Manager A.J. Hinch finally has lost his patience with his struggling bullpen
Hinch said "all bets are off" regarding relief roles after both right-handers Juan Gutierrez and Chad Qualls were charged with blown saves in a 6-5 loss in Atlanta on Friday. Qualls, who entered the season as the closer, has six saves and three blown saves with a 7.68 ERA. Gutierrez, who saved 8-of-8 games in the final five weeks of 2009 after Qualls suffered a season-ending knee injury, has one save and two blown saves with a 9.20 ERA.
"I want everybody to be ready all the time," Hinch said. "I don't think there should be any expectations down there at this point. I think they should be ready to go after the starter and we'll do our best to patch it together."
The lone bright spot in the bullpen has been right-hander Aaron Heilman, who has made nine straight scoreless appearances to drop his ERA to 3.45. He has been particularly effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to five hits in 34 at-bats, a .147 batting average.
Righty Carlos Rosa, obtained from the Kansas City organization on May 1, made a scoreless appearance in relief of right-hander Rodrigo Lopez in his first D-backs' appearance Saturday, and he could move up in the pecking order.
The D-backs will recall righty Billy Buckner from Triple-A Reno to make Tuesday's start in Florida, a move that also will impact the bullpen. Right-hander Cesar Valdez, who made two starts in place of righty Kris Benson (right shoulder), was moved to the bullpen Sunday and is likely to remain there despite his struggles the first time through the order. In his first three major league games, Valdez has seen batters go 7-for-21 with a double, two homers, four walks, and a hit-by-pitch in their first plate appearance against him.
Righty Bob Howry has struggled since opening day, when he gave up two home runs. He has given up six home runs in 14 2/3 innings and did not retire any of the five men he faced Sunday, walking three. His ERA is 10.67. Howry signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract as a free agent last winter. The deal also includes a $3 million option with a $250,000 buyout for 2011.
BRAVES 13, DIAMONDBACKS 1: The reeling D-backs lost for the eighth time in nine games when right-hander Dan Haren was roughed up, giving up seven runs (six earned) in 4 1/3 innings. The D-backs had only three hits off of Tim Hudson and a reliever, and center fielder Chris Young's fielder's choice groundout drove in their only run. The D-backs have been outscored 72-32 in their last nine games.
--RHP Billy Buckner will be the seventh starter the D-backs use this season when he is recalled for their Tuesday game at Florida. A candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation in spring training before losing the job to RHP Kris Benson, Buckner went 3-1 with a 3.53 ERA in seven starts at Reno. "We think he's ready for another opportunity," manager A.J. Hinch said. Buckner was 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last four starts for Reno, and he will be pitching on five days' rest after limiting Omaha to three hits and no earned runs in 7 1/3 innings May 12.
--SS Stephen Drew was 0-for-1 with a sacrifice bunt Sunday but still has 10 hits in his last 23 at-bats, including four doubles and a home run, to raise his batting average to .311, the second-highest among NL regulars at his position. Drew's .500 slugging percentage and .877 OPS at the highest among NL shortstops.
--RHP Rodrigo Lopez went eight innings in an 11-1 victory in Atlanta on Saturday, marking the longest appearance in his last 53 games, since he went eight innings to beat the Los Angeles Angels on April 14, 2006, 16 months before undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. Lopez threw 106 pitches Saturday and was in line to pitch the ninth inning until the D-backs scored five runs in the top of the inning. Lopez's last complete game was Sept. 26, 2004, when he shut out Detroit, 3-0, on 104 pitches.
--RHP Cesar Valdez, who made two replacement starts after RHP Kris Benson (shoulder) was placed on the disabled list April 29, was moved to the bullpen and made his first relief appearance Sunday, giving up two runs in 1.2 innings. The D-backs will make another pitching move when RHP Billy Buckner is officially recalled Tuesday. RHP Bob Howry did not retire any of the five batters he faced Sunday and was charged with three earned runs, moving his ERA to 10.67. He has permitted six home runs in 14 2/3 innings.
--1B Adam LaRoche was charged with two errors on the same bizarre play Sunday. LaRoche failed to handle Atlanta OF Jason Heyward's sharp grounder leading off the fifth inning, and when Heyward made an aggressive turn around first base he made contact with LaRoche in the baseline. The umpires award Heyward second base because of obstruction, a play that also carries an error. LaRoche, who committed only two errors with three teams in 2009, has five errors this season, although he also has saved his infielders other errors with his athleticism around the bag.
DIAMOND STAT: 7.68 -- The D-backs' bullpen ERA in their first 38 games this season.
QUOTABLE: "All bets are off as far as the bullpen goes. I've tried to remain as patient as I can, and it just hasn't really worked." -- Manager A.J. Hinch, about relief roles.
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