March 21, 2012; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder Adam Eaton (73) makes the running catch for the out against the Milwaukee Brewers in the second inning at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE
It's worth pointing out that, a year ago today, the Cardinals were 8.5 games down in the wild-card race, and further back than that in their division. Something something Germans something Pearl Harbor. So, as we head into the final month of the season, can the Diamondbacks look for help from within? The turn of the calendar brings the expansion of team rosters from 25 players to include, possibly, anyone on the 40-man list. Let's take a look at the balance of the squad, which offers potential help in almost every area. Who might the Diamondbacks bring up to help them down the stretch, as they mount a sterling comeback into the NL West race? *
The team have 39 players on the 40-man roster, but those include a number who are on the DL, and won't be joining the team. Those who certainly won't include Daniel Hudson, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but technically eligible for activation, since he appears to be only on the 15-day DL [If the team needed to free up a spot, they could simply move him to the 60-day DL, which doesn't count against the 40-man roster]. Henry Blanco is similarly unlikely to be joining the team, since he is still rehabbing from hand surgery.
However, the rehab work has been going better for our other wounded warriors. Josh Collmenter is coming back from a bout of ulcers, and threw four innings in AZ Rookie League action on August 24, making eight scoreless frames over three rehab appearances. Willie Bloomquist's back also appears to be feeling better, and has also played in several rehab games for the AZL Diamondbacks, out of Salt River Fields. Both men could well be ready to be activated tomorrow, avoiding the need to option their replacements back to the minors. Surprisingly, Jack Magruder says Takashi Saito may join them, even though his Wednesday AZL outing was Saito's first in a month.
That leaves nine players under consideration, eight of whom have major-league experience [seven have played for the Diamondbacks at some point this year, while Cole Gillespie appeared in previous seasons with the team] The exception is perhaps the man most eagerly anticipated, the small but perfectly formed Adam Eaton. Recently named Rookie of the Year and MVP in the Pacific Coast League, even his Reno-adjusted numbers, which come out at around a line of .300/.350/.400, suggest he has a genuine shot at being a decent lead-off hitter in the majors, combining speed and on-base skills. That's something the Diamondbacks have not truly had for quite some time.
However, Eaton may be left to help the Aces, given their playoff push (and the apparent lack of one by the D-backs). That's certainly being considered for Trevor Bauer, manager Kirk Gibson saying, "If our staff stays healthy, we probably wouldn't bring Trevor up for sure until they (Reno) are done. If we bring him up at all. That decision has not been made." Depending on how far the Aces go, and how long the series are, it could be another ten games for them, though Bauer would obviously only pitch in two, or at most three of them. That'd still give him a chance of two or three starts at the major-league level.
It will be particularly interesting to see if Bauer has better control this time, a key factor in his return to the minors in late July. He has made seven starts since for Reno: while Bauer won just one of them (a complete-game effort on Aug. 17), he owns a 2.89 ERA, hasn't given up more than three earned runs in any start, while posting a K:BB ratio of 41:14 in 37.1 innings of work. That ratio is somewhat better than the 116:47 posted prior to Bauer's original call-up. The team will be keen to see whether that improvement can translate into better command and control at the major-league level.
A couple of bullpen arms may also be among the names re-promoted, though the likely return of Collmenter may reduce that need. If you blinked, you probably missed the 2012 big-league time for Sam Demel and Joe Martinez - both appeared in precisely one game, with very similar lines, allowing an earned run apiece in their inning of work on two hits apiece. Jonathan Albaladejo appeared in a couple more games, but also has a nine ERA, having given up three runs on five hits over his three innings. Bringing up any of those would likely be for mop-up work, to save more valuable bullpen arms from unnecessary damage.
However, if we need a left-hander who doesn't pose a threat to the buffet table, do you remember Joe Paterson? He has been quietly beavering away as a LOOGY in Reno since being sent there after a horrid start to the year (and by horrid, I mean opponents batted .652 off him!). It didn't begin too well, with an ERA through June of 4.64, and a K:BB ratio of 18:11. However, things improved with a 3.60 ERA since that point, and a much-improved K:BB ratio of 20:5. It may be that he is now simply being used correctly - over the whole year, he has held left-handers to a very good .179 average, with a 32:6 K:BB rate. Given our current lack of LOOGY options, wouldn't mind seeing what he can do.
On the position player side, the return of Bloomquist as an infielder likely reduces the need for the team to bring Josh Bell back up, and one suspects Konrad Schmidt will be left with the Aces down the stretch to manage their pitching staff. That just leaves the fate of the two other Reno outfielders, A.J. Pollock and Cole Gillespie, to be decided. It was Pollock who was called up in April when a replacement for Chris Young was needed - and again in June and August (though for only one appearance each time there).
But it has been Gillespie's offensive numbers which have been best this season, with an OPS a hundred points better, despite a lower batting average. That's thanks in part to better plate discipline, but mostly because he has a lot more power: he has 13 Triple-A home-runs this season, Pollock only two. If the team is looking to trade away one of the existing outfield incumbents over the winter, which seems quite plausible given the pressing needs on the left-hand side of the infirled, it might be time for Gillespie to show what he can do as a fourth outfielder, for next season as much as for this one.
[Edit: Cross Gillespie off: "RENO - Reno Aces outfielder Cole Gillespie will undergo surgery this week and miss the rest of the season. Gillespie has been playing for much of the season with a torn labrum in his hip. He should be recovered by the beginning of Spring Training." Source. H/T Ashley]
[* - sterling comeback not contractually guaranteed]