D-backs still mulling options for vacant pitching rotation spot

Jun 18, 2019, 5:38 PM
Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on to gameplay during the ninth inning ...
Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on to gameplay during the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on May 08, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo had an instruction for his staff when the team flew home from Washington, D.C. on its latest road trip.

Lovullo wanted everyone to be thinking about what they’d do with the “fifth” rotation spot, one that’s been in a state of flux with the absence of Luke Weaver and Jon Duplantier due to injury and the demotion of Zack Godley to the bullpen. It’s been a hole in the team’s roster that prompted the Diamondbacks to have “bullpen days” on more than one occasion, most recently starting Archie Bradley and then going to Godley thereafter for relief on Sunday.

The D-backs lost that game, 15-5.

Back to the drawing board the team goes, mulling its options for what to do when that spot in the rotation when it comes up on Saturday against the Giants.

“Yeah, we know that we have an open spot there,” Lovullo said Tuesday. “We’ve been pounding away at that for most of the afternoon here, since I got to the ballpark. We haven’t come up with any conclusions. We have all of our names, we’re going to throw ’em up there against the wall, and ultimately, I’ll get a chance to make the decision about what’s the best direction to help us win that baseball game on that day.”

The team has a few options: The Diamondbacks can have another bullpen game, taking its chances with shorter-length appearances by a handful of pitchers against a last-place San Francisco team. They can recall a pitcher from Reno, such as Matt Koch, Ricky Nolasco, Taylor Widener or Alex Young, although none of those players are currently on the 40-man roster.

More long-term, the D-backs could add an arm from the outside via trade, though the hope may be that Duplantier comes back before GM Mike Hazen would be forced to make such a move.

As 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro pointed out Tuesday, the D-backs’ fifth spot in the rotation can come up as few as two times over the next several weeks because of off days and the All-Star break. Both of those games will be against the Giants, against whom the D-backs are 4-2 this season with one sweep.

“We feel like there’s going to be two outings here for the starter and this is where we’re at today,” Lovullo told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Tuesday. “And then after that with the off-days and the All-Star break … it’s going to be late July before we need a fifth guy.”

If the D-backs do go the route of the aforementioned bullpen game, the options could include Bradley, Godley, Matt Andriese or even T.J. McFarland, all of whom have made major league starts in their careers.

Lovullo said Tuesday that despite Bradley’s struggles on Sunday — and throughout this season — he’s not overly concerned about his bearded righty at the moment. Bradley went 1.1 innings on Sunday and allowed four earned runs. His ERA on the season stands at 5.18.

“I don’t really have a lot of concern with Archie, because he’s so accountable,” Lovullo said. “He understands what’s right and what’s wrong in his game. He fesses up to what needs to be done to keep moving forward. He’s going to have some bad days. I know that.

“But he’s trending in a very positive direction. What he’s done here this year is he’s started to develop a pitch at the big-league level, which is hard to do, and he’s thrown a very efficient changeup. I don’t think he really got the chance to get to that pitch the other day.”

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