D-backs Desperate to Resolve Bullpen Woes

D-backs Desperate to Resolve Bullpen Woes

The Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen has a 7.55 ERA, easily the worst mark in the major leagues. Could the team be willing to convert a starter in order to strengthen their bullpen, the way that Cubs manager Lou Piniella controversially did with ace Carlos Zambrano?

The Cubs applied an unconventional salve to their bullpen when they moved Carlos Zambrano out of the rotation and into a relief role three weeks ago, but that does not appear to be a possible solution on the Diamondbacks' radar.

The D-backs have discussed a similar scenario in passing, general manager Josh Byrnes said, although he a) did not name names and b) said it was very unlikely to happen.

"On a list of 100 thoughts, it's not high on that list," Byrnes said. "You don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul. It's been thought about."

Zambrano's move was seen as stopgap measure, but it has been effective. Even if, say, Arizona right-hander Edwin Jackson continues to struggle, the Diamondbacks do not appear to have viable alternatives to add to the rotation. The Cubs were able to make a change because of their starting depth.

Byrnes also said he would not make a change for change's sake to shake up his struggling bullpen, but he might be forced into it. The bullpen's ERA reached 7.55 Tuesday after relievers gave up nine runs (seven earned) in 2 2/3 innings of a 13-3 loss to the Dodgers.

"Sacrificing someone at the altar to make a point ... I don't know if that accomplishes a whole lot," Byrnes said. "Any move is to believe we can get better, not just to demonstrate we are trying."

Manager A.J. Hinch said he is frustrated to have to keep using the word "frustrated."

"This is going on entirely too long. It's frustrating. It's pathetic. You can use any word you want to use. It's not acceptable at this level. What changes does that mean? The roles are clearly up in the air. As for personnel, something has to give," Hinch said.

If the D-backs (14-20) are looking for bullpen help, big-armed Jordan Norberto broke camp with the team until control issues forced him back to Class AAA Reno. He would be a candidate to return. Newcomer Carlos Rosa has made three scoreless appearances at Reno. Roque Mercedes has 20 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings at Class AA Mobile.

DODGERS 13, DIAMONDBACKS 3: A pair of D-backs relievers gave up seven runs in the eighth inning as the Dodgers turned a close game into a rout. RHP Juan Gutierrez yielded a three-run homer to C Russell Martin, and RHP Daniel Stange did not retire any of the five batters he faced, giving up two singles and walking three. CF Chris Young's RBI single and 2B Kelly Johnson's two-run double had closed the deficit to 4-3 after seven innings.

SNAKE BYTES

--RHP Dan Haren got his first nine outs via strikeout Tuesday, a franchise record and the first time that has happened since San Francisco RHP Tim Lincecum did it to the Dodgers on Sept. 28, 2008, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. LHP Randy Johnson had the previous Arizona record, six, done three times. Haren wound up allowing four runs on 10 hits while striking out 10 in 6 1/3 innings, and he settled for a no-decision.

"It's real tough," Haren said of the D-backs' recent struggles in a five-game losing streak. "Kind of at a loss for words. It's not a good atmosphere right now," he said. "When it comes down to it, it's about us getting the job done. Right now, it's not happening. We have enough talent in this room to be winning games. To be playing like we are playing is unacceptable."

--RHP Cesar Valdez will be skipped in the next turn through the rotation because of an off day Thursday, manager A.J. Hinch said. RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Rodrigo Lopez and RHP Dan Haren will start on normal four days' rest in the weekend series in Atlanta, with Valdez expected to return to the rotation either Monday or Tuesday in Florida. Valdez will be available in the bullpen the next several games. He does not appear to a candidate to remain in the bullpen when RHP Kris Benson returns, but all options will be considered.

--The D-backs are about to sign 18-year-old OF Socrates Brito for the second time this season. The sides have agreed to terms and are finalizing contract language. The first time did not work out so well. Brito signed for a $190,000 bonus in February, but he tested positive for a banned substance two weeks ago and the D-backs voided the contract. Brito, who was suspended for 50 games, will begin serving that suspension once he reports to his minor league team. Brito is expected to begin his pro career in the Dominican Summer League.

--The D-backs are 1-14 in games in which they have scored fewer than four runs. Their lone victory came on their last road trip, when RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Juan Gutierrez and RHP Chad Qualls combined for a 1-0 shutout at Houston.

--The D-backs have only 12 runs and 30 hits in their five-game losing streak. "We came back from Houston feeling good. Nobody's pressing," 3B Mark Reynolds said. "It's just nobody is hitting. That's the bottom line. It's tough to string hits together when no one is getting on base. It's pretty frustrating."

--The D-backs' bullpen ERAs are high -- RHP Juan Gutierrez (9.00), RHP Blaine Boyer (8.49), RHP Bob Howry (8.16), RHP Leo Rosales (8.10), RHP Chad Qualls (6.94), RHP Esmerling Vasquez (6.10), RHP Aaron Heilman (4.05). LHP Jordan Noberto was sent down with a 9.00 ERA in six outings. RHP Daniel Stange's is 13.50, but he has made only four appearances.

DIAMOND STAT:
50 -- Home runs allowed by the D-backs in 32 games this season, most in the majors through May 9.

QUOTABLE:
"Yeah, I'm concerned. It's not good right now. That consistency isn't showing up for us. We're wearing it. When it gets out of control, we've got to find a way to slow down the avalanche." -- Manager A.J. Hinch, on the pitching staff's struggles.


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