With the acquisition of right-hander Trevor Cahill, the Diamondbacks are set in the first four spots of their starting rotation. Unless they go outside to find an inexpensive veteran alternative, they will pick from within for the fifth.
It has worked before. Right-hander Josh Collmenter blossomed into a quality starter after being promoted last season, and he has a firm hold on the fourth spot entering spring training behind 21-game winner Ian Kennedy, 16-game winner Daniel Hudson, and Cahill, who won 12 games with Oakland last year and 18 games the year before.
With a stocked farm system that is heavy on young pitching, the D-backs have a host of in-house candidates for the fifth spot, with Wade Miley maybe a smidge ahead of the pack entering spring training after gaining major league experience the final six weeks of 2011. He went 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts). While he gave up 66 baserunners in 40 innings, he managed to work himself out of most of his trouble, a good sign for a young pitcher.
The other top contenders:
--Left-hander Tyler Skaggs remains the best pitching prospect in the system after Jarrod Parker was packaged to Oakland in the Cahill trade. He started the Futures Game for the U.S. last July and went 9-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 27 starts between Hi-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile. His 198 strikeouts easily led all pitchers who spent most of the 2011 season as a teenager.
--Right-hander Trevor Bauer was the third pick in the 2011 June draft after breaking Mark Prior's Pacific 10 (now the Pac-12) record for strikeouts and made a quick leap from Visalia to Mobile after signing. Bauer went 1-2 with a 5.96 ERA in seven appearances, his ERA up because of one disastrous outing - it was 2.63 the rest of the way, but the stuff translated. Bauer struck out 43 in 25 2/3 with his variety of pitches, which starts with a mid-90s fastball and power curve.
--Left-hander Patrick Corbin, who like Skaggs was obtained from the Los Angeles Angels in the 2010 trade-deadline deal for Dan Haren, went 9-8 with a 4.21 ERA while spending the whole season at Mobile last year. He had a 3.5:1 ratio of strikeouts to walks in his 26 starts, his 142 strikeouts pacing the Southern League.
--Right-hander Charles Brewer missed large parts of the season at Mobile because of a concussion and a broken right hand, but he won the only must-win game Mobile had -- Game 5 of the Southern Division semifinals -- and also won the Arizona Fall League title game with Scottsdale. He is 23-11 with a 2.45 ERA for his minor league career.
--Breaking in a rookie starter might not prove to be much of an issue in 2012. The D-backs won the NL West by using eight first-year players last season, including Rule 5 LHP specialist Joe Paterson, RHP Josh Collmenter, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, and LHP Wade Miley. Miley is a leading candidate to fill the fifth spot in the rotation along with LHP Trevor Skaggs, RHP Trevor Bauer, LHP Patrick Corbin, and RHP Charles Brewer.
--While the D-backs have added bullpen pieces RHP Takashi Saito and LHP Craig Breslow in the offseason, the ninth inning is well in hand, judging from the finish of 2011. RHP J.J. Putz (45 saves, a career high) and RHP David Hernandez (11 saves) converted 29 of 30 save opportunities after the All-Star break, the highest percentage in the majors.
--The acquisition of LF Jason Kubel pushed OF Gerardo Parra into the role of fourth outfielder, but the D-backs also have other options in case they want to start another right-handed bat instead of lefties Kubel and Parra. INF/OF Willie Bloomquist hit .266 with 20 stolen bases in 350 at-bats, and 3B Ryan Roberts also has played some left field. Both are right-handed hitters.
--RHP Ian Kennedy and RHP Daniel Hudson proved a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation in 2011. Their combined total of 37 victories led the National League and was second in the majors to Detroit's twosome of Cy Young winner/MVP RHP Justin Verlander and former D-backs RHP Max Scherzer, who had 39.
--RHP Daniel Hudson had a career-best 16 victories in his first full season in the starting rotation last year and was married in November. He said he began offseason workouts shortly after the wedding and planned to resume them after his honeymoon.
DIAMOND STAT: 7 -- Additions to the 40-man roster in the offseason.
QUOTABLE: "We feel we have depth in the starting rotation." -- General manager Kevin Towers, after trading prospect Jarrod Parker to acquire Trevor Cahill.
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