D-backs still have ‘work to do’ in bullpen, GM Mike Hazen says

Jan 10, 2023, 3:13 PM

Pitching coach Brent Strom #72 of the Arizona Diamondbacks speaks with pitcher Joe Mantiply #35 dur...

Pitching coach Brent Strom #72 of the Arizona Diamondbacks speaks with pitcher Joe Mantiply #35 during their MLB game against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field on April 09, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Padres won 5-2 against the Diamondbacks. (Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)

Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen is optimistic about the position player depth his front office has built for 2023.

But he acknowledged to reporters on a Zoom call Friday that the bullpen — a sore spot in 2022 — is not a finished product about a month before spring training ramps up.

“I have more work to do there,” Hazen said.

“The offseason has still a month and a half to go, never know what could happen at this point,” Hazen added. “I think we’ve at least addressed most of our major needs, but I still think there may be, we’ll see where the mark takes us from here. … From a position player standpoint, we’ve built out a decent amount of depth.

“Almost the entire team has options, (which) will give us flexibility to withstand injuries. I think we’ll have a healthy amount of competition at spring training.”

The D-backs signed Evan Longoria on Thursday to shore up the infield depth. He and Josh Rojas will be in the mix at third base and designated hitter.

Arizona also bolstered their catching options by acquiring Gabriel Moreno in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays and added a pair of right-handed outfielders to add balance in the lineup with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Kyle Lewis.

In the bullpen, Arizona’s major outside acquisitions have been veteran Miguel Castro, Scott McGough –who played most recently in Japan — and 23-year-old Carlos Vargas. All three arms will add velocity compared to last year’s group.

D-backs relievers ranked No. 25 in MLB in ERA last season at 4.58 en route to 27 blown saves. The unit was last in strikeout rate at 19.7% — the only club lower than 20% — with the second-lowest average velocity on fastballs at 92.6 mph.

“I do think with the outside acquisitions in aggregate, the bullpen if it becomes not the 28th to 3oth performing bullpen, we’ve raised the ceiling on our team,” Hazen said.

He admitted the trade market has dried some but more signings are possible.

However, the organization feels that the majority of growth will come internally.

“We have a lot of young players. Hoping that a lot of those young players continue to work this offseason, come in ready to go and build upon the seasons they had last year and improve the areas that we sort of fell short in,” Hazen said. “Obviously the bullpen was more my responsibility to reconstruct, I think, but the remainder of the team we’re relying on guys coming in and improving.”

The D-backs have a surplus of young arms to mix into the rotation with Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Zach Davies and Madison Bumgarner, and they have options to utilize youth in the pen.

Hazen noted that young arms Ryne Nelson, Drey Jameson, Brandon Pfaadt and Tommy Henry will be counted on.

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