PHOENIX — Diamondbacks left-hander Joe Saunders, who missed his scheduled start Friday, was placed on the disabled list Saturday with shoulder inflammation and will miss at least one more start.
Is this the opening that brings phenom Trevor Bauer to the major leagues? Time will tell.
Bauer, who leads the minor leagues with 111 strikeouts, and Patrick Corbin are among the candidates to replace Saunders when his turn in the rotation rolls around Thursday in Atlanta, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Saturday afternoon.
“We’d consider all options,” Gibson said.
It may be Bauer’s time. It may not. If Saunders is only going to miss one more start, the D-backs may not want to yo-yo top prospect Bauer back and forth like that. Joe Martinez and Barry Enright on are the 40-man roster and in the Reno rotation with Corbin, so any could be promoted seamlessly.
At the game time, Bauer has pitched as well as anyone in the minors after being the fifth player taken in the 2011 draft. He is 11-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 15 starts, the first eight for Class AA Mobile and the last seven for Class AAA Reno. His 111 strikeouts have come in 90 1/3 innings, and opponents are hitting a composite .221 against him. He has walked 46, though, and his pitch counts have been on the high side.
“He’s a candidate, probably, as well as anybody. Is he ready? How do you know?” Gibson said.
“There are certain things he does great. We all know he has great stuff. His last two starts, he has had 100 pitches in five innings. If I was Trevor, I can tell you, when I was a big leaguer, I would argue that I would get better with better competition. I think that’s how he probably thinks. I don’t know that we know that answer.
“Patrick (Corbin) is down there as well. We have other guys down there with major league time as well.
Gibson said it is unlikely the opening will be filled externally
Saunders was given an MRI on Saturday that revealed no structural damage, only inflammation. He made his last appearance June 16, making him eligible to return July 2. If he is ready then, he would miss only one more start.
“Any time you get an MRI you are worried,” Saunders said. “No big deal. Every pitcher has inflammation. It’s an easy, quick fix. They probably played the side of precaution. They didn’t really give me a timetable for anything, so we are just going to play it by ear.”
Saunders added that he will take several days off before throwing again.
Bauer is scheduled to start Sunday for Reno, so if the D-backs plan to bring him up to start Thursday, they might place him on a pitch count in that game or juggle his schedule. They would not ask him to make his first major league start on three days’ rest.
Corbin was 2-3 with a 5.27 ERA in five starts when he was recalled from Class AA Mobile to take Josh Collmenter’s spot in the rotation in late April. The timing might work out better for his return, as he last started on Thursday and is scheduled to pitch again Tuesday. He is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA since joining Reno in late May. Martinez pitched seven shutout innings Wednesday to improve to 7-3.
“They are all under consideration,” Gibson said. “Anybody that we would bring up, I think we would feel overall they understand the schematics of what we are trying to do.”
Because of a travel day Monday, the D-backs could pitch Ian Kennedy and Wade Miley on regular rest Thursday and Friday and push the open start to Saturday in Milwaukee. Gibson seemed inclined to give Kennedy and Miley an extra day, though.
“It depends on how far he (Kennedy) goes tonight. Our bullpen is kind of shot, so probably be more inclined to stretch him out tonight and leave him on six days,” Gibson said.
“At the same time, if he doesn’t have a big workload, we could certainly move him up to Thursday. There are so many different scenarios. Don’t have a crystal ball right now. Things will start to clear up as we progress.”
Collmenter, who gave up one run in four innings as an emergency replacement for Saunders on Friday, is all but certain to remain in the bullpen, Gibson indicated.
“That’s one of things that we’d struggle with — if we started him, then we’d lose that versatility in the bullpen,” Gibson said.
Right-hander Jonathan Albaldalejo was recalled to fill Saunders’ roster spot and give the bullpen a fresh arm after relievers pitched all nine innings Friday.