If there was such a thing as a utility pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Josh Collmenter would unquestionably fit the mold.
As a rookie in 2011, Collmenter was a key fixture in the D-backs’ starting rotation, and helped the team win an NL West title with 10 wins and a 3.38 ERA.
Unfortunately for the Michigan native, his success as a starter would be short-lived. After being tabbed as the No. 5 starter coming out of spring training last season, Collmenter was 0-2 in his first four April appearances and gave up 20 earned runs in 18 1/3 innings of work.
While he would scatter seven more starts over the course of the 2012 season, the former 15th-round pick was essentially demoted from the rotation and forced to take on a new role out of the bullpen.
13 months later, that role has yet to really be defined.
From long reliever to emergency starter to setup guy to damage controller, Collmenter has shown his versatility and an ability to adjust to any situation in the face of adversity.
“The more I’ve been in the bullpen, the more I realize how valuable that role is,” Collmenter told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Friday. “A lot of guys just think of it as mop up innings and you hear people coming into a game up or down nine and they just can’t get going. They hate throwing in those situations.
“I look at it like any time you go out there, there is a purpose. Either it’s to keep your team close enough where they can come back into a game or you’re trying to hold a lead. Whatever it is, there is always a purpose when you’re out there throwing.”
Collmenter has certainly found his purpose on the mound in 2013, with a 1-0 record and a 2.45 ERA. In 22 innings this season, he has only given up six runs.
One of the keys to his success in the early stages of the campaign has been an increased usage of the curveball.
“In the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to have (the curveball) there and it’s something I continue to work on,” said Collmenter. “I’ve thrown it a lot more this season, and it’s one thing I told Miguel Montero, Wil Nieves and even Rod Barajas during spring training. Call it, call it back-to-back, call it a few times, just make sure that I throw it.
“It’s to the point now where I’m comfortable throwing it. That’s really where I wanted to get to.”