What’s next for D-backs’ Brandon Pfaadt after rough start leads to option?

May 28, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: 10:30 am

Brandon Pfaadt #32 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the Texas Rangers while making his M...

Brandon Pfaadt #32 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the Texas Rangers while making his Major League debut in the bottom of the second inning at Globe Life Field on May 03, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Brandon Pfaadt came up on May 3 as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top pitching prospect, someone manager Torey Lovullo said on Saturday he was hoping would stick in the rotation for 15 years after a dominant 2022 in the minors.

But the Boston Red Sox drove in five runs off him on Friday after he consistently caught too much of the plate, and the D-backs optioned him to Triple-A Reno on Saturday amid four roster moves.

Luis Frias, who cleaned up after Pfaadt with 51 pitches on Friday, also got sent down. Veteran Zach Davies was reinstated from the 15-day injured list (oblique) to take the rotation spot back, and Drey Jameson replaced Frias in the bullpen.

“I think we just didn’t attack both sides of the zone and they were way too comfortable,” Pfaadt said postgame Friday. “We didn’t really command the fastball in, that led them to be super comfortable with those pitches.”

Lovullo said on Saturday that Pfaadt showed he may need more “seasoning” in the minors, despite general manager Mike Hazen calling him ready in late April.

Pfaadt allowed at least five earned runs in three of his first five D-backs starts.

Lovullo wants to see Pfaadt work on his command before he rejoins the MLB squad, specifically the ability to locate his fastball in each quadrant.

The manager said Pfaadt’s heavy fastball usage last season in the minors was a slight red flag, but he successfully moved it around. That has not been the case with Arizona.

“If you’re gonna have the four quadrants of the strike zone, I think he was living primarily on one side and in one area,” Lovullo said.

“We want to make sure that you can walk that fastball around consistently and not waste pitches. If he’s trying to throw a ball here, that it’s not sprayed over the middle of the plate or throw a ball on the other half that it’s not sprayed up and out of the zone.”

Opponents hit .339 against his fastball (typically 92-95 mph) this season in the bigs with a .644 slugging percentage. His 12.3% barrel rate against was the 23rd highest in MLB for pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched after Friday.

Lovullo also expects Pfaadt to utilize more of his offspeed options effectively.

“I don’t know of anybody who lives at 65% fastball rate as a starting pitcher and gets away with it for six or seven innings,” Lovullo said.

“You’ve got to be able to spin the baseball consistently. He broke out some really good curveballs late yesterday, so I know he’s got a curveball, he’s got a slider, he’s got a changeup, he’s got all four pitches, he’s got to use them.”

While Lovullo said sending Pfaadt down wasn’t something the organization hoped for, he does not feel the righty is far off from becoming an effective piece for the D-backs. He noted the growing pains other pitchers like Ryne Nelson and Tommy Henry have experienced.

Pfaadt is five starts into his MLB career, he’ll have other chances.

But the D-backs made the move at 29-22, and Lovullo echoed his sentiment that the 2021 version of the team would have had more patience.

Conversations on which pitcher the D-backs would send down continued after Pfaadt’s outing on Friday, and Lovullo alluded to different ideas getting thrown around his office throughout the decision-making process.

Pfaadt was the strikeout leader in the minors last year with 218 and started off 2023 on the right foot with a 3.91 ERA and 30 punch outs in 25.1 innings for the Aces in a hitter-friendly environment.

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What’s next for D-backs’ Brandon Pfaadt after rough start leads to option?