Dbacks Respond To Towers’ Roster Tweaks
As The Bullpen Struggled And The June Swoon Was Engulfing The Team, General Manager Reaches For Veteran Help
By Bob Goodwood
Special for Modern Times Magazine .com
July 6, 2011 — The Arizona Diamondbacks have surprised virtually every baseball fan around the world by staying in the hunt through the first half of the season.
Recently, though, the team has been looking a little bit like the doors were starting to fly off. Without Justin Upton’s torrid June, they might have let a June Swoon take them completely out of it. By the end of the month, the bullpen, too, was in disarray. Sam Demel and Juan Gutierrez had still not come off the disabled list and young guys Esmerling Vasquez and Brian Shaw were showing they were not ready for extended time. Even worse, J.J. Putz, who had been stellar through the first two and a half months, began to lose velocity and ball games.
Then, more recently, the starting pitching, which had been one of the strengths through the first half, struggled. Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson — two young guys making big-time statements about heir talent — gave up 13 runs combined Sunday and Monday.
But General Manager Kevin Towers was not sitting around and waiting for bad things to happen. In early May, he went out and grabbed Alberto Castillo and Yhency Brazoban, two journeymen relievers on minor league deals and called them up last week when Putz landed on the DL.
The results, at least so far, have been enough to keep the Dbacks just two games back of the San Francisco Giants after a stellar, come from behind victory Monday in Milwaukee.
Joe Saunders deserves a tip of the cap as well. Shaky throughout spring training and the early part of the season, the left hander has seemed to find his groove. Before a May 24 contest in Colorado, Saunders had not gotten a win and was shackled with a 4.65 ERA.
In June, Saunders helped carry the Dbacks, posting a 2-2 record to go along with a 2.91 ERA.
Hudson and Kennedy, who have done most of the heavy lifting for the Diamondbacks’ starting staff have had a rough week, but as long as there is nothing wrong physically, they probably need the rest that the All-Star Game will give them. They are both among the league leaders in innings pitched and pitches per start and Kennedy not getting selected for the All-Star team despite his low ERA and high winning percentage has to be a blessing in disguise.
Another great move by Towers is the Wily Mo Pena experiment. Although the very big guy is hitting around .200, he has 6 home runs and a .795 OPS in a designated/pinch hitter role. The guy is just pure energy for a ball club and has won some games by himself as well as sparked rallies from his teammates in just a couple of weeks on the major league roster.
Then, there is Sean Burroughs. For some reason, Towers has a lot of confidence in a guy who basically played his way out of a major league roster spot. In his first stint with the Dbacks this year, he underperformed as a reserve. He was eventually demoted to AAA Reno but went on a tear. Over his last 10 games as a Dback, he is batting .400.
Surely, these are not all of the moves Towers and his staff will be making over the next couple of months, with pitching being the most likely target.
But fans have got to like the way the team — from the front office all the way down to veteran relievers — have performed through the first half.
Relevant baseball in the Valley in June? Thanks K.T.
Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.