The same problems that plagued Russ Ortiz last season are back and
bothering him again, and if the right-hander can't figure out a solution fast,
his career in Arizona may not last as long as the four-year, $33 million deal he
signed with the Diamondbacks a year ago.
Ortiz lasted only 1 2/3 innings on Sunday in a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers, his shortest outing in an Arizona uniform, and he is now 0-3 with a 6.91 ERA. Last season, he went 5-11 with a 6.89 ERA after having an otherwise decent track record throughout his career.
But Ortiz doesn't have much velocity, and when he isn't pitching in the strike zone, he's either getting lit up or he's walking way too many batters -- or both.
"It's very simple," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "More than at any point in his life, he needs to be sitting in a lot more 0-1, 0-2, 1-2 counts, and that comes down to being able to make pitches. He's capable of doing it, and now we need to see it."
With the bullpen already overtaxed, however, due to so much inconsistency from the starting pitchers, Ortiz might be skipped the next time through the rotation. Arizona has a day off Thursday, and manager Bob Melvin may opt to give ace Brandon Webb his regular four days' rest and come back with him over Ortiz on Saturday in San Francisco.
"We'll consider all our options," Melvin said.
As for Ortiz's long-term future in Arizona, the Diamondbacks aren't about to comment. Melvin, though, doesn't want to start a panic.
"It's still early in the season," he said. "We need him."
REPLAY: Another day, another extremely short outing by a Diamondbacks starting pitcher. This time, Russ Ortiz only lasted 1 2/3 innings against the Dodgers, and the result was 6-4 loss. Arizona's starters have averaged only four innings in the past 13 games since the pitching staff owned the best ERA in the National League following the first six games of the season.
An encouraging sign, however, has been the ability of reliever Jason Grimsley to work multiple innings, as he has pitched 7 2/3 innings in his past two appearances alone, following up a career-high 4 1/3 innings Thursday against the Giants with a 3 1/3-inning effort Sunday in Los Angeles.
"Coming on and throwing close to 60 pitches, for a guy who's pretty much been a one-inning guy, it really saved us," manager Bob Melvin said. "And not only saved us, but kept us in both games. He was sucking it up, is what it was."
--SS Craig Counsell could be back in the lineup Monday at San Diego after being held out of the past four games with a sore right hamstring. Counsell did some running before Saturday's game against the Dodgers.
--RHP Brandon Lyon hasn't allowed a hit in eight of his nine appearances this season.
--LF Luis Gonzalez avoided what could have been a serious injury when a pitch from the Dodgers LHP Tim Hamulack on Saturday struck him in the right shoulder and then the right earflap of his batting helmet. He wasn't injured and stayed in the game.
--RHP Miguel Batista, who took a line drive off his right shin Saturday at Dodger Stadium, should be able to make his next start Friday in San Francisco. Batista left Saturday's game after five innings when the shin began to swell.
--Pitching coach Bryan Price on the consistent inability from the starting rotation, other than RHP Brandon Webb, to pitch deep into games: "We can't survive (at this rate). I think we've had three of the last six games where our starters haven't gone (three) innings. We can't pitch like that the rest of the year."
BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Double plays turned by the Diamondbacks in two games against the Giants, four apiece on April 18 and 19, which tied a club record for most in a game, now set 10 times in the club's nine-year history.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I guess from now on, I just always try to assume that somebody's going to try to take my head off. I don't try to deliver any blows, but that's almost the way you've got to look at it." -- Catcher Johnny Estrada, who suffered a severe concussion and other injuries last season during a violent home plate collision with Darin Erstad, after blocking the plate, holding his ground and making the tag during what could have been a similar situation with the Giants' Ray Durham last week at Chase Field.
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