D-backs have 4 starting pitchers after optioning Pfaadt, so what now?

Jul 1, 2023, 8:34 AM

Diamondbacks infield...

Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks makes a pitching change against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on June 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks optioned rookie Brandon Pfaadt back to Triple-A Reno following his start on Thursday in a series of roster moves made Friday.

With Merrill Kelly on the 15-day injured list, the D-backs only have four starting pitchers on the active roster and cannot bring back Pfaadt for at least 15 days, per league rules. The oncoming All-Star break will alleviate their conundrum, but there will be one start in need of a solution.

“We are going to enter into that arena probably here in the next day or two because we’re going to let that person know what’s going to be happening,” manager Torey Lovullo told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Friday. “It could be a starter, it could be an opener. I’m not sure.”

“Because we have a couple of off days consecutive Mondays, I think we can play around with the rotation a little bit and then you got the break and you can really reset at that point,” he added.

Kelly is on the IL with a small blood clot in his lower right leg. The best case scenario is he could return after the All-Star break and only miss two starts.

The D-backs slated Tommy Henry, Ryne Nelson and Zac Gallen to pitch in Anaheim against the Angels this weekend before having Monday off. That day will allow the rotation to reset, but then come six games in as many days at Chase Field.

So who gets the outlying start ahead of the All-Star Game?

It won’t be Drey Jameson, at least in a traditional sense. Lovullo reiterated that he is a reliever and will remain so.

“We don’t want to shift him back and forth,” Lovullo said.

Jameson has been a multi-inning reliever able to give Arizona some depth if it does opt for an opener, but he has not thrown more than 50 pitches in an outing since May 29.

There are not a lot of options on the 40-man roster, either. Konnor Pilkington with Triple-A Reno is the only other starter aside from Pfaadt on there in the minors, so Arizona could roll with the lefty for one start with another roster move.

Pilkington started on Friday for the Aces.

Pfaadt allowed six earned runs in two-plus innings on Thursday in a 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Lovullo said he wants the young arm to land his secondary pitches and build confidence.

The trade deadline is Aug. 1, but there has not been much significant movement at this point. The D-backs have been clear that pitching will be a focus, with Kelly’s injury spotlighting the need for depth.

Plan for Pavin

Pavin Smith was optioned along with Pfaadt, while outfielders Dominic Fletcher and Kyle Lewis were recalled. Smith has been in the big leagues this year since April 8 after not making the 26-man roster out of spring training.

As Lovullo put it, the results just have not been there for Smith, who is slashing .130/.259/.217 in 82 plate appearances in June. He had an .856 OPS through his first 25 games in the bigs but has not been able to find that level of production since.

“I just think the swing plane and the confidence was staggering a little bit so I just told him to go down and get 40-60 quality at-bats and use that as a springboard if you do well,” Lovullo said.

“That’s when you get your chance to come back up here … He’ll go down there and he’ll find his way back because he is too good of a hitter.”

The D-backs now have six outfielders on the active roster, while Emmanuel Rivera is the backup first baseman.

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D-backs have 4 starting pitchers after optioning Pfaadt, so what now?