D-backs relievers prepare for any situation without defined roles

Apr 10, 2023, 10:49 AM | Updated: 2:12 pm

Scott McGough, Arizona Diamondbacks...

Scott McGough #30 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks down to step on first base for the out of Jason Heyward #23 of the Los Angeles Dodgers to end the game for a 2-1 Diamondbacks win at Dodger Stadium on April 02, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The bullpen phone rang, and Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Drey Jameson’s ears perked up to hear the name on the other end.

“It’s kind of fun and interesting when you don’t know,” Jameson — who will join the starting rotation after opening the year in the bullpen — said on Saturday. “It’s like, ‘Jameson get ready,’ and the adrenaline hits you way faster than if you have to wait around knowing you’ll be in the seventh or eighth inning.”

Arizona has a flexible bullpen arrangement without a defined closer or roles, for that matter.

Through nine games entering Sunday, the D-backs were 5-4 with three saves by different arms: Jameson, Scott McGough and Andrew Chafin.

The D-backs communicate who is hot on a given night.

From there, as LHP Kyle Nelson put it, the arms are instructed to be prepared to face any situation.

“We have an idea what innings you’re going to throw but just be ready when your number is called,” McGough said.

McGough, pitching in the bigs for the first time since 2015 after spending four years in Japan, said having defined roles can sometimes help and other times not, depending on how players and coaches work together.

“We can communicate without having roles that you have an idea that you’ll probably be first out tonight,” McGough said.

Manager Torey Lovullo said he’s liked the closer-by-committee strategy so far.

In Friday’s 6-3 win over the Dodgers, Lovullo turned to Miguel Castro in the eighth to pick up four outs and Chafin with one down in the ninth to finish the deal. No one got the save, but what does that matter when Arizona shook hands at the end?

He similarly left Chafin in for one batter in the ninth inning of Arizona’s win on April 2 against the Dodgers, and McGough entered to close.

“I think this group has come in with zero expectations, ‘Give me the baseball, let me just collect outs and figure out where it leads us,'” Lovullo said on Saturday. “I had different discussions with all the relievers, I don’t think they care.

“Andrew Chafin, he doesn’t care, he just wants to win, he’s been used a certain way, but I’ve closed with him. I’ll throw him in during the eighth inning and let him go get the three best lefties of the opposition. He’s bought in, everybody’s bought in, it’s been healthy.”

The D-backs had the sixth-highest reliever ERA last year in MLB at 4.58 with 27 blown saves.

The group is mostly different this season with Nelson and Kevin Ginkel as the healthy holdouts. Joe Mantiply, Mark Melancon and Corbin Martin are on the injured list.

Arizona’s relievers entered Saturday with a 3.86 ERA, despite allowing nine runs in the first three games of the year.

Jameson, Castro and Chafin held L.A. hitless in 4.1 frames on Saturday.

Saturday and Sunday had some ups and downs, but Arizona’s bullpen never relinquished a lead in consecutive wins over the Dodgers. The D-backs have just one blown save thus far in 2023.

“We’re closing out one-run games and not just for three outs, we’ve done it for six outs,” Lovullo said. “As I’ve kind of said, they’ve got to earn things, they’ve got to prove themselves out there and they’ve done a really good job so far this season.”

Jameson’s transition from starting games to the pen has worked to this point, but Zach Davies’ oblique strain on Saturday led to the decision to move the rookie into a starting role.

His first outing was a 66-pitch haul to bridge the fourth inning to the eighth. His second was a six-out save, while his most recent showing was 26 pitches in middle relief. Lovullo felt the window to stretch him out was closing, a factor in the decision.

With Jameson out as the bullpen’s Swiss Army knife, Lovullo will have to look at the group a little differently. Peter Solomon entered as the long reliever with Davies on the 15-day injured list.

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