Saunders belongs in Diamondbacks rotation

Mar 25, 2011, 4:33 AM | Updated: 6:46 am

PHOENIX – The Arizona Diamondbacks are still trying to fill out their starting rotation, but they should only be looking for one more pitcher.

Despite his Spring Training struggles, Joe Saunders should be named to Arizona’s starting rotation.

He is the only proven veteran commodity in the mix for a rotation spot.

Surprisingly, manager Kirk Gibson has only named Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Barry Enright to the starting rotation.

“(Kirk Gibson) didn’t talk to me so whatever you guys know, you guys know. I don’t know anything else,” said Saunders after his outing on Thursday where he gave up five runs in five innings.

Hudson and Enright have only pitched in the Majors for half a season each. Kennedy has only one year of big league experience.

On the other hand, Saunders has been in the Majors for five seasons with valuable playoff experience.

The Diamondbacks will need his veteran leadership to help mentor the young Arizona staff.

The other starting candidates have either limited starting experience(Heilman) or struggled as a starter throughout their career(Galarraga).

Saunders has been hampered during Spring Training with a bout of the flu and his results have suffered.

He has allowed at least four runs in four of his five starts and has a 12.51 ERA in Spring Training leading to rumors that he could be released by the team.

However, veteran pitchers know what they need to get accomplished during Spring Training to get themselves ready for the regular season.

“I feel like I’m right on track for the season,” said Saunders after building his pitch count to 90 after Thursday’s outing.

Obviously not the same pitcher, but Randy Johnson also historically struggled during the spring, but turned it on as soon as the regular season started.

The idea of cutting Saunders simply because he has struggled in Spring Training defies logic.

Gibson has done nothing to quiet the speculation.

“That was a poor performance. We’re looking for guys who can deal with the pressure and throw the ball where they need to throw it,” said Gibson after Saunders gave up four walks in Thursday’s outing.

Gibson could just be trying to motivate Saunders to get him on track, but let’s hope he isn’t seriously entertaining the idea of releasing the only proven starting pitcher he has on his roster.

Otherwise, it might be an even longer summer than last year for the Diamondbacks’ bullpen.

Arizona Sports’ Craig Grialou contributed to this report.

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Saunders belongs in Diamondbacks rotation