Diamondbacks Have Too Much Pitching?!

Dustin Nippert could be the odd man out

Randy Johnson is expected to rejoin the Arizona Diamondbacks between April 17th and April 19th. Who's he going to replace? ALSO: Bob Melvin addresses Jose Valverde's drop in velocity and the problematic team defense so far.


Left-hander Randy Johnson is scheduled to make his final rehab assignment on Friday when he pitches for Class AAA Tucson. After that, the veteran will finally join the Diamondbacks' rotation. That much is certain.

But what isn't certain is what happens next to Arizona's pitching staff. When Johnson is ready to make his regular-season debut, somebody's going to have to go -- and after what's happened in the first eight games of the season, that's going to be one tough decision.

Back-end starters Edgar Gonzalez (1-0, 3.60 ERA) and Micah Owings (1-0, 0.00 ERA) each pitched solidly in their first starts. Gonzalez is out of minor league options, and the club doesn't want to risk losing him on waivers. Owings, though, pitched a one-hut shutout over five innings in his major league debut last week in Washington.

One of them could move to the bullpen and pitch in long relief. That would mean rookie Dustin Nippert, currently pitching in that role, is likely earmarked to be sent to Tucson. Or he could stay where he is and Owings could go to Tucson. Gonzalez conceivably could be traded.

"It's going to be a tough decision when he comes back," manager Bob Melvin said of Johnson. "But with Micah doing what he's doing and Edgar turning the corner with what he's doing now in the major leagues, we really like our rotation. We'll take it game by game.

"We'll make a tough decision when we have to, but I'd rather be making tough decisions like that than looking for guys to give us innings."

The move will be made sometime next week, on or about April 17, 18 or 19 -- about the time Johnson is expected to join the rotation.

Asked how the team planned to tweak the roster once Johnson is ready, general manager Josh Byrnes said he wasn't sure.

"Some decisions are dictated by performance, and they're also dictated by roster management," he said.

DIAMONDBACKS 3, REDS 2: Playing in their home opener before a crowd of 49,480 at Chase Field, the Diamondbacks rallied for their fifth consecutive win, tying the game in the seventh thanks to a Chad Tracy double, a well-executed bunt by Scott Hairston and a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Chris Snyder, then winning it thanks to Orlando Hudson's two-out, solo home run to left field in the eighth off Kirk Saarloos.

Closer Jose Valverde walked pinch-hitter Josh Hamilton to open the ninth, but he got a double play. After allowing a base hit to Javier Valentin, he earned his fourth save in five tries by retiring Brandon Phillips on a deep flyball to left field.


--RHP Jose Valverde has looked decent enough to manager Bob Melvin, even though the Diamondbacks' closer is lacking some of his usual velocity at the moment. Melvin attributes part of that to the cold weather the team encountered in its season-opening, seven-game trip through Denver and Washington.

"Typically, you'll see the velocity increase as it gets a little warmer and April goes forward," Melvin said. "But he's done the job for us."

--Arizona's defense is somewhat troubling to manager Bob Melvin. The Diamondbacks' team fielding percentage (.974) after its seven-game trip ranked second to last in the National League behind Washington (.970).

"One thing we've got to do better," Melvin said, "is play defense. It hasn't been great. Sometimes, the (weather) conditions probably added to that, but we have to be a little bit more aware on defense."

--CF Chris Young, who suffered a left groin pull during Sunday's game in Washington, was held out of Monday's home opener against Cincinnati and might also miss Tuesday's game for precautionary reasons.

"He probably could have played (Monday), but we have 155 to go, so we're going to be careful," general manager Josh Byrnes said.

With Young out of the lineup, Eric Byrnes moves from right field to center, where he spent most of last season. Utility man Alberto Callaspo, who will be used mostly as a backup infielder, started in right.

--RF Carlos Quentin, on the disabled list with a small labrum tear in his left, non-throwing shoulder, is scheduled to report to Tucson on Wednesday for extended spring training and could begin a rehab assignment Friday with the Class AAA Sidewinders. He has strengthened the area around the injury and has been allowed to participate in most baseball activities by the training staff.

--Manager Bob Melvin on the difference between past veteran clubs he's managed and the young roster he presently has in Arizona: "This is a group that has to use its energy and its youth and its enthusiasm. It's got to be attacking all the time. Sometimes, as a veteran club, you wear down a little bit and you're not running balls out as hard and so forth. You play it a certain way. These guys BETTER be enthusiastic about being at the big-league level and go out there and runs balls out, take the extra base and do a lot of the things that we've impressed upon them in spring training."

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