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The Diamondbacks' Pitching: Decisions Loom

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Right-hander Armando Galarraga turned serious, a hard-look on his face. "I don't see myself as anything other than a starting pitcher," he said. The Diamondbacks, at this point, seem to view him otherwise, with indications that they are leaning toward shifting him to the bullpen to make room in the starting rotation for Aaron Heilman.
  -- Arizona Republic

Cue brian custer dancing in the streets in 3...2...1... :-) Let's take a look at what this, and the day's outing for Joe Saunders, might mean, both for the Diamondbacks' rotation and the members of the bullpen, on Opening Day.

However, there's not actually anything more mentioned about what the "indications" are, and the very next sentence seems almost to contradict itself, "It doesn't appear a decision has been reached, and Galarraga has a chance to try to change their minds when he starts against the Dodgers in Friday's charity game in Tucson." But in the absence of anything life-changing happening there, it seems that Heilman might get his shot. What he does with it, of course, remains to be seen, and is almost impossible to predict, as his last start in the majors was back in May 2005 [he faced Larry Walker, among others!].

But the move would make sense for the team. Galarraga simply has not yet been good enough this year to justify a spot, and this would also go a long way to prove the legitimacy of the 'everyone needs to be competing' mantra, much mentioned this spring. Going by the reaction of Joe Saunders yesterday, it seems I wasn't the only one a bit dubious this was actually going to be the case. But the way the cards have fallen have perhaps made it easier for Gibson to be true to his word: it appears the injuries to Zach Duke and, it appears, Geoff Blum, have helped take care of some potentially difficult decisions.

The news would be of comfort to Joe Saunders, giving him a rotation spot. There were some signs of hope, especially early on, in his outing this afternoon. Kevin Towers said afterward, "I thought his first two innings were really good. He pitched inside and out, changed speeds real well, was ahead in the count. Of course, the third inning wasn't as good, but he showed signs of the old Joe Saunders. That had to give him some confidence." Gibson seemed a bit less impressed, saying Saunders, "Started out sharp, then started rushing himself. Couldn't throw the ball where he wanted to." That especially applied to the three walks allowed in the third inning.

However, he did get up to 90 pitches, which is about where a starter should be, with one outing left before Opening Day - given Saunders missed an outing with the 'flu, the stamina aspect doesn't seem to be a problem. Assuming a decent outing on the 29th, he should be at or close to the twenty innings of work he got in last spring, with the Angels. And, it's worth noting, he wasn't exactly lights-out there either, with opposing hitters batting .309 against Saunders last spring.

The struggles this afternoon of our left-handed relievers mean the jury remains out on which of them - if any - will make the roster. Towers refused to commit even to guaranteeing one of them a spot. "It's going to be competition right up until the end. We don't have to have two lefties -- really, we don't have to have one left-hander. We're going to make a decision here in a week on who we think our best seven relievers are. We're still evaluating." At the moment, five of those seven would seem to be, J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Juan Gutierrez, Galarraga or Heilman and Sam Demel. As well as the lefties, Esmerling Vasquez, Carlos Rosa and Kam Mickolio are possible candidates.