D-backs lack of pitching stirs question of legitimacy
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitching staff has been nothing less but a concern so far in the 2023 Major League Baseball season.
Heading into Thursday, the Diamondbacks are 20-17, currently second in the NL West, trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by 2.5 games. Nearly a fourth of the way through the season, the D-backs are posing as a surprise threat not just in their respective division but in the entire league too.
A team that’s three games over .500 usually would have semi-good numbers in the pitching department, but the Diamondbacks are 25th in all of baseball with a 4.85 team ERA.
The Diamondbacks began the season with a rotation of Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Madison Bumgarner, Zach Davies, and Ryne Nelson. Nearly a fourth of the way through the season, only the two veterans, Gallen and Kelly, seem to be reliable within the starting five.
“I think as a team, obviously, you try to look to your veteran guys to kind of set the tone,” Kelly told MLB.com. “Obviously, [the young starters are] trying to just get their feet wet and figure out what it means to be in the big leagues and what it means to be a Major League pitcher and have success. So I definitely want to kind of show not only them but the team that we can get some consistent outs and some consistent starts.”
Bumgarner was released by the D-backs on April 26 after putting up an abysmal 10.26 ERA in four starts, prompting the club to eat up the remaining $34 million left on the southpaw’s contract, Davies is currently on the 15-day IL with a strained left oblique, and Nelson hasn’t lived up to expectations, posting a 6.00 ERA in seven starts.
Nelson remains in the rotation despite his struggles, and the two open spots have been up in the air ever since Davies’ injury and Bumgarner’s departure. Prospects Drey Jameson, Tommy Henry, and Brandon Pfaadt all have taken the mound in their place.
Nonetheless, Gallen and Kelly have posted a combined 2.77 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 95 innings, while the rest of the starting pitchers have put up a combined 7.17 ERA in 104.1 innings.
Jameson, who opened the season in a long-reliever role, was optioned to Triple-A Reno after struggling in the starter role. Henry called up in response to Jameson’s demotion and has recorded a 5.17 ERA in three starts for the club.
Brandon Pfaadt, the top pitching prospect and No. 3 overall in the Diamondbacks organization, was called up on May 2. Through two starts, the 24-year-old hasn’t begun his career as he had hoped, allowing 13 runs in 9.2 innings and jeopardizing his spot in the rotation for now.
“I think he was relying a little bit too much on his fastball. He wasn’t pitching,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told MLB.com. “He’s got a full arsenal of pitches, and he can work off of his fastball -- read and react to swings, and make adjustments and make quality pitches at all times.”
The Diamondbacks would have a wild card spot if the season ended today. The question, however, is if the team can maintain its momentum with its two proven starters and young, inconsistent back end of the rotation.
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