Relievers of the Arizona Diamondbacks have produced in several difficult situations.
Through the opening week, the offense clearly carried the Arizona Diamondbacks. Coming from behind to win four of their first five contests, the bats have clearly resonated.
Through the opening five games, the team is hitting .395 with runners in scoring position, and the response is not reserved for late innings. In their 7-3 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night, the bombardment came in the middle frames.
Down 3-0 on his one, the Diamondbacks came back with a pair in the fourth and broke the match open with a five-run, fifth inning. In that frame, they batted around for the first time this season and generated enough offense to be victorious.
Lost in the offensive barrage has been the bullpen. While ERAs of several relievers are high, their ability to shut opponents down in key situations loomed important. That could be the case of Fernando Rodney, who came into the opener against the Giants and managed to shut down important hitters.
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In that game, Rodney entered a tie game in the ninth inning but allowed the go-ahead run. With the bases loaded and one out, he reached back to struck out Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford grounded out. Eventually, the Diamondbacks pulled that out with two in the bottom of the ninth. Manager Torey Lovullo cited Rodney’s ability to get out of that bases loaded situation as admirable and important.
Overall, the bullpen has generated enough zeros in these early games to give Lovullo a solid comfort level. Before Saturday’s game with Cleveland, Lovullo told Venom Strikes the collective effort has been both productive and encouraging.
"These guys have been responsive to the challenge. Many have been put in with tough situations and produced. I point back to what Rodney did against Posey and Crawford."
While Rodney is the only reliver with a defined role, and that of closer, Lovullo pointed out to Venom Strikes that the reminding roles are to be determined. That would mean primary his set-up, eighth inning reliever. The middle relievers appear set with Andrew Chafin and J. J. Hoover as the prime personnel. Archie Bradley is the long reliever and Randall Delgado and Tom Wilhelmsen appear as relievers who can be stretch out over an inning or two.
As season progresses and performances graded, Lovullo promised Venom Strikes that “roles will be more defined.”
Centerfielder A. J. Pollock was given Saturday off and Lovullo told Venom Strikes that resting regulars is a clear part of his season-long strategy.
"I want to make sure each player gets his rest. I’m not pushing anyone and in A. J.’s case, we know his health history. We want a strong, healthy team and hopefully, these players will be rested and ready for meaningful games in August and September."
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With Pollock out of the line-up, shortstop Chris Owings moved into the lead-off spot and Jeremy Hazelbaker, who was 3-for-3 as a pinch hitter in the first five games, took over for Pollock in center.