Aaron Heilman Nears Return
Aaron Heilman (Matt Kartozian/US Presswire)

Posted May 2, 2011


Aaron Heilman, who has been sidelined with shoulder inflammation since April 14, is close to returning to the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the team's bullpen in far better shape than it was a year ago, there is no obvious candidate to demote to Triple-A upon his return, however.

Right-handed reliever Aaron Heilman (shoulder inflammation) threw 35 pitches in a simulated game early Sunday morning and appears to be close to returning from the disabled list.

"Right where I need to be, I feel like," Heilman said.  "We'll see what happens and go from here. As with anybody who's been on the DL for any length of time, I'm certainly ready to come off."

Manager Kirk Gibson said that Heilman was throwing "free and easy." The D-backs will decide whether to have him throw to hitters one more time, either in a simulated game or an extended spring training game, before activating him.

Josh Collmenter was recalled from Triple-A Reno when Aaron Heilman went on the disabled list retroactive to April 14, but Collmenter has pitched so well since arriving -- 1-0, 1.74 ERA in five appearances -- that the decision to send Collmenter back down upon Heilman's activation does not seem an easy one.

"It's a good problem to have," manager Kirk Gibson said.

Right-hander Juan Gutierrez has been the least effective reliever in the D-backs' retooled bullpen, giving up 15 hits, eight walks and 12 runs (seven earned) in 11 1/3 innings this season, but he may also have the best stuff among their relievers and does not have any minor league options left. 

Although their bullpen is much improved from last season, the D-backs' 4.07 ERA in relief ranks 22nd among the 30 teams.  Their 5.19 ERA among starters, however, ranks 28th.  Ian Kennedy is the only starter whose ERA is under 5.00, so it's possible that either Heilman or Collmenter could enter the rotation and bump one of the other struggling starters off the 25-man roster.


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