D-backs plan for RHP Drey Jameson remains flexible, starts in bullpen

May 27, 2023, 4:42 PM | Updated: 7:37 pm

Drey Jameson #58 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom...

Drey Jameson #58 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the first inning at Oracle Park on October 01, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Drey Jameson’s No. 99 jersey was back in the Chase Field clubhouse ahead of first pitch on Saturday before the Arizona Diamondbacks announced a slew of roster moves to shake up their pitching corps.

Jameson’s job could mirror what it was at the start of the season, when the D-backs inserted him into the bullpen after the final rotation spot went to Ryne Nelson. The idea with Jameson early was to keep him stretched out in a long reliever role in case he was needed to start, which came quickly.

Zach Davies suffered an oblique strain on April 8 and went on the injured list for nearly two months, and Jameson slid into his spot. That only lasted three outings before the D-backs optioned him to Triple-A Reno on April 24.

On Saturday, Arizona brought back both Jameson and Davies (reinstated from the 15-day IL) while sending down rookie starter Brandon Pfaadt and reliever Luis Frias.

They are all connected moves. The team needed a roster spot for Davies, and Pfaadt’s early struggles showed he needed more “seasoning,” as manager Torey Lovullo put it. Pfaadt threw 3.2 inning on Friday, forcing Frias into the game early and he threw 51 pitches, knocking him out for the rest of the weekend.

Jameson had been starting games for the Aces, but Lovullo said the team needed bullpen coverage and the righty showed adjustment made to earn the opportunity.

“Drey is throwing out of the bullpen,” Lovullo said was his role on Saturday. “What that means tomorrow could change. But if he’s throwing out of the bullpen and continues to throw out of the bullpen, we will allow him to stay in the bullpen. Different needs arise through the course of the game today and tomorrow that could change three or four days from now.

“So we were in a situation where we have some flexibility to make some moves and push guys around with days off and maybe give a guy five or six days in between. We just want to make sure that we’re doing things the right way to help us win baseball games without hurting our player.”

How long Jameson stays in the bullpen remains ambiguous, as it may rely on the continued health of the rotation and whether his outings shorten up to where he’d need to be stretched out again.

Nelson and Tommy Henry are young starters in the rotation, and the D-backs have shown the willingness to send players down who have been ineffective like they did with Pfaadt. Nelson and Henry have had strong stretches this month and earned their opportunities to keep going, but Jameson remains an option if needed.

Henry threw 10 pitches in relief on Saturday, but Lovullo said postgame he is in line to start on Wednesday with Jameson out of the bullpen.

Jameson said his demotion to Triple-A came as a surprise when it happened. He was coming off a one-inning outing in which Lovullo grew frustrated, explaining he felt Jameson was only throwing heaters after giving up on working through his arsenal. The rookie allowed three runs and walked three batters in the frame against the San Diego Padres.

The 25-year-old threw a slider-heavy first outing with the Aces to find his feel with that pitch, a strength of his throughout his career but something he struggled with as a starter this season in Arizona.

“I just had to throw all my pitches for strikes,” Jameson said. “Not just trying to beat guys with fastballs and sinkers. I just started dropping in some changeups, curveballs, landing the slider and just fine tuning.”

Jameson said he spent that first start trying to get the slider moving the same each time. He noted that if he threw 42 sliders that day, it took him 40 to find what he was looking for.

The slider has been his primary put away pitch in the majors, having allowed only five hits off it on 173 such pitches, according to Baseball Savant. But he went down to find the shape that he could continue to repeat consistently.

“I felt from the beginning when I was up here I still might not have had it all where I needed it to be, but it was early and I was getting the swings,” Jameson said. “… they’re not just sitting on slider, they’re not just spinning on it. And later on they started recognizing I was throwing that slider a lot so they were being able just to make it out and eliminate the pitch, so that’s when I went down and that was my goal, to be able to land that for strikes.”

Jameson’s latest start in Reno was Tuesday when he threw 100 pitches. Lovullo said he’d be mindful of that when deciding when and how long to throw Jameson next.

Jameson’s first experience in the bullpen went well for the D-backs, as he threw 8.1 innings and allowed two earned runs in three outings, including a six-out save.

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