Friday night a microcosm of Josh Collmenter's season
The second-year right-hander reported to spring training this February as a rotation shoe-in, after posting a 10-10 record and 3.38 ERA in 31 games (154.1 innings pitched) in 2011 -- numbers that helped him to finish fifth in National League Rookie of the Year voting. But things didn't exactly go Collmenter's way in spring training. He went 0-4 in six starts, logging a 9.95 ERA while opponents combined for a .325 batting average against him. Such a flat performance only roused Collmenter's critics, who regarded him as nothing more than a deceptive "novelty act" whose pitches lacked life.
So as the Diamondbacks headed into the regular season, the general consensus of the media and the fan base seemed to be that Collmenter no longer deserved a spot in the team's starting rotation. That notion was spiritedly reinforced by the 26-year-old's first start of the year -- a three- inning, six-hit, six-run misadventure versus the division rival Giants.
By the end of April, Collmenter was 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA in four starts, corroborating the suspicion that so many had previously voiced. And to the bullpen he went, newly ordained as the long relief man. Collmenter, who anticipated a season squarely in the middle of the Diamondbacks' starting rotation, found himself squarely in the depths of the team's bullpen.
Fast forward about two months -- it's June 22 and Collmenter, frankly, isn't much more than an afterthought, despite his quietly-solid relief outings, allowing just three earned runs in 18.1 innings pitched, good for a 1.49 ERA in that stretch. It's a Friday night and the Diamondbacks are at home, set to open a three-game series with the Cubs. Joe Saunders is the scheduled starting pitcher.
About 10 minutes prior to first pitch, Saunders, who was having difficulty getting warmed up due to stiffness in his shoulder, is scratched. So Collmenter got the call and proceeded to pitch four innings of three-hit, one-run baseball on about five minutes of preparation.
Ten days later, he made another start -- this one on the road, in Milwaukee -- and he, again, gave up just three hits and one run, lasting six innings.
Since then, he's undefeated as a starter.
Friday's struggles resembled Collmenter's early season woes -- they were early and many. They drew back those familiar misgivings -- "he can't hide behind his deceptive delivery anymore," "his novelty is fading," "hitters have figured him out." Indeed, after giving up that three-run home run to Wright -- the Mets' fifth earned run before Collmenter even collected his seventh out of the game -- I overheard someone in the press box mutter, "There's the Josh we know and love."
But we should know by now that Collmenter isn't all that fazed by mishap. After all, that -- mishap -- was really the mark of his first month of the season, as well as the spring that preceded it. Yet, flawed as that was, he remained resilient.
"Josh Collmenter really kept his composure," Manager Kirk Gibson would say of him following the game. "It was just typical Coll-y ... A lot of guys would have lost their composure there ... Guy's got ice in his veins and he's just very calm and on-task at all times, regardless of the circumstances."
Here he was, walking behind the pitcher's mound at Chase Field. Hat off, wiping the sweat from his forehead as the Mets' third baseman trotted around the bases. His team, the one that repeatedly gave him a chance -- one that he blew over and over -- early in the season, despite his struggles, had again given him a chance -- a six-run one on Friday and it sure as heck looked like he was going to blow this one, too.
But somehow, he rallied, retiring 12 of the next 14 Mets he'd face, five via strikeout, while striking out the side with just 12 pitches in his last inning of work.
Yeah, he's all novelty. All deception. He'd have to be if he's manhandling batters the second and third times through the order, right?
It might be time to add resilience to that scouting report, too.
- Eric Chavez - Friday May 17D-Backs 3rd baseman Eric Chavez joined Burns & Gambo to discuss his recent hot streak.
- Tim Kurkjian - Thursday May 16ESPN MLB Insider Tim Kurkjian joined Burns and Gambo to discuss the development of Diamondbacks star
- Kevin Towers, D-backs GM - Wednesday May 15KT talks to Doug & Wolf about the big win over the Braves!
- Keith Law, ESPN MLB Insider - Monday May 13Law talks to Doug & Wolf about Justin Upton's return to AZ.
- Heath Bell, D-backs pitcher - Friday May 10Bell talks to Doug & Wolf about Sushi and the mentality of a closer