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Diamondbacks 6, Reds 9: Of Aaron and Errors

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A good performance from Aaron Heilman this afternoon, and he could have all but sealed a spot in the Diamondbacks' rotation for next week. However, 12 of the first 16 batters Heilman faced reached base against him, and he was replaced by Kam Mickolio before having to face the Reds' leadoff batter for the third time, to open the third inning. With Heilman's spring ERA now sitting at 7.04, almost the same as Armando Galarraga (7.34), there is still no clear answer to our pitching dilemma.

Adopting the pattern displayed by the last two Diamondbacks starters, Barry Enright and Ian Kennedy, Heilman gave up three runs in the opening frame - indeed, he matched Enright, by allowing the Reds to score three runs before he had even retired a batter. The first inning was a tough one for Heilman, albeit one not helped by his defense, as both Gerardo Parra and Ryan Roberts committed errors behind him. Still, the four hits (including a home-run), walk and pair of stolen bases allowed were all Heilman, and he was fortunate to escape more damage, getting out of the inning with the bases loaded.

Roberts did somewhat redeem himself, coming up in the second with men on second and third, and driving them both in with a single - though he then re-blotted his copy-book by being caught stealing. Heilman himself singled, which is worth noting, since he is 1-for-46 lifetime in the majors, with that sole hit coming back in 2003. So, if he makes the rotation, do not expect Micah Owings or Dan Haren redux. That's still an "if", as the Reds sent nine more men to the plate against Aaron in the second, and scored five times - though two of those were unearned, thanks to another error, this one by Kelly Johnson.

That was the end of the day for Heilman, who allowed eight hits and two walks in two innings, with six of the eight runs that resulted, being earned by him. I don't think he'll be able to squeeze in another start before Opening Day, so let's line up the candidates for the remaining spot [Joe Saunders having been named as our #3], and see how their spring numbers now compare:

Armando Galarrago 22.0 24 18 18 3 1 5 12 7.36
Aaron Heilman 24.1 30 23 19 7 2 6 13 7.04

Yuck. Based on these numbers, picking one of them would be something you'd like to avoid [unless we are sending out tentacles to see what Carlos Silva is doing...]. While the peripherals are similar for Galaragga and Heilman, save that HR rate, Galaragga's last start was his best.  The obvious black mark against Heilman is that he has struggled when removed from the "comfort zone" of relief performances and forced to face a line-up more than once - that ERA becomes close to nine, if you cross off his early, short couple of appearances.

After Heilman's early exit, Kam Mickolio replaced him, and pitched well, facing the minimum in his two innings. He has been performing better, and has allowed only one run during his last six frames of work, on four hits and two hits, with five K's. Could be a sleeper candidate for a bullpen spot, or at least, putting himself high on the list in Reno. Bryan Shaw followed with two more scoreless frames, and yesterday's villain, Rafael Rodriguez allowed a home-run in the seventh - but it was unearned. That'd be a good trivia question: how can a HR be unearned? Answer: because of a dropped foul ball earlier in the at-bat. Daniel Stange finished things off, with a 1-2-3 eighth.

The offense actually outhit the Reds, 12-11. Stephen Drew and Willie Bloomquist each had a couple of hits, while Johnson and A.J. Pollock had a hit and a walk. Had it not been for the three unearned runs, which resulted from the four Arizona errors, this might have been tied at six, but instead, the Diamondbacks dropped to a preseason record of 11-24. A victory would actually have taken us off the bottom of the Cactus League standings, as the Astros have lost eight of their last nine, to sit at 11-22.

Tomorrow is the final game for us at Salt River Fields, with Daniel Hudson starting in his last pre-season warmup.