Matt Reynolds was acquired from the Colorado Rockies, in a trade for Ryan Wheeler, and started his time with the Diamondbacks in excellent form. He didn't allow a run over his first 19 games, and was the only pitcher in team history to post an ERA below two, while making 30 appearances in a season. It seemed that the team had finally got a solid left-handed relief option, something the Diamondbacks had not enjoyed in a very long while. However, an outing against the San Francisco Giants on June 9 would be his last of the season, and the reliever went on the DL a couple of days later.
At the time, manager Kirk Gibson said, "He’s had kind of a cranky arm. The bullpen and the way we’ve been using it, we tried to trim him out as much as we could, but after he had more discomfort, we got to the point where we need to kind of examine it a little more closely." An MRI shortly afterward showed a small tear in Reynolds' ulnar collateral ligament, but the team and player still hoped to avoid surgery, shutting him down for six weeks before beginning a throwing program. There was cautious hope he'd be back by the end of the season, but on Thursday, Reynolds felt a sharp pain in his elbow while throwing a bullpen session.
This time, there was no escape route possible. Another MRI confirmed the worst, and after meeting with team officials yesterday, it was confirmed that Reynolds will have Tommy John surgery next week. It's hardly an unfamiliar procedure for Diamondback fans, and I'm sure you probably know the prognosis: it'll quite likely we won't see Reynolds at all in the 2014 season. That will still be his first year of arbitration, and he remains under team control through the end of 2016: if there's a silver lining, it's that this will keep Reynolds' cost down for those two years. But what does it mean for the bullpen next time round?
When Ian Kennedy was traded to the Padres at the deadline, there was some surprise that we received another experienced left-handed reliever back, in the shape of Joe Thatcher. With hindsight, one wonders if perhaps the team was already concerned enough about Reynolds' recovery prospects, that they began making alternative arrangements for next season. However, if that was a reasonable suspicion, one wonders why Reynolds didn't go ahead and have the surgery back in June, giving him a chance to contribute in 2014. I suspect the hope was to have both Thatcher and Reynolds next year, giving us a couple of left-handed options.
That may still be the case, but it would now instead have to be Thatcher and Tony Sipp, or possibly Eury de la Rosa. However, looking at the bullpen, there does still appear to be something of a log-jam. it now shapes up to be: J.J. Putz most likely returning to the closer's role, with Brad Ziegler, the rejuvenated David Hernandez and Heath Bell, jostling for eighth-inning opportunities. Will Harris and Josh Collmenter have both been excellent in long- and mid-relief, and it's hard to see either of them not getting a spot. Assuming a standard seven-man bullpen, that would leave only one spot, and we haven't even mentioned the two Matts, Langwell and Stites.
Still, depth is no bad thing: you never get through the season with just seven relievers. As an example, thus far, the D-backs have used 14 different relievers, not counting spot work by Randall Delgado and Trevor Cahill. So, just as with the rotation, having decent arms that can come up from the minors to fill in, is certainly a good thing, even if (unlike with starting pitchers) you can shuffle things so that your best guys work the highest leverage innings. While this is certainly disappointing news for the D-backs, and Thatcher's numbers have been less than stellar since his arrival, I'm not inclined to regard it as a major problem to be addressed this off-season.