PHOENIX — A year after hitting 30 home runs and basically carrying the Arizona Diamondbacks on his shoulders through the first half of the season, outfielder Jason Kubel was designated for assignment Tuesday.
The D-backs needed to clear a roster spot for starting left-hander David Holmberg, Tuesday’s starting pitcher against the Padres, and Kubel’s recent lack of production combined with the team’s abundance of outfielders made him the most logical candidate.
The D-backs are likely to activate Willie Bloomquist from the disabled list Wednesday to get back to the normal allotment of position players.
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Kubel is hitting .220 with five homers and 32 RBI this season, but he had only nine hits in his last 75 at-bats (.120) with one homer and seven RBI. With the recent insertion of speedy Tony Campana alongside Adam Eaton at the top of the order, Kubel had become the fifth outfielder on a team that had trouble finding at-bats for all its outfielders this season.
“It just didn’t work out here. It’s part of the business,” an emotional Kubel said. “Hopefully, someone out there will need me.”
Kubel, 31, led the D-backs with 30 homers and 90 RBI last year, his first with Arizona. He had 15 homers and 60 RBI before the 2012 All-Star break, but he could not keep up the pace, hitting .201 after the break and .171 over the final two months. Since Aug. 1, 2012, he has hit .201 with eight home runs and 41 RBI in 136 games.
“It was a hard thing to do,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. He struggled in the last year, and his playing time was drying up. We have kind of gone in a different direction recently. It’s fair to him, and, hopefully, he will catch on with somebody before the trade deadline and get an opportunity to help somebody else.”
The D-backs have 10 days to waive, trade or release Kubel. The D-backs will pay the rest of his $5 million salary this season and a $1 million buyout on the $7.5 million option they held for 2014, a salary that looked like a bargain after the first three months of 2012. Kubel has enough service time to refuse a minor league assignment with the D-backs and he said he would refuse if that came up.
The outfield had been jammed since the offseason acquisitions of outfielder Cody Ross and infielder/outfielder Martin Prado, and even with Ross’ season-ending hip injury, the emergence of A.J. Pollock and now Campana continued the logjam.
Compounding the issue were leg injuries Kubel suffered in spring training and then again in the first week of the regular season, when he landed on the disabled list.
“I never felt right. It was always something,” Kubel said.
Holmberg was recalled to start Tuesday night’s game on an emergency basis. The scheduled starter, Trevor Cahill, was forced into action Saturday night in an 18-inning victory over Philadelphia. Holmberg had a 5-7 record and 2.66 ERA in 152-1/3 innings for Double-A Mobile after entering the season ranked by Baseball America as the D-backs’ No. 6 prospect.