In the coming weeks, Diamondbacks’ general manager Kevin Towers and field manager Kirk Gibson face some of the most difficult decisions of their regime.
Here’s a team challenging for first place in the National League West Division, and catalyst for this surge is strong production from the starting pitchers. Though its offensive production is marginal, the Diamondbacks are scoring enough to win games.
Along with staying competitive, the immediate issue facing Towers and Gibson is personnel. Currently, the D-backs have five players on the disabled list and, over the next few weeks, several will be ready to join the major league roster.
With the team achieving at a significant level, Towers and Gibson may not wish to tamper with the current roster. Than again, the juggling of personnel to strengthen the club remains a priority.
“We’ve had conversions but will not make any decision (on personnel) until it actually happens,” Gibson said prior to Saturday’s game with San Diego in Chase Field. “The decisions lay more with (Towers) and he will ask me for my thoughts and comments.”
Current players on the DL include infielder Willie Bloomquist (strained right intercostal, on DL since March 30), outfielder Adam Eaton (strained left elbow, DL since March 30), second baseman Aaron Hill (broken left hand, on DL since April 15), closer J. J. Putz (strained right elbow, on DL since May 8) and pitcher Daniel Hudson (Tommy John surgery in 2012, on DL since Feb. 18).
Of the five, Gibson indicated Bloomquist is the closest to return.
Beginning a rehab assignment at Triple-A Reno on Friday, Bloomquist went 2-for-4, one run scored and four RBIs in his first game with the Aces. Upon Bloomquist’s return, the most likely out is reserve infielder Josh Wilson, hitting .196 (10-for-51) in 22 games prior to Saturday.
Speculation abounds regarding the subsequent moves.
When Hill is ready, the odd man out could be reserve outfielder-infielder Eric Hinske, hitting .182 (6-for-33) prior to Saturday. When Putz is ready, Will Harris, who was called up from Triple-A Reno to replace the closer, could likely return to Reno.
The most difficult decision could surround Hudson.
Out since last June due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Hudson is progressing his rehab program. In his second extended spring training game May, the native of Virginia Beach, Va. pitched five innings this past Friday, allowed four hits, two runs and threw 71 pitches, 53 for strikes.
When the Diamondbacks captured the NL West Division two years, Hudson was an integral part of the success. In 2011, he went 16-11 with a 3.49 ERA. Last season, he managed nine starts, finished with a 3-2, 7.35 ERA and ended on the operating table with Tommy John surgery.
If Hudson comes close to regaining his form and production of two years ago, Towers and Gibson will have to make a decision among the current five starters. Some speculate a deal could be looming and right-hander Ian Kennedy, scheduled Monday at home against Texas, could be at the center of the speculation.
For now, the decisions will wait until the hour of necessity.
ON THE FIELD SATURDAY
After a shaky start, starter Wade Miley could not get out of the fourth inning.
Eventually losing leads of 2-0 and 4-2, Miley hit the wall in the fourth. First, he gave up a lead off single to Carlos Quentin to open the inning. Jedd Gyorko then slammed a one-hopper off of Miley’s right leg but Miley recovered to throw out Gyorko.
From that point, Miley allowed four straight hits and left surrendering a season-high seven runs in a 10-4 loss to the Padres before 26,628 in Chase Field.
“My fast ball command wasn’t there,” said Miley after his record dropped to 3-4 and his ERA increased to 4.53. “Even after I was hit, I still made bad pitches. The game speeds up on you and I didn’t adjust. I’ll overcome this and move on.”
Miley said the smash off Gyorko clipped him behind the right knee and indicated, “it was little sore, but went away.” No lingering physical effects, he said.
Before hit before Gyorko’s bullet back to the mound, manager Kirk Gibson said Miley is not in control.
“(Miley) did not have much command before being hit,” the manager said. “That’s a good fast ball hitting team and when Miley got behind, they were ready.”
Jumping out to a 4-2 lead after three innings, Eric Chavez powered the offense with a two run homer in the first inning and a sacrifice fly in the third.
The Padres responded with a five spot in the fourth and the night was officially over for Miley.
Behind 9-4 in the fifth, the Diamondbacks then went quietly in the night. After Chavez’s sacrifice fly, Arizona managed seven base runners the rest of the game.
From the third inning, only one base runner reached second and that was Miguel Montero, who walked with two outs in the eighth and moved to second on a single from martin Prado.
For the game, the Padres banged out 12 hits, short of their season best of 17 against the Cubs on April 30. The 10 runs were three short of their season best of 13, achieved twice this season.
With the Giants win earlier Saturday over Colorado and the Diamondbacks loss, there is a three way tie, starting play Sunday, for first place in the NL West.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NL WEST
Coming off a strong second of the season as year, the San Diego Padres were expected to be one of the rising teams in the National League.
Instead, the Friars are last in the NL West, and, coming into play Saturday, five games under .500.
“We had a tough start and that was complicated by injuries,” said manager Bud Black before Saturday’s game with the Diamondbacks. “Our starting pitching was not productive, and we lost (third baseman Chase) Headley and (outfielder Carlos) Quentin. Once they came back, the offense picked up, and pitching straightened out. Now, we’re playing more consistent in all areas.”
With less than two months into the season, Black said there’s more than enough time for the Padres to make up for lost time, and challenge within the division.