PHOENIX — Once Josh Collmenter found himself this season, he was one of the most effective and reliable pitchers on the Diamondbacks’ staff.
It showed again Sunday, as Collmenter gave up one run in five innings in his last start of the season, remaking a case for a spot in the rotation during a season in which he showed he can fill just about any role.
The D-backs could not hold a 2-1 lead after Collmenter was replaced, falling 7-2 to the 99-loss Cubs at Chase Field, but Collmenter was the same guy he has been the for the last five months after ironing out a kink in his delivery following four frustrating April starts. He is 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA in his last 24 appearances, seven as a starter and 17 out of the bullpen.
Glancing to 2013, Collmenter appears to be on the outside looking in for a spot in the starting rotation due to the arrival of young prospects Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs and the pending return of 2011 No. 1 draft pick Trevor Bauer.
But Gibson, who admires Collmenter both for his work ethic and for the way he sublimates himself to the team, knows how quickly even the most reasonable plans can change.
“It’s almost unfair to try and speculate where Colly will end up in our scheme of things. You have him slated for the pen, and if somebody goes down, he’s a starter. That’s just who he is. We know he can do either. It’s just a matter of where we might need him, where he might have the most value,” Gibson said.
That versatility has value, as Collmenter showed the first time the Cubs were in town this season. When Joe Saunders could not get loose in the bullpen, Collmenter started on 13 minutes’ notice and held the Cubs to one run in four innings of the D-backs’ 6-1 victory. He was given the signal that he was needed during the national anthem, which goes off at 6:27 p.m. for a 6:40 p.m. game.
“To be able to fill a variety of roles and be a utility pitcher, there is definitely value in that,” Collmenter said. “I know teams don’t always pencil a guy in like that, but I think if you can give you quality innings and for them to have confidence in you, that always helps on your side.
“Obviously, from a personal standpoint I’d rather start. I enjoy starting and being able to plan and prepare and to be a guy the team counts on every five days to give them a chance to win. It doesn’t matter a whole lot. Whatever I can do to help the team.
“In this role, too, I kind of relish that, because I know what a long guy needs to do to help save the bullpen. Being in the bullpen for a majority of this year and seeing what those guys go through … if you can take a couple of innings off those guys and keep them fresh, especially the back end of the bullpen, that is going to make the team better as well.”
Film study got Collmenter back on track in early May after four starts left him 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA. Mechanics in place, his ERA was 1.32 in 34 innings as a reliever in a season in which he also lost a month to bleeding ulcers.
“I wasn’t throwing the way I normally do. I wasn’t getting up and over and throwing from the top. I was more of a rotation pitcher, and that’s not who I am,” Collmenter said of his early trials. “Once I got back to doing what I do the best and throw strikes down in the zone, it was good. You take out the first four starts and everything else went pretty well for the most part.”
The lesson: “Just to stay true to myself. I know what I do well and how I can get guys out.”
Added Gibson: “He probably lost his confidence a little early in the year, but he was really steady for whatever we asked him to do. He ended up having a great season for us.”