue of who will close games now becomes of immediate concern. After letting Ziegler go, and watching reliever after reliever fail in critical situations, Stewart identified a pair of right-handers, Jake Barrett and Enrique Burgos as two could have the inside track.

“I’m not going to spend $10, $12 million on a closer (in the off-season),” Steward added. “We have several here, and we’ll find solutions on closing.”

Next: Bullpen lets Godley down

For now, the search for a creditable bullpen remains the highest priority. Among starters and closers, Hale said critical decisions with regard to relievers lay ahead. With the way the season unfolded, his observation could not be more accurate.

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