Arizona Diamondbacks: Bullpen Health Thins Herd, Provides Opportunity

Diamondbacks

PHOENIX, AZ – APRIL 21: T.J. McFarland #30 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a pitch in the ninth inning of the MLB game against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field on April 21, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Arizona Diamondbacks won 6-2. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

The Diamondbacks bullpen limped out of spring games today when Silvino Bracho and T.J. McFarland both showed signs of injury. Their absence will give others an opportunity to shine.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are 5-2-1 thus far this spring, but the health of pitchers like Silvino Bracho and T.J. McFarland is making it more difficult to gauge the readiness of some of these bullpen arms.

Silvino Bracho left today’s spring training game with elbow soreness, per MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert (via Twitter). Manager Torey Lovullo gave news of the injury, but there’s no indication of severity at this time. Bracho will see a team doctor tonight with further evaluation perhaps in his future.

ATLANTA, GA – JULY 15: Silvino Bracho #61 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the eighth inning of an MLB game against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on July 15, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Bracho has rode the shuttle between Phoenix and Triple-A Reno a lot the past few seasons, be he was primed to lock down a bullpen spot by Opening Day. This injury, of course, puts that plan in question. Bracho, 26, is out of options, meaning if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster (or start the season on the Injured List), the Dbacks would have to leave him unprotected on the waiver wire.

His strikeout rate has been consistently above average, but giving up hits has been a problem. Last season was his best as a pro – good timing since he’s out of options – pitching to a 3.19 ERA and equally solid 3.26 FIP in 31 innings at the MLB level.

Lanky left-hander T.J. McFarland is also out for a couple of days, Gilbert tweets, though Lovullo has even less concern for McFarland’s long-term health.  McFarland does have a spot locked down in the bullpen after posting an absurd groundball rate last season. He’s gotten the ball on the ground at an over 60% clip for four years running, which goes hand-in-hand with the loads of soft contact he generated last year.

McFarland has a more defined role as a stopper and early inning arm for Lovullo, though as only one of two guaranteed lefties in the pen (along with Andrew Chafin), he figures to get some late-inning, matchup-specific work as well. Shoulder inflammation doesn’t sound like a major problem for McFarland, but it can be a sign of a more significant cause for concern, and it’s worth tracking.

Next: Jake Barrett Out Of Diamondbacks Bullpen Mix

This early in spring training, the Diamondbacks still have plenty of options at their disposal for the 2019 bullpen, but Silvino Bracho and T.J. McFarland aren’t established enough arms to suffer too long through these ticky-tack injuries. They’ll need to come back healthy and strong to earn their keep. Jake Barrett is already gone, and these injuries further hurt the bullpen depth – or they might provide opportunity for somebody new.