Hazen: Pitching a focus for D-backs as MLB trade deadline looms

Jul 11, 2018, 9:59 AM | Updated: 1:44 pm

Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen (Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)...

Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen (Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)

(Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)

Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock is seven games back from a stint on the disabled list that began with a thumb injury. Fellow outfielder Steven Souza Jr. is five games removed from his own rehab after a re-injured pectoral muscle benched him two months ago.

Arizona’s lineup needed the boost. An anemic month for the team only went downhill more when the duo injured themselves in the middle of May before the D-backs (51-41) recovered for a much better June.

Still, it’s nice to have a healthy lineup that, on Tuesday in a win over the Rockies, had depth into the seven-hole with Jake Lamb hitting there.

And so with a healthier lineup and the MLB trade deadline less than three weeks off, Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen is looking at bolstering a pitching staff that looks worn as the All-Star break sits just five games away.

“We’re going to have to take a hard look at our team to try to figure out exactly where we need to improve,” Hazen told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Wednesday. “Throughout the course of the season, our position player group is a little bit of a mess due to injury. That’s starting to come back together, I think. You’re starting to see some semblance of that group and the rotations that you’ll see going forward. I think it’s in a pretty good place.

“I just think going down in the second half, the pitching is probably more an area where we’re going to take a hard look at.”

Hazen said the trade market isn’t clear regarding position players. Arizona had been linked to Baltimore Orioles infielder Manny Machado, but as that has quieted down, reports linking other interested teams pursuing him have run the gamut.

The need for a boost of offense, however, remains. The D-backs have been hot-and-cold at the plate with no example more perfect that the back-to-back appearances against the San Diego Padres this weekend. Arizona scored 20 runs in a win Saturday before going 12 straight innings without a run the next day in an eventual loss.

Still, the pitching staff now appears to need the upcoming break more than Diamondbacks hitters need to find a rhythm.

Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray have struggled with efficiency in the last three games by each lasting 4.1 innings as Arizona has burned through its bullpen.

“We’ve leaned on our pitching staff quite a bit in the first half of the season,” Hazen said.

Buchholz could return after All-Star break

Starting pitcher Clay Buchholz is likely to return from an oblique injury after he makes a rehab appearance at some point over the MLB All-Star break, Hazen said.

The 33-year-old right-hander went 2-1 with a 2.56 ERA over seven starts after signing with the D-backs midseason.

Injuries to Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray led the veteran to sign with Arizona, but Ray’s return from the disabled list (oblique) and Shelby Miller’s return from Tommy John surgery have left Hazen with a puzzle if Buchholz is cleared to return.

“He’s doing well. We would anticipate that he’ll make some type of rehab start over the All-Star break and then we’ll hopefully see him on the other side of the break,” Hazen said. “What that will do, not sure just yet. Things change on your pitching staff on a daily basis, unfortunately, at this time of year.”

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Hazen: Pitching a focus for D-backs as MLB trade deadline looms