The newest revelation, that David Hernandez is likely lost to the Diamondbacks for the 2014 season, raises a host of new questions regarding the construction of the 25-man roster moving forward. With the season only a few days away, it seemed that the Diamondbacks' bullpen was a bit jammed up. Known quantities included
- Josh Collmenter - Long arm
- Addison Reed - Closer
- Oliver Perez - Primary lefty
- J.J. Putz - 7th/8th
- Brad Ziegler - DP "specialist"
- David Hernandez - 7th/8th
This created an 11-man pitching staff. There was some speculation that the Diamondbacks could run a 12-man pitching staff, making room for Joe Thatcher to join as a LOOGY.
Less than a month ago, the Diamondback rotation was over-crowded. Lack of options for Randall Delgado created a cascade effect, pushing him to the bullpen as a second long arm and forcing the team to adopt a 7-man bullpen if they wanted to include any left-handed pitching. Given the signing of Oliver Perez, it seemed the team was prepared to do just that. Baseball, being the fickle beast it is, decided to "help" the Diamondbacks with that situation, starting two weeks ago when Patrick Corbin was sidelined with forearm tightness that was eventually revealed to require Tommy John surgery. This eventually moved Delgado back into the rotation, making room for Perez without forcing a 7-man bullpen.
The loss of Hernandez place the Diamondbacks back at a 5-man bullpen. The first, possibly most-obvious arm to address the situation would be to slide displaced LOOGY Joe Thatcher back into the bullpen. This would give the Diamondbacks multiple left-handed options to pitch in the final 3-4 innings of a game; a nice option to have.
Another possibility would be to put Will Harris back into the bullpen. The right-hander had a solid 2013 campaign and has done nothing to hurt his case for remaining on the team. As an effective right-handed pitcher with a strong arm, he could be slotted into the 7th or 8th inning along with Putz, essentially replacing Hernandez straight-up.
A third possible solution would be to include both Thatcher and Harris. Given that, before the injury to Patrick Corbin, the Diamondbacks were clearly prepared to move forward with a 7-man bullpen, it remains possible that the team will hold to that. By sticking with a 7-man bullpen, the team provides themselves with the opportunity to carry both a LOOGY and an extra set-up man. This extra set-up man could be very important given the questionable nature of Putz remaining healthy all season if he is used too often.
The Diamondbacks don't have much time to make a decision before the season starts. Given that Ross will be starting the season on the shelf though, the team does have at least until he returns to make a decision. Hopefully no more UCLs will make the decision for the team.