The two trades that brought Livan Hernandez to the squad last season, and
Doug Davis this offseason, have prepared the D'Backs for this sort of scenario.
The type of scenario that allows you to go out and get a veteran lefty with a
ton of postseason experience and a track record of only spending part of the
season on the active roster. In Mark Mulder's defense he has spent the
majority of his career being healthy, until last season when he needed surgery.
In David Wells defense, when they call it 'lite beer' they really do make it
sound like it's part of the South Beach Diet, and its not.
But between Hernandez, Davis, and Brandon Webb, the D'Backs have three guys
who are going to give them 30+ starts and 200 innings. They have guys who
are going to, on most days, give the bullpen a night off. They also have a
series of talented young pitchers like Micah Owings, Dustin Nippert, Edgar and
Enrique Gonzalez (no relation) who are probably ready to take on at least a
partial season of work in the bigs. Adding a Mulder or Wells is not about
35 starts, 200 innings, and 18 wins. It's about 15 very good starts, 100
very good innings, and veteran playoff chase tested arms in September.
It's a great situation to be in, and Josh Byrnes has to know that.
Between the four previously mentioned youngsters, you are hoping that two step
up at one point in time or another and claim the #5 spot in the rotation.
It doesn't have to be one guy from the get-go either. Say Nippert comes
out strong in Spring Training. His curveball is sharp, and he locates his
fastball early on. Presto! He's your #4 (if we sign Mulder, who will
not be ready for opening day) or #5 (if we sign Wells and he is ready for
opening day). Now Nippert pitches well all through April and Edgar and
Enrique torch the Pacific Coast League during the first month. Great,
because when Nippert starts to struggle in May (after teams get their first live
scouting reports on him for '07) you dip down into the Tucson rotation and pick
the hot hand.
Either scenario allows the D'Backs to get good, long looks at their young
pitchers, but in both scenarios as the pressure mounts and the playoff chase
begins, you've got a veteran lefty who hasn't thrown a lot of innings ready to
take the ball in September on the road in Dodgers stadium, or in late August on
the road in San Francisco. If Micah Owings continues to simply win, sure,
you can give him the ball, but you are not forced to.
The biggest thing though, is that regardless of what combination you end up
with, you are not running your bullpen out there for seven innings of work five
days in a row. It's one thing to ask your middle relievers to come in and
give you three solid innings on Tuesday and Saturday. It's very different
when the club's day off is also the bullpen's day off, and the D'Backs have done
a great job at making the former a reality, and the latter a thing of the