PHOENIX – It’s early, yes, but just more than four weeks into the 2016 regular season, the Arizona Diamondbacks have made nearly as many roster moves as games played.
For those keeping track, the recall of right-hander Jake Barrett from Triple-A Reno on Thursday was the 20th transaction involving the active roster. His return to the majors occurred just prior to the series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals, the D-backs’ 24th game.
All but one of the 20 moves made involved the bullpen.
Fresh arms have been needed considering D-backs relievers have thrown more innings than any other group in baseball. And it’s not even close.
Entering play Thursday, the D-backs’ bullpen had accounted for 94.1 innings pitched, 10 more than their closest competitors, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ineffective starting pitching plus extended games of 11, 13 and 14 innings have all contributed to a revolving bullpen door.
“The guys have joked about it,” Barrett said, referring to his Reno Aces teammates, “but all those guys, we’re just all a team, so we all understand together. All the backend bullpen guys, we all have options so we know it could be like that all year. We all understand.”
When those bullpen arms arrive, they’re expected to produce, and that hasn’t happened with as much regularity as perhaps anticipated.
“I think we’re starting to almost expect something bad to happen when they come in from the bullpen,” manager Chip Hale said after watching the bullpen allow four runs in an 11-4 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday night.
D-backs’ relievers have been tagged for a combined seven run in the past two games.
“That can’t happen,” Hale continued. “They’re better than that, they all have plus stuff and they have to let it go and have conviction when they throw it. Right now, I’m not seeing that in their eyes, and we’re going to work on that. We’ll talk about it, and we need to get after it a little more.”
And that’s exactly what Hale and pitching coach Mike Butcher did on Thursday, and it was a talk with the entire staff.
It began with the starters.
The D-backs’ starting rotation has baseball’s second-worst ERA at 5.97. Colorado’s five-man unit checks in at 6.20.
D-backs starters have also allowed the most runs (85) and own the fourth-highest opponent batting average (.285) in the majors.
“Deciding what you’re going to throw, whether it’s just listening to the catcher or what you want to throw and just let that ball go with conviction,” Hale said. “We’re just seeing too many balls not hitting the spot where they want to throw it.”
Hale added maybe the pitchers lack some belief, both in what they want to throw and how they want to throw it.
“You just have to be able to let (the ball) go knowing it’s going to be a good pitch,” he said. “And that’s the thing, sometimes we tell pitchers to have conviction—really, you let the ball go and it should be that. You shouldn’t have to be thinking about it.”