Bullpen concerns D-backs heading into season opener

Mar 30, 2011, 8:37 PM | Updated: 10:05 pm

After a dismal spring training, the Arizona Diamondbacks find themselves with more concerns than anticipated going into Opening Day.

The biggest one hasn’t changed since last season. It’s still pitching.

“My concern is the bullpen,” said D-backs color analyst Tom Candiotti on Sports 620 KTAR’s Doug and Wolf. “The back of the bullpen is what really hurt the Diamondbacks last year.”

The D-backs’ bullpen posted a 16-32 record in 2010 with a 5.74 ERA, finishing dead last in the National League in both statistics. To add insult to injury, they became the first NL bullpen since the 2004 Rockies to lose twice as many games as they won.

The club brought in relief pitcher J.J. Putz through free agency in December, but a back injury set him back throughout spring training. Pitching the ninth inning in Tuesday night’s exhibition game was his first appearance since March 16.

“If he comes back and he’s able to close games down, this is going to be a pretty good team,” Candiotti said. “But if he doesn’t, that’s the question mark. That’s the one thing that everyone should watch for.”

On Monday, the team announced that Armando Galarraga would take the final rotation spot and that Aaron Heilman will be moved to the bullpen. Candiotti believes having the right hander there will end up strengthening the weakest spot of the team.

Despite reliever questions though, starters Daniel Hudson, Ian Kennedy and Barry Enright finished the spring as the brightest spots in the rotation.

Hudson started 11 games for the D-backs last season, finishing with a 7-1 record and a 1.69 ERA. Kennedy and Enright both have room for improvement, but came out of spring training looking strong.

“Hudson, to me, there’s no doubt about this kid,” Candiotti said. “He’s going to be a top-of-the-rotation guy at some point. [Kennedy] keeps hitters off balance so that’s why he’s always going to be an effective pitcher. [Enright] tried to shore up a couple mechanical problems that he had and it’s really worked well for him this spring.”

With their first game of the season two days away, not many expect much of this D-backs team. With a team that he believes can be offensively consistent, Candiotti thinks an equally consistent bullpen can make this team a competitor.

Maybe all the team really needs is their color analyst suiting up in a relief position. GM Kevin Towers does believe in veterans, after all.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Ryne Nelson (Arizona Sports/Alex Weiner)...
Wills Rice

Report: Ryne Nelson wins D-backs’ No. 5 starting rotation spot, Jameson to bullpen

The D-backs will be moving forward with RHP Ryne Nelson as the team's No. 5 starter in the rotation, MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reported Sunday.
11 hours ago
Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Pavin Smith throws during an MLB spring training baseball practi...
Wills Rice

D-backs OF Pavin Smith, INF Emmanuel Rivera optioned to Triple-A Reno

The Arizona Diamondbacks announced Sunday that outfielder Pavin Smith and infielder Emmanuel Rivera were optioned to Triple-A Reno.
11 hours ago
Catcher Jose Herrera #36 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks to the dugout during the second inning o...
Alex Weiner

D-backs opt for familiarity with backup catcher Jose Herrera

Jose Herrera and P.J. Higgins were the two prime competitors for the Diamondbacks' backup catcher role after Carson Kelly's injury.
11 hours ago
Fans fill Camelback Ranch during the MLB Spring Training baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and...
Wills Rice

Dog makes fantastic home run snag during Cactus League game

A dog made the play of the day in the outfield grass on Saturday following a home run during the Dodgers-Royals Cactus League game.
1 day ago
Gabriel Moreno #14 of the Arizona Diamondbacks works out at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on F...
Kellan Olson

Arizona Diamondbacks believe Gabriel Moreno is ready for bigger role

Gabriel Moreno will be the Arizona Diamondbacks' everyday catcher soon enough but it might happen even sooner than expected.
2 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo speaks with reporters after a 7-4 spring training loss t...
Jake Anderson

Diamondbacks still have major roster questions as Opening Day looms

With only six days until Opening Day, D-backs skipper Torey Lovullo still has to get the active roster down from 36 to 26.
2 days ago
Bullpen concerns D-backs heading into season opener