There are many reasons why the Diamondbacks’ season unraveled and unraveled so quickly.
For starters, pundits like to throw darts at the starting rotation. Beginning with the torn ligament sustained by Patrick Corbin in his left elbow in mid-March and his subsequent Tommy John surgery, the domino effect then fell on the projected starters of Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy and Randall Delgado.
Eventually, Delgado landed in the bullpen and Cahill was so dreadful that he started is minor league exile in Advanced-A Visalia. McCarthy was traded and by the All-Star break, four new starters entered the rotation.
Then, injuries began to increase. Poster child here was outfielder Mark Trumbo, who went down with a fractured right foot in late April and did not return until just before the All-Star game. Centerfielder A. J. Pollock suffered a broken hand when hit by the Reds’ Johnny Cueto on May 31 and by the trading deadline, the Diamondbacks no longer saw value in retaining the services of Gerardo Parra and Martin Prado.
Above all, manager Kirk Gibson continued to insist his bullpen was considered the core of the team.
Yet, there was little reason for Gibson to maintain his optimism.
Due to Tommy John surgery to relievers David Hernandez and Matt Reynolds, general manager Kevin Towers and Gibson were forced to change their middle relievers and now seem to be comfortable with right-handers Evan Marshall and Matt Stites and left-hander Oliver Perez in this role. Set-up reliever Brad Ziegler was considered one of the best in baseball and closer Addison Reed, through inconsistent, still won praises of the decision-makers.
Slowly, the starting rotation was reconstructed and with additions Vidal Nuno, Chase Anderson, Josh Collmenter (returning as a starter from previous role of long reliever) and the improvement, over his past few starts of Cahill, there appeared some stability.
Now, the bullpen has been inconsistent and usually reliable Ziegler seems to have imploded in his last two appearances.
In Saturday’s game against the Pirates, he came into a 1-1 game and allowed three hits, four runs, two earned, committed a costly throwing error and was tagged with an 8-3 defeat.
On Sunday, Ziegler entered with a 2-1 lead against Pittsburgh and proceeded to give up the tying run in the eighth.
To that end, Ziegler's work load was called into order. The 34-year-old leads National League relievers in appearances and third in innings pitched.
After Sunday’s game, Gibson was asked if Ziegler was tired.
“He wants the ball and he’s still effective,” Gibson said. “No, he’s not gassed.”
Though Reed’s numbers are better over recent weeks, he still draws apprehension when entering a game. For the record, he is tied for fifth in the National League in saves with 27 and since May 17, left-handed batters have a .156 average against him.
“His confidence is better,” Gibson said. “He has a short-term memory and that usually works in a closer’s favor.”
As well, Gibson indicated, Reed made a slight adjustment.
“He used to stand in the middle of the rubber, and that tended to hurt him,” the skipper said. “Now, he’s moved to the first base side of the rubber and that has helped.”
For the final two months of the season, Gibson will play is usual game of musical chairs and see which reliever is stronger at a certain moment. As a rule, Gibson does not like to put a particular reliever in for several days in a row, and the going time is back-to-back games.
Plus, the final two months will be an evaluation period.
Reed is signed only through this year and will make $538,000 this year. For 2015, he is pre-arbitration eligible. Ziegler will make $4.5 million this year and $5 mil next season. For 2016, he has an option for $5.5 mil or a $1 million buyout from the Diamondbacks.
Should the Diamondbacks decide not to offer Reed a contract, the auditions from Marshall and Stites, in-house, for the closer role have began. That does not include trades and free-agent acquisitions in the up-coming off-season.
For the month of July, the Diamondbacks announced position player infielder Rudy Flores and pitcher Luis Madero were selected as players-of-the-month.
Flores, at 23-years-old, hit .381 (45-118) at Advanced-A Visalia with eight doubles, 10 home runs, 25 runs scored and 25 RBIs for 28 games. The Diamondbacks selected Flores on the 21st round of the 2012 draft out of Florida International University.
At 17-years-old, Madero went 4-0 with a 0.31 ERA in five starts for the Dominican Summer League Diamondbacks. That translates into one earned run for 29 innings. A native of Maracay, Venezuela, Madero was signed a free agent in October of last year.