D-backs pitching notes: Bryce Jarvis to help bullpen, starting rotation has a hole

Aug 13, 2023, 2:17 PM | Updated: 2:20 pm

Ryne Nelson #19 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on as he comes out of the game after the fourth i...

Ryne Nelson #19 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on as he comes out of the game after the fourth inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on April 30, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks mixed up their pitching arsenal with a pair of roster moves on Sunday, sending down starter Ryne Nelson to Triple-A while selecting prospect Bryce Jarvis.

The plan is to use Jarvis — Arizona’s first-round selection in 2020 — in the bullpen to start his major league career. He recently made the shift from starter to reliever to provide what he called more immediate help in the majors.

That leaves the Diamondbacks short at least one starting pitcher with Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Brandon Pfaadt and Slade Cecconi, who has a start but appeared in relief on Friday.

The D-backs announced Kelly will start on Monday at the Colorado Rockies after exiting his last appearance early with a leg cramp. Back-to-back “TBA”s trail him in the rotation.

“We’re in there hammering away at it right now, I don’t know that answer,” manager Torey Lovullo said on Sunday. “We’re going to be creative … We’ve got a couple situations we’ve got to look closely at but where we land with certain guys, I can assure you, we’ll have a strategy as to what we’re going to do to win that day.”

The D-backs have nine relievers outside Cecconi to piece together a bullpen game.

Zach Davies will not start one of those games, as Lovullo said he is still scheduled to pitch for Reno in a rehab start on Tuesday.

Davies (back) threw 74 pitches for the Aces on Thursday, allowing three earned runs in 4.1 innings.

What’s next for Ryne Nelson?

Lovullo said he “for sure” sees Nelson returning to the major leagues this season, noting the D-backs need him at his best.

Nelson put together a very strong month from mid-June until mid-July, but he allowed 19 earned runs over his last 18.2 innings across four starts entering Sunday. Lovullo noted his inconsistency in putting away hitters with his secondary stuff, specifically the slider.

“I know he’s disappointed, but at the end of the day, we highlighted some things that had to improve for him to come back here and be excellent,” Lovullo said. “I don’t want players to come here and have a hang-on feeling, and that’s what I thought he was getting to when I watched him pitch.

“So I challenged him to go down there and work with the same intensity that I saw him work when his back was against the wall two months ago when he was probably one start away from getting sent out and went six scoreless.”

Nelson said he fell strong physically after a three-inning start Friday night but acknowledged there is some sorting out to do. He pointed to his struggles to finish hitters with two strikes, as he is in the bottom 15% of MLB in chase, whiff and strikeout rates.

The rookie was the only young D-backs starting pitcher this year who had not spent time in the minors after he made the rotation out of spring training. He and Gallen were tied for the team lead in starts after Friday’s game with 24.

Bryce Jarvis makes the majors

Jarvis is the sixth first-rounder drafted by general manager Mike Hazen to reach the majors, including competitive balance picks. He was the No. 18 overall pick after starting only four games in 2020 for the Duke Blue Devils due to COVID-19.

He was promoted to Reno on April 25, and he spent the next three months in the starting rotation. He made six appearances from the bullpen ahead of his call-up, starting on July 25.

“They saw that I could provide help out of the pen more immediately than in a starting role,” Jarvis said. “Get your feet wet, get used to coming out of the pen and then if all goes well, see where that goes.

“… I kind of related back to when I was a freshman in college at Duke and I was coming out of the pen there. Anywhere you go, you got to earn your innings and start somewhere.”

Jarvis said his goal remains to start someday but that he’s bought in to helping in any way.

He reached Double-A Amarillo in his first full pro season but struggled to limit runs last year with an 8.27 ERA and more than five walks per nine innings.

The righty said improved extension and trust in all four pitches has helped get him to the next level. He had a 5.26 ERA in the minors this year with a 3.51 ERA in his last 10 games.

“A lot of people around here in the organization identifying things that needed to be tweaked and guiding me and coaching me through those developments, ultimately, getting to see those turn into successes is really fun,” Jarvis said.

Three of Arizona’s six picks in the 2020 MLB Draft have reached the bigs: Jarvis, Cecconi and Pfaadt.

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D-backs pitching notes: Bryce Jarvis to help bullpen, starting rotation has a hole