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Diamondbacks Game Preview #83: 7/7 vs. Rockies

The quiet resurrection of Caleb Smith

Arizona Diamondbacks v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Connor Joe - LF Jordan Luplow - RF
Kris Bryant - DH Cooper Hummel - LF
C.J. Cron - 1B Ketel Marte - DH
Brendan Rodgers - 2B Christian Walker - 1B
Jose Iglesias - SS Buddy Kennedy - 2B
Randal Grichuk - RF Carson Kelly - C
Ryan McMahon - 3B Josh Rojas - 3B
Yonathan Daza - CF Daulton Varsho - CF
Elias Diaz - C Geraldo Perdomo - SS
Austin Gomber - LHP Dallas Keuchel - LHP

When the names of reliable Diamondbacks’ relievers are listed, it’s usually the likes of Joe Mantiply and Kyle Nelson that are mentioned. But I’d like to suggest Caleb Smith deserves to be considered for that list as well. Now, it may seem odd to call a man whose season ERA is 4.76 “reliable”. But that figure is heavily weighted because of the wretched start to the season Smith endured. He began the 2022 season in the rotation, but in his only start, on April 10, he recorded just three outs. Five days later, he worked mop-up against the Mets, and poured more gasoline onto the fire, allowing five runs in three innings. He was sent down to Reno shortly after, having allowed nine earned runs over four frames - an ERA of 20.25.

But after his return to the roster at the start of May, the results have been like night and day. Here are the stats for the eight main men in the Diamondbacks bullpen since the beginning of May:

Smith has easily pitched the most innings of any reliever in that time, and with an ERA of 3.03, the results have been not a great deal worse than Mantiply and Nelson. They’re certainly an improvement over Noe Ramirez, for example. Now, there is reason to doubt whether this is sustainable. Smith’s FIP over the same time is more than two runs higher, at 5.16. That’s mostly down to too many free passes.

However, against that, Caleb has done an incredibly good job of preventing hard contact this year. The average exit velocity against Smith this season is 83.8 mph: of all the 291 pitchers in the majors with 80+ batted-ball events, that’s the second-best figure. Less than 30% of balls in play qualify as hard-hit, a number that puts him in the 94th percentile of pitchers. This is likely a significant factor in why his BABIP since his return is so low, at .252: soft contact = easy outs. If he can sustain this through the second half of the season, while continuing to rack up the innings for the D-backs, there’s an argument to be made that Smith, rather than Mantiply, could become the true “unsung hero” on the team this season.

Roster moves

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the following roster moves:

  • INF Sergio Alcántara (No. 43) reported to the team and will be active for tonight’s game. He was claimed off waivers from the San Diego Padres on July 5.
  • Outrighted INF Cole Tucker to Triple-A Reno.
  • Optioned INF Jake Hager to Reno following last night’s game.
  • The D-backs’ 40-man roster is now at 39.

Torey Lovullo audio

Torey Lovullo notes

Sergio Alcantara: Due to lack of options and the return of Nick Ahmed at the time, Sergio had to be passed through waivers and got picked up by San Diego. They are “thrilled” to get him back. Regarding his usage:

“It will be much of the same as what you saw last time. He’ll move around the infield between 2b, short, and 3b, spell a starter, try and match up the best way I can. I know he’s a very good bat to ball type of a hitter.”

Of course bringing Sergio back required sending Jake Hager down. Torey spoke of how Jake had really started to find his place with the club, so it was another tough decision and conversation. Asked why one was chosen over the other Torey mentioned the fact that Sergio is a switch hitter, albeit better from the left side. The other main point is simply the team is thin at shortstop depth. Listening between the lines it sounded like they feel Sergio is a preferred option at short to give Perdomo some time off. Bottom line: They had an opportunity to get the player back, and while he didn’t say so specifically, the fact that Alcantara is out of options and Haeger isn’t probably came into play as well.

On second guessing oneself after a tough loss like last night, does it stick with you?:

“Of course it does. I’m a human being, right. So I go home and think about everything under the sun. At the end of the night I made the decision, I don’t want to second guess myself. I think Nick asked me the question, if I was going to put it on my guy, would I do it again? Absolutely. Joe (Mantiply) is having a terrific year. I just asked him to go six out two nights ago against basically the same group of hitters. He just made a mistake to a hitter that’s done it to left handed pitching, and we paid for it. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Of course I was thinking about different options . Nelson had thrown two batters. I could have matched up and had an opportunity at the top, which would have equaled Poppen or Noe (Ramirez). But I liked Joe in that situation and that’s eventually what I told myself when I went to bed last night.

Joe Torre told me a long time ago, don’t beat yourself up over decisions that you make. As long as you have a good reason and there’s a strategy you can live with your decision. I fall on that a lot because it’s easy to second guess yourself. And I don’t like to do that. That’s your guys job. You guys get to do that for me. It’s what you’re supposed to do. I wouldn’t doubt it. I enjoy it sometimes. Sometimes you guys are right on, sometimes you guys are like “what are they talking about, this is great”

[NOTE: The last part of that was said with smiles and laughter all around. Prior to and after the presser there was a light mood and a lot of joking around.]

  • Sunday’s starter is still TBD, but Tyler Gilbert notably is still with the club. He mentioned that the Rockies tend to go with a set lineup more often.
  • Ian Kennedy threw long toss today
  • J.B. Bukauskas threw a scoreless inning , 11 pitches yesterday, striking out one and hitting a batter.
  • Humberto Castellanos and Zach Davies are both still in treatment phase and not throwing yet.