Fernando Rodney in a recent World Baseball Classic game. (Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports)
What do we make of the bullpen?
If the Diamondbacks remain in contention for the National League West Division title, the bullpen, and especially closer Fernando Rodney must have a significant role. The closer for any contending club saves games in the mid-40s.
When the Arizona Diamondbacks captured the NL West title in 2007, closer Jose Valverde earned a team-record 47 saves. While Rodney came to camp in shape and surprised with a fastball in the mid-90s, his age of 41 may preclude saving more than 30 to 35 games. If that’s the case, manager Torey Lovullo told Venom Strikes Tom Wilhelmsen could close.
Given the emphasis on limited pitch counts to starters, the role, and production, of relievers is beyond paramount.
Coming into the season, the bullpen was overhauled. General manager Mike Hazen and Lovullo have decided to go with veterans J. J. Hoover, Jorge De La Rosa and Wilhelmsen as essentially the middle inning relievers. Add hold-over Randall Delgado and Archie Bradley, moved from the rotation of last season into the bullpen, and that that represents a new look.
The bullpen is top-heavy with veteran players and several in their 30s and beyond. Given the emphasis on limited pitch counts to starters, the role, and production, of relievers is beyond paramount.
At the start of the season, the Diamondbacks have a curious collection of veterans who performed well in spring games. Now, it’s time for a reality check.