D-backs have some decisions to make

Reliever J.J. Putz could return from the disabled list as soon as Monday.

Rick Scuteri

PHOENIX — With J. J. Putz nearing a return, the Diamondbacks’ roster situation is getting a little complicated. 

Expect answers soon.

"We have some decisions to make," manager Kirk Gibson said.

The organization planned to look at various scenarios following Sunday’s game, Gibson said, and the most likely one appears to be third baseman Eric Chavez will be placed on the disabled list to open a roster spot.

Chavez heard a pop in his left knee while running the bases in the final spring training game before the Australia trip and has been less than full strength since, the main reason he started just eight games at third base.

A swap of Chavez for Putz would be the simplest way to attack the issue because no other moves would be necessary. But it also seems at best a temporary fix. That move would create a roster imbalance of 13 pitchers and 12 position players, limiting the moves Gibson could make off the bench.

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With the D-backs six games into a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, the extra arm could be useful in the likely case the bullpen becomes stretched thin. But at best that seems a short-term solution. The D-backs opened the season that way, but it is not normal operating procedure.

Chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, general manager Kevin Towers and Gibson appear to have a few options moving forward.

* The first decision regards Putz’s health. Is he ready to return?

Putz threw two scoreless innings in back-to-back rehab appearances for Triple-A Reno on Thursday and Friday, walking two and striking out two. His velocity in his first rehab outing was in the 88-89 mph range, and the D-backs might like to see a little more. Late last week, Gibson talked about having Putz throw a simulated game Monday, which would push a decision back several days. The D-backs want their relievers to be able to throw on back-to-back days, and even go two innings if necessary.

* Are they comfortable with a thinner bench? 

If Chavez goes on the disabled list and is not replaced in kind, Martin Prado is the only experienced third baseman on the roster. Nick Evans has played both corner infield spots in the minors, but his only major league experience has been at first base and the outfield, primarily in left field. Didi Gregorius has an infielder’s knack and could play there in a pinch. The D-backs usually insert outfielder Ender Inciarte as a defensive replacement in games he does not start, and they may not want to be without a five-man bench.

* If Putz is activated and the D-backs want to keep 12 pitchers, who goes?

Evan Marshall was promoted from Reno when Putz went on the disabled list May 6, and he has developed into the principal seventh-inning setup man when the D-backs hold a lead in late innings. Marshall has a 1.80 ERA in 14 games, and production like that cannot be discounted.

Randall Delgado showed his best off-speed pitches of the season in a relief appearance Saturday, striking out Justin Upton with a slider and Evan Gattis with a curveball. Delgado is only 25 and is out of the options, and the D-backs certainly would lose him if they tried to pass him through waivers. Trevor Cahill has struggled since his move to the bullpen, where he occasionally looks uncomfortable out of the stretch.

He has been the least reliable member of the staff, and the D-backs likely have floated his name in trade talks. Would there be takers? If the D-backs believe their best move when Putz returns is to jettison Cahill, they would still owe him a prorated portion of his $7.7 million salary this season and the remaining $13.8 million on his deal.

Whatever happens is likely to happen this week.

Stay tuned.

By Jack Magruder on Twitter