The Diamondbacks could soon find themselves with some interesting decisions to make regarding their pitching staff.
On Monday, Tyler Skaggs arrived in town for a spot start against the Rangers and pitched six scoreless innings — signaling that he could soon be back for good.
On Tuesday, right-hander Daniel Hudson continued his recovery from Tommy John surgery, throwing 74 pitchers over six innings on Tuesday in an extended spring training game at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
And then there’s 20-year-old phenom Archie Bradley, who suffered his first loss of the minor league season on Wednesday, giving up one earned run in eight innings — in the process raising his ERA at Double-A Mobile to 0.79 in six starts. Bradley reportedly was hitting 99 mph in the start before that, giving up two hits in six scoreless innings. For the year, Bradley is 6-1 with a 1.01 ERA in 11 starts at two minor-league levels, with 80 strikeouts in 62.2 innings.
Bradley doesn’t figure to get a major-league call anytime soon — the D-backs see no need to rush him — but Hudson and Skaggs could be ready to muscle their way into the rotation. But at the expense of whom?
The so-called fifth starter, Patrick Corbin, leads the NL in wins and could be in line for an All-Star Game start. Brandon McCarthy had been on a roll until Thursday’s hiccup at Texas, and Trevor Cahill has been solid all year.
Ian Kennedy hasn’t been up to his near-Cy Young form of two years ago, but he’s the most proven of the starters and was on the mound for the past two Opening Days. Then there’s Wade Miley, who’s struggled of late but was an All-Star last year and Rookie of the Year runner-up to Bryce Harper.
Hudson likely will be the first piece to squeeze into the puzzle. He gave up seven hits and four earned runs with one walk and three strikeouts in Tuesday’s appearance, but the team and Hudson were pleased with the effort.
General manager Kevin Towers reported that Hudson’s velocity was consistently in the low 90 mph range.
The next step, Towers said, could be game action with Double-A Mobile as soon as next week.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Towers told the Arizona Republic. “He hasn’t faced real good competition in almost a year. Facing big-league hitters is a lot different.”
Towers said he would like to see Hudson get up to 100 pitches “two or three times” before bringing him back.
If all goes well, and Skaggs continues his string of recent success at Triple-A Reno, the possibilities will be many for both Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.
“It’s good to have that depth,” Towers told KTAR.
The Republic’s Nick Piecoro speculated that Miley is on the thinnest iceamong the current members of the rotation. Meanwhile, Paul Swydan of the analytical website Fangraphs.com wonders if Kennedy could be moved — not to the bullpen, but to another team. Swydan’s case takes into account Kennedy’s contract situation in comparison to the younger, more cost-efficient members of the staff.
Towers has never been afraid of testing the waters on the trade market, and that’s not about to change.
“My position is the same with everybody,” he told KTAR. “You’re crazy if you don’t listen. You never know what somebody will offer you.”
Of course, there are at least a few weeks of baseball to be played before any decision will need to be made — and sometimes these things sort themselves out, either via performance or injury.
But, as Towers put it, “We kind of like where we’re at right now.”