The Arizona Diamondbacks may be reluctant to move relievers from low minors.
LAKE ELSINOR, Calif. – Given the start of closer Fernando Rodney of the Arizona Diamondbacks, pundits and club officials began to think early of his fate and future. With an ERA over 11 runs per nine innings in the beginning weeks of the season, Rodney was an adventure with each appearance.
Plus, his age of 40 did not endear critics. Given the benchmark of 45 saves from a closer for a contender, many worried if Rodney could reach that criteria and help the Diamondbacks remain competition in the National League West division race.
Though Rodney performed better through May, and nearly cut his ERA in half, the concerns continue. What seems to complicate matters is a barren shelf in the minors.
If general manager Mike Hazen wants to dip into Triple-A Reno for relief, there is not much of a selection. The Aces are going with Silvino Bracho, who had two tours with the Diamondbacks already this season, and failed miserable in each. Then, there’s Jake Barrett, injured in spring training and slow to recover. While Barrett was commendable last season with a 3.49 ERA (1-2) in 68 appearances, manager Torey Lovullo consistently tells Venom Strikes the organization will not rush any player into service.
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If the cupboard in Reno is deserted, the closers at both Double-AA Jackson Generals and Advanced-A Visalia Rawhide could be on a potential radar screen.
For the Rawhide, closer Bud Jeter has more saves than the Generals’ Gabriel Moya, but seems reluctant to move. In his third season with the Rawhide, Jeter appears settled into a comfort zone, and explained to Venom Strikes, after Visalia dropped a 4-0 decision to Lake Elsinore Saturday, that essentially things will take care of themselves.
"(The Diamondbacks organization) has a plan and I trust their plan. Right now, I’m in a good place, I like our team and I like the way we play."
Despite an 0-3 record in 19 appearance thus far, Jeter has saved 11 games. With that defeat to Lake Elsinore (Advanced-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres), the Rawhide dropped to 23-27 and Jeter has saved just less the victories. Last season, Jeter, a 25-year-old out of Columbia, S. C. was 9-3 and saved 14 of 19 save situations. He posted a 3.09 ERA in 52 appearances.
If the Diamondbacks are thinking of moving Jeter to Jackson, there is a roadblock. That would be Moya, who is 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Last season, Moya was 1-1 at Visalia with five saves in 10 opportunities. His reward was a promotion to Jackson this season and that’s where he is 2-1, six saves and 1.61 ERA.
Should the Diamondbacks decide to promote Jeter, or at least begin to think about mobility through the organization, the move may not resonate with Shelly Duncan, the Visalia manager. After that Lake Elsinore game, Duncan told Venom Strikes that if the Diamondbacks decide to move Jeter, that could have a domino effect.
"If that happens, then Bud would have to take a position from a deserving player. Right now, I’m happy with Bud and the job he is doing. He provides leadership and is very professional. He’s been here a few years and knows the league."
For now, don’t expect much movement among potential relievers within the organization. To be fair, the bullpen at the major level has performed well and Rodney seems to have shaken the demons from earlier in the season. As Lovullo likes to remind listeners regarding all of his pitchers, “we’ll go as long and as far that each player takes us.”
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That would include staying with Rodney as his closer for now.