D-backs GM Mike Hazen shares vision for rotation after Zach Davies’ return

Jan 16, 2023, 8:37 AM

Zach Davies #27 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the bottom of the first inning against the S...

Zach Davies #27 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the bottom of the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on August 17, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Four Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitchers made up the rotation for most of last season with a revolving fifth spot.

Arizona retained Zach Davies last week on a one-year deal with an option for 2024, and he rejoins Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Madison Bumgarner on the roster.

The D-backs also have a slew of young arms vying for opportunities, including Ryne Nelson, Tommy Henry and Drey Jameson — who all made their MLB debuts in 2022.

General manager Mike Hazen went over the thought process of brining back Davies, including the increased competition among Arizona’s youth.

“If we didn’t have Zach, you are penciling in two of those young guys to fill out the fourth and fifth spot of the rotation,” Hazen said in a Zoom press conference. “If they don’t pitch well, we realistically have one or two other guys who are ready … if somebody gets hurt, now you’re down to one who is in Triple-A, and I think that creates us chasing our tail at times.

“Zach just ratchets up the competition amongst all of the pitchers. I think the best environment for young players to come up here is to yes, have opportunity … but we also have to be cognizant that there has to be some degree of standard of competition.”

Brandon Pfaadt and Blake Walston, Arizona’s No. 4 and 5 prospects on MLB Pipeline, respectively, are also positioned to be in the mix for rotation spots during the season.

Hazen said pitching opportunities will arise naturally throughout the season.

He referenced Henry coming up in August and performing admirably early on before “hitting a wall,” as the GM put it. But the organizational depth allowed Hazen to option Henry and give Nelson and Jameson chances.

“I envision at least for this year, that’s going to be the dynamic that exists,” Hazen said. “I think that’s a healthy dynamic.”

Hazen did not rule out the possibility of a six-man rotation, as well.

The GM said he does not like to looking at pitching schedules until Spring Training, but he noted that if the D-backs have enough arms to help win games and keep pitchers fresh, there could be benefits to stretching out the rotation.

How about moving young starters into bullpen roles after last season’s struggles to hold onto leads?

Hazen said he feels that can be a one-way road.

“My biggest concern with moving especially a young pitcher to a bullpen role at the beginning of the season is I feel like you’re making a decision on that pitcher’s season,” Hazen said. “I’m not ruling it out. But I think if you do, there’s really no going back in the other direction or you are increasing the risk of injury to the player, unless you’re able to send him down for a month to a month and a half and build him all the way back up. Still not in love with the idea.

“It’s not to hold those guys back from being on our team. We want those guys on our team. We also want starting pitching that is going to carry us.”

Hazen said the D-backs are still looking to add to the bullpen, primarily through trades.

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