GM Dave Stewart: D-backs looking at ‘all possibilities’ for pitching staff
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In no way is the makeup of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitching staff clear. With a dozen or more pitchers in the mix to win one of three open starting jobs — for simplicity we can assume Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson are locks — the D-backs have begun deliberating the many roster scenarios that could come about by opening day.
While the managing staff and front office is a ways away from sitting down to discuss specifics, we do know a few things as spring training games approach. General manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale discussed a few roster-related items with the media on Friday.
What flexibility is available to move pitchers on and off the roster? Youth is on Arizona’s side, to a degree. To Stewart’s knowledge, only two players — Randall Delgado and Bronson Arroyo — are out of options, meaning they cannot be sent to the minors without the risk of the team losing them via the waiver wire. Players who haven’t spent five years in the majors are fair game to move in and out of the majors.
Still, the players available to option might need to be sent down due to necessity rather than the roster being too crowded.
"I mean, let’s face it: When you’re looking at your ballclub and especially young pitching and guys that don’t have a lot of major league innings, we have to look at the fact that they may hit a wall," Stewart said. "If they hit a wall, we may have to option a guy out and get a fresh arm in."
Players placed on 40-man rosters begin with three option years and lose an option if they play 20 or more days in the minors in one season. Players with five years of major league experience must give permission for their teams to send them to the minors.
Having such options to move pitchers to and from the minors is important considering the cautious approach regarding those recovering from injury, especially Tommy John surgery. That would potentially force the D-backs to carry an extra reliever to protect themselves, Stewart said.
How will the team handle the recovering Tommy John surgeries of Daniel Hudson, Matt Reynolds and David Hernandez? It’s a bit risky if Arizona includes three players on its opening-day roster who could be limited because of medical reasons.
Nonetheless, the D-backs believe their injured pitchers very well could eat up roster spots.
"The best I can tell you is that, you know, we’re just going to have to take care of them if it ends up being that way, that all of them are on the staff at the same time, which, there’s a very strong possibility of that," Stewart said. "We’re going to have to cross that bridge when we get to it, how we handle them, how we pitch them, situations we pitch them. Do we pitch them back-to-back days? Do we give them rest?"
Hudson is battling for a starting spot and briefly returned from his Tommy John last year. Reynolds and Hernandez are a little further behind.
How many pitchers will the team like to carry? Twelve is Hale’s ideal number and would give the team some flexibility with an extra spot given to a position player. That would add another offensive threat able to help pinch hit late in games or be included in double-switches.
"For me, the 13th pitcher is the one who’s ready to go in (Triple-A) Reno," Hale said. "It’s only a flight away."
All this gets more complicated as the recovering Tommy John pitchers return, not to mention Brad Ziegler, who is recovering from microfracture surgery on his knee. Additionally, Patrick Corbin is expected to return sometime during the regular season after dealing with Tommy John surgery.