Pundits like to say that strong pitching and solid defense represents two essential elements of a winning team.
So far this baseball season, neither facet has been all-that present in the Diamondbacks’ fortunes. Of particular concern is the starting rotation and that seems to be an unit which has become lost in the revolving door.
With three weeks before the All-Star game, the rotation underwent a rather significant transformation since the start of spring training. This is one-half of the season, and the future appears no brighter now than at the start.
At this point, only two starters remain in a rotation of Randall Delgado, Patrick Corbin, Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill from the start of the season. These include Miley and McCarthy, and combined, they have a 4-16 record through games of June 23.
In spring training, the Diamondbacks hit a major roadblock when their All-Star left-hander Corbin went down with Tommy John surgery and Cahill fell off the radar screen. Delgado played musical chairs with Josh Collmenter and Collmenter replaced Delgado in the rotation. Delgado ended up as the Diamondbacks “long reliever” out of the bullpen.
Cahill was so pathetic that he was demoted to the minors and left to ponder his exile. While there is no timetable for Cahill’s recovery, most observers believe he will not be back with the Diamondbacks any time soon.
Now, two besides Collmenter have entered into the rotation and, by all indications, they represent a transition. Once Corbin and Delgado were scratched at the start of the season and Cahill was optioned to the minors earlier this month, a change appeared apparent.
Of the three in the rotation after the season started, Collmenter was considered the D-backs’ “long reliever,” and Chase Anderson and Mike Bolsinger were in the minors when the bell rang in early April.
Anderson started strong by winning his first five starts and Bolsinger, since his recall from Triple-Reno on June 17, turned in two quality starts.
Sent down to the minors previously this season, Bolsinger said the education on the chalkboard and in the clubhouse was invaluable.
“When I went down, I learned about pitching and learned a great deal about myself,” he said. “It was all positive and also I had help from J. J. on how to handle things up here.”
The reference to “J. J.” is to J. J. Putz, whom the Diamondbacks designated for assignment last Friday. Putz mentored younger pitchers, took them under his wings and nourished their development. Bolsinger said he was grateful for the opportunity to part of Putz’s cadre and added, “I’ll miss him.”
While Anderson and Bolsinger may add a glimmer of hope to a dismal season, general manager Kevin Towers certainly had input in this equation.
Recent deals under his watch have compromised the future and as a former pitcher, Towers is constantly telling reporters that he builds teams through the pitching staff. Contrary to his approach, Towers traded starters Trevor Bauer, David Holmberg, Tyler Skaggs, Ian Kennedy, Jarrod Parker and previous GM Josh Byrnes dealt Max Scherzer to nearly concede the future.
Now, Towers has a few more in the development mode, and hopes these can be on an intelligent but accelerated path to the major leagues.
Four of the previous first round picks were starting pitchers and Towers is banking on Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley and the 2014 top pick Tokui Toussaint to overcome what he essentially created.
The fourth pitcher selected by Towers was Bauer. As part of a three-team deal, he traded to Cleveland before last season.
THE VOTING CONTINUES
With three weeks remaining to the All-Star game, Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt expanded his lead over the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez at first base for the National League.
In the latest numbers released Monday by Major League Baseball, Goldschmidt has 1,962,386 votes and Gonzalez has 1,239.509.
Rockies’ shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is the leading vote-getter in the National League with 3,287,460. However, he trails the Jays’ Jose Bautista (3,665,208) in the overall fan voting.
Leaders at their positions in the National League include Goldschmidt at first base, the Phillies’ Chase Utley at second, Tulowitzki at short and the Brewers’ Aramis Ramirez at third.
In the outfield, the top three vote-getters are Carlos Gomez of the Brewers, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates.
The Cardinals’ Yadier Molina is leading among NL catchers.
Should Goldschmidt win out and start at first base, he would be the fourth position player from Arizona to start in an All-Star game. The others were Jay Bell (1999), Matt Williams (1999), and Luis Gonzalez (2001).
Elsewhere on the All-Star radar screen, Tulowitzki was named captain of the NL team in the Home Run Derby scheduled for Monday July 14. Similarly, Bautista was named captain of the American League team and now both will name players to participate.
The 85th All-Star game is slated for Target Field in Minneapolis on Tuesday night July 15, and will be televised nationally by FOX (channel 10 locally).