D-backs spring training preview: Starting pitchers
First in a series previewing the 2014 Arizona Diamondbacks heading into the start of spring training.
All five of the pitchers who finished the 2013 season in the starting rotation return — All-Star left-hander Patrick Corbin, right-handers Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy, left-hander Wade Miley and right-hander Randall Delgado. It is the first time in franchise history that there has not been at least a small offseason tweak in the rotation, either through a trade or the normal ebb and flow of free agency. The D-backs made a strong play for Japanese free agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, but he spurned their reported $116 million offer to sign with the New York Yankees for a deal worth about the same average annual value. Corbin was 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA in a breakout season after winning a rotation spot in spring training, and he ranked in the top 20 in innings, strikeouts and ratio. Cahill (8-10, 3.99) and McCarthy (5-11, 4.53) each missed at least six weeks with injuries, and the D-backs are looking for them to return to form. Miley (10-10, 3.55) has double-digit wins each of the last two seasons. Corbin and Miley were in the top 10 in the NL quality stats with 23 and 22, respectively.
Top prospect Archie Bradley, whose live fastball has touched 99 mph, will be given an opportunity to pitch his way into the rotation after a strong 2013 minor league season spent mostly at Class AA Mobile, where was 12-5 with a 1.97 ERA in 21 starts with 119 strikeouts in 123 innings. Including five starts at Class A Visalia before his May promotion, right-hander Bradley was 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 152 innings last year. … Right-hander Alex Sanabia, who opened 2013 in Miami’s starting rotation, was claimed off waivers in October and is an interesting acquisition. Sanabia, 25, is 8-10 with a 4.15 ERA in 28 major league games, 24 starts.
Right-hander Daniel Hudson underwent a second Tommy John surgery last June and is expected to miss most of the season. A 16-game winner in 2011, he underwent his first surgery in July 2012. The rest of the group will enter spring training in good health.
The only suspense seems to be if Bradley, who does not turn 22 until August, can move into the rotation at such an early age. Scouts consider him a potential top-of-the-rotation starter when his secondary stuff improves enough to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. D-backs general manager Kevin Towers has said that Delgado (5-7, 4.26) is a candidate for the bullpen if he is not in the rotation, a move that would give the D-backs another long reliever to pair with Josh Collmenter. … Left-hander Zeke Spruill made two starts last season and adds depth, and former independent league right-hander Bo Schultz is intriguing because of the high-90 mph fastball he showed in the Arizona Fall League, where he was 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA in seven starts. He struck out 28 and walked seven in 32 innings there.
Left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who made 13 starts the last two seasons, was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in the Mark Trumbo deal. Skaggs would not have been a strong candidate to make the rotation this spring after having fallen behind all five of the returning starters and Bradley in the pecking order due to an up-and-down 2013.