Collmenter secures rotation spot in final start

BY foxsports • April 4, 2012

PHOENIX -- With questions lingering about the security of his job in the Diamondbacks starting rotation, Josh Collmenter made his case Tuesday at Chase Field in his final appearance of the spring and locked up his spot to start Sunday.

Displaying better command and getting ahead of hitters in a 5-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, Collmenter held the Brewers hitless over three innings, only allowing an unearned run while walking one batter. Previously this spring, Collmenter was 0-4 with an 11.81 ERA and as many home runs allowed (five) as he had strikeouts.

"I knew I had to take care of business," Collmenter said. "I haven't had the greatest spring. That's on the record. You could look everything up. Going forward now I can throw all that out the window."

Collmenter said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has had his back through his rough spring and now wants to reward that confidence. After Tuesday's game, Gibson confirmed his rotation is not in flux right now and announced that Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs were being optioned to Double-A Mobile.

"The five starters won't change," Gibson said.

So it seems all the questions about Collmenter's rotation spot may have been a bit of a false alarm. Perhaps Gibson's resisting a firm endorsement of Collementer in the rotation Monday was the manager's way of sending a message. If that was the case, it seems Collmenter got the message.

Collmenter missed his first start of the spring with forearm tightness and struggled early, but Gibson slotted him third when announcing the team's rotation. Gibson defended Collmenter fiercely after the right-hander allowed eight runs in four innings last week, but backed off a bit the next day.

Then, after young left-hander Corbin added to a strong spring with five impressive innings (and one not-so-impressive inning) Monday, Gibson suggested he prospect was competing for a roster spot. Pressed for if that meant a spot in the rotation already announced, Gibson remained non-committal.

That brought into question Collmenter's job because he's had the worst results among D-backs starters this spring. It seemed crazy to question the job security of a pitcher who won a big playoff game for the team last season, but the results -- and consistent fastball command -- just hadn't been there. Gibson seemed to back Collmenter a bit more before Tuesday's game, giving little merit to spring results.

"I'm not worried about it," Gibson said. "I've said all along I want people to be healthy, get through the spring season healthy and that's what I'm looking for. I'd like to see him throw the ball better, but if he doesn't it doesn't change anything."

Gibson saw just that, as Collmenter produced his lone clean outing of the spring. He got into a little trouble in the third inning when a hit batter, error and walk loaded the bases with one out. A fielder's choice pushed across an unearned run, and a groundout ended the inning with limited damage. Collmenter said he just got back to basics Tuesday night and stopped worrying about mechanics as much.

"I think the biggest thing for me was just being comfortable out there," Collmenter said. "It was just getting out there and getting that rhythm and tempo back. That’s something now I can have a baseline going into my bullpen and my next start."

It stands to reason, however, that Collmenter might have a short leash to start the season.  It might take just a few bad starts before the D-backs look at alternate options. As Gibson regularly says, they want to win the World Series, and division races often come down to just a few games.

SAITO GETTING MRI TUESDAY

Gibson said after the game that reliever Takashi Saito tweaked a calf while warming up for Tuesday's afternoon workout and would get an MRI on Wednesday before the team decides how to proceed.

Saito, 42, signed with the D-backs in the offseason and was not asked to take a physical because, as general manager Kevin Towers put it, they expected him to fail it. The veteran, expected to be a seventh inning pitcher for the D-backs, battled multiple injuries last season, including calf tightness that landed him on the disabled list in early April.

Saito was scheduled to pitch Tuesday against his former team but shut down as soon he felt something in his calf. Should the MRI reveal anything serious, Saito could open the season on the D.L. That might make room for left-hander Mike Zagurski, who has impressed this spring with a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings.

"The doctors looked at (Saito) and said it's really nothing serious, but they want to make sure and see what they see in there tomorrow," Gibson said. "If there's nothing, we'll go from there."

CLOCK'S TICKING

With just under 24 hours until Wednesday's 2 p.m. deadline to submit the Opening Day roster to Major League Baseball, Gibson said he's still uncertain about his final 25-man roster.

"I'm not sure," Gibson said. "There's some things that aren't settled yet."

Presumably, the only thing still to settle is the bullpen, in light of Saito's now questionable health. Gibson met with Towers Tuesday afternoon to discuss final roster decisions, but more discussion may now be in order. Gibson also announced after Tuesday's game that infielder Cody Ransom and outfielder A.J. Pollock would be sent to Triple-A Reno on Wednesday.

Moreover, Gibson said the Opening Day lineup isn't set either. Each position can be reasonably assumed, but it's the batting order that might be in flux. Gibson had Ryan Roberts hitting leadoff Tuesday followed by Aaron Hill, Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, Chris Young, Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt and Willie Bloomquist. Some of that lineup looks to remain the same through the season, but other spots could change by Friday.

"I'm not set on it," Gibson said. "I know you guys think that's crazy, but that's just where I am. It's the way I am. It will be that way every day of the year."

It’s standard operating procedure for Gibson to keep things fluid, avoiding certainties more often than not. But the reigning NL Manager of the Year maintains there's a method to his madness.

"I'm going to do what I think is right for the team," Gibson said. "There's all different types of situations and reasons why I do what I do, not that I'm always right. I would never say I am."

WEDNESDAY PROBABLES

As the D-backs wrap up exhibition season Wednesday afternoon with another game against the Brewers, Trevor Cahill gets a final tune up before the regular season. Cahill struggled a bit through his first three starts of the spring, allowing seven runs in eight innings, but looked much better his fourth time out. Joe Saunders will also get one more spring appearance after Cahill exits.

Shaun Marcum will start for the Brewers. The last time the D-backs saw Marcum (Game 3 of the NLDS), they battered the righty for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, including a grand slam from Goldschmidt.

TUESDAY'S RESULT

The D-backs trailed for much of Tuesday's game and headed into the eighth inning down 3-1 thanks in part to Milwaukee shortstop Alex Gonzalez's fourth-inning two-run homer off Tyler Skaggs. The comeback came with the regulars already done for the day. Gerardo Parra got things going with a single before Ransom drove him in and minor league outfielder Evan Frey broke the game wide open with a three-run triple. … Gibson and Towers met with shortstop Stephen Drew and team doctors Tuesday afternoon to discuss his progress in rehabbing a fractured ankle and how to handle his pending D.L. stint, but no decision was announced whether the team will utilize the 15- or 60-day D.L.


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