D-backs call up LHP Andrew Saalfrank, option Slade Cecconi to make adjustments

Sep 4, 2023, 12:16 PM

Andrew Saalfrank...

Andrew Saalfrank #27 of the Amarillo Sod Poodles walks to the dugout during the game against the Springfield Cardinals at HODGETOWN Stadium on June 04, 2023 in Amarillo, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

(Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks selected the contract of left-handed reliever Andrew Saalfrank from Triple-A Reno to add depth to their bullpen on Monday. 

Arizona optioned starting pitcher Slade Cecconi to Reno and moved outfielder Dominic Fletcher to the 60-day injured list to create a 40-man roster spot. 

Fletcher has a fractured left index finger, ending his season. 

Saalfrank, 26, described his arsenal as a sinker-curveball combination, although he said the breaking ball registers as a slider. 

The southpaw has a 2.35 ERA in 30.2 innings with Reno and a 2.70 ERA in 33.1 frames with Double-A Amarillo. He’s been effective against lefties and righties with an opposing .502 OPS by right-handed hitters and a .682 OPS by left-handed bats.

“I think for me, it’s just about getting ahead of guys,” Saalfrank said. “Good breaking ball, so if I can get to use that to try and put guys away, usually that’s what’s working. My worst outings are whenever I’m falling behind trying to fight back in counts. So for me just the importance of getting ahead and kind of controlling the game.”

The D-backs drafted Saalfrank out of Indiana in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. He reached Triple-A in June, where he struck out 14.1 batters per nine innings.

“Every time I saw him get in the game, there were (punch outs) for days,” D-backs rookie Bryce Jarvis said. “Then he continued that in Amarillo and just kept doing that. I think everyone’s excited to see him help us out up here.”

Slade Cecconi heads out

Cecconi made six appearances with the D-backs after getting called up in August, including four starts. The righty threw 5.2 one-run innings in his penultimate outing against the Cincinnati Reds, but he did not escape the fourth and allowed six earned runs in Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Manager Torey Lovullo said he had a good conversation with Cecconi about next steps, saying he expects the 2020 draftee to be a big leaguer for a long time. But finding consistency to get past 18 batters will be the focus.

“I told him that I wanted to be totally transparent with him. The Triple-A manager (Blake Lalli) mentioned 18 batters, two times around the lineup, something happens,” Lovullo said.

“We dug into that conversation a little bit, so that was a challenge we told him to go down there with. Blow through that and don’t allow anybody to take you out of the game until you get 21 outs, that should be the mindset. It’s just about being consistent and staying focused throughout the course of the whole outing.”

Cecconi’s fastball was hit around on Saturday, which he left over the plate too often against a strong lineup. He thought he fell behind too often and tried to place his fastball instead of letting it rip. He threw it more than 60% of the time.

The slider, meanwhile, has been a terrific put-away pitch that has missed bats with a 37% whiff rate.

D-backs rotation questions

The Diamondbacks have reverted back to four starting pitchers with Monday’s moves while in a stretch of 17 games in as many days.

A bullpen game is on the table to bridge the gap, as is bring back starter Ryne Nelson from Reno.

The right-hander pitched on Saturday, so he’d line up ideally for Thursday’s D-backs game at the Chicago Cubs. Merrill Kelly is pitching Monday, Brandon Pfaadt Tuesday and Zach Davies Wednesday.

Nelson has allowed five earned runs over his last three appearances (17 innings) with eight strikeouts and seven walks. He was optioned on Aug. 13.

“We’re going to see how the next couple days go,” Lovullo said. “Maybe have a bullpen option, maybe pull somebody up from from Triple-A. We will get a feel for that here in the next couple of days.”

The D-backs face the Colorado Rockies Monday at 1:10 p.m.

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