Arizona Diamondbacks: Time running out on bubble relievers
By Mark Brown
Several relievers of the Arizona Diamondbacks could be out of time to impress
The point of no return may have passed for several relievers of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now that the Diamondbacks hit the half-way mark in spring training, many who are the bubble to make the final 25-man roster could run out of opportunities.
That’s because starters are now stretched out to five and six innings, and pitch counts will rise to 70 per outing or more. That gives those in competition less to time in games and the opportunity impress and eventually win a job on the opening day roster diminishes.
That seems the course of events, and if pitchers cannot impress with initial outings of the spring, they are thrown back into the pool of mediocrity. In the end, their performance, and not so much as their experience nor history, dictate moves by club officials.
Before Saturday’s game against the San Francisco Giants at Salt River, manager Torey Lovullo told Venom Strikes that pitchers on the bubble are clearly susceptible to “the numbers game.”
"Once we get to this phase of spring training, the natural progression sets in. We have an idea on these players and we can eliminate guys piece by piece."
Depending if Lovullo carries 12 or 13 pitchers, that number will help decide the roster status of several.
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Right now, relievers like Erik Davis, Daniel Gibson, Jared Miller, Matt Koch, Keyvius Sampson, J. J. Hoover, Jimmie Sherfy, Tom Wilhelmsen, held-overs from last season’s team Silvino Bracho, Enrique Burgos and Evan Marshall all could be running out of opportunities. Plus, Steve Hathaway and Jake Barrett, both out with injuries, have not pitched in a 2017 spring game, and their status for a possible opening day roster spot remains tenuous at best.
Miller, for one, picked himself off the mat after a disastrous outing March 7 against Oakland and turned heads on Saturday. Facing the A’s, Miller allowed six runs, one earned and walked four in 0.1 innings. On Saturday against the Giants, Miller turned in a dramatic transformation and retired the Giants in order with one strikeout. Afterward, Lovullo, speaking with Venom Strikes, praised the comeback.
"It was great to watch (Miller) reach the moment. All of the relievers were outstanding (against the Giants), and that’s encouraging for younger players."
Still and for those on the bubble, these are uneasy days.
On the diamond Saturday
Left-hander Robbie Ray made his third spring start for the Diamondbacks and turned in a creditable, 60-pitch effort in a 5-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants before 13,557, the largest crowd in Salt River history.
Going a solid 3.1 innings, Ray told Venom Strikes he felt good and pleased with his latest effort.
"Fast ball command was good and the ball was coming out of my hand very good. They didn’t seem to get good swings on breaking pitches, and I wonder if I tipped my pitches. I’ll have to look at the video and see if I did anything different."
Infielder/outfielder Kristopher Negron slammed his first homer of the spring in the sixth and Gregor Blanco, along with Jake Lamb, hit first-inning triples to power the win.
With the victory, the Diamondbacks moved over the .500 mark (8-7) in spring games.
The Diamondbacks conclude their home-and-home weekend set with the San Francisco Giants. On Sunday, right-hander Archie Bradley gets the start and looks to improve on his 0-2 spring record and 17.47 ERA. Bradley draws left-hander Matt Moore (6-5, 4.08 in 12 starts for the Giants; 7-7, 4.08 ERA in 21 starts for Tampa Bay last season) as his mound opponent in Scottsdale Stadium.
Next: Walker solid in three spring starts
After an off-day Monday, the Diamondbacks are back to Salt River Tuesday to face the Texas Rangers. Then on Wednesday, it’s over to Sloan Park in Mesa and a night game against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs.