Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks about his team’s eight-run first inning and right-hander Taijuan Walker’s sharp outing vs. the Padres. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker gave up just two hits in six scoreless innings, but he wasn’t satisfied with the way he threw on Friday night in a win over the Padres. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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The Diamondbacks’ Brandon Drury talks about his team’s offensive outburst vs. the Padres on Friday night at Petco Park. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley discuss the NBA MVP, the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers and the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive backs.
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D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo, catcher Chris Herrmann and left-hander Patrick Corbin react to the 5-4 win against the Mets, sweeping the series, May 17, 2017.
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Manager Torey Lovullo, right-hander Zack Greinke and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt react to Tuesday’s 5-4 Diamondbacks win. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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D-Backs’ Zack Godley talks pitching and gameplay after his team’s 7-3 win over the Mets, May 15, 2017.
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D-Backs’ Torey Lovullo discusses the pace his team kept during a 7-3 win over the Mets, May 15, 2017.
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Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock talks about the injury that forced him to leave Sunday’s loss to the Pirates. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta doesn’t think his glute injury is significant, he said. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo breaks down his team’s 6-4 loss to the Pirates on Sunday and provides updates on his injured outfielders. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks catcher Chris Iannetta says he ‘got lucky on all accounts’ after being hit in the face by a 93 mph fastball on Friday night vs. the Pirates. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Manager Torey Lovullo, right-hander Taijuan Walker and shortstop Nick Ahmed react to the 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, May 13, 2017.
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo provides an update on catcher Chris Iannetta, who was hit in the face by a pitch during Friday’s game, before Saturday’s game. Bob McManaman/azcentral sports
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Manager Torey Lovullo, second baseman Brandon Drury and left-hander Patrick Corbin react to 11-4 win against the Pirates, May 12, 2017.
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Shot Clock: Colin Kaepernick is better than Blaine Gabbert, right? So why did the Cardinals not sign him? Also, Zack Greinke has his Randy Johnson moment … what does it mean for Diamondbacks?
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Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke describes his night, in which he nearly threw a no-hitter against the Pirates.
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo reacts to Zack Greinke’s near-no-hit performance in Thursday’s win over the Pirates.
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Manager Torey Lovullo, right-hander Zack Godley and shortstop Nick Ahmed react to the 7-1 win.
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Manager Torey Lovullo and left-hander Robbie Ray react to the 7-3 loss.
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azcentral sports’ Sarah McLellan and Dan Bickley discuss the D-Backs’ difficulties on the road and the NBA’s big issue in the playoffs.
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo says defensive miscues cost them in a 5-2 loss to the Rockies on Sunday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker talks about his outing vs. the Rockies at Coors Field on Sunday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin was charged with eight runs in four-plus innings against the Rockies on Saturday night.
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Manager Torey Lovullo didn’t think his team played fundamentally sound in Saturday night’s 9-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
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Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke gave up two runs in seven innings in a win over the Rockies on Friday.
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo breaks down his team’s win over the Rockies on Friday night.
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo on Braden Shipley’s outing and his offense’s struggles vs. Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks right-hander Braden Shipley gave up three runs in four-plus innings against the Nationals on Thursday afternoon. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks about his team’s inability to come up with a hit in a key situation on Wednesday night, May 3, 2017. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray had everything working but still came away with a loss on Wednesday night in D.C., May 3, 2017. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said his pitching staff did well to hold the Nationals to three runs on Tuesday night.
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Taijuan Walker didn’t blame a small strike zone for his abbreviated, 4 2/3-inning outing on Tuesday night.
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley discuss the Rockets’ explosion against the Spurs and a possible pitching implosion for the Diamondbacks.
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Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock speaks about the controversial call that went against him in the 10th inning of Arizona’s win over the Rockies on Sunday. Bob McManaman/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks’ Daniel Descalso talks about his two-run, walk-off homer to beat the Rockies in the 13th inning on Sunday. Bob McManaman/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo discusses the team’s strong pitching fueling Arizona’s walk-off win over the Rockies on Sunday. Bob McManaman/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin talks about his strong, scoreless outing against the Rockies in Sunday’s win. Bob McManaman/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks closer Fernando Rodney talks about his outing vs. the Rockies, and says he’ll have no trouble bouncing back from his latest setback. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke talks about his start on Saturday night, in which he allowed three earned runs in six-plus innings vs. the Rockies. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller explains his decision to undergo Tommy John surgery, April 29, 2017. (Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports)
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Manager Torey Lovullo, left-hander Robbie Ray and catcher Chris Iannetta react to the loss.
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Chris Owings talks about the first multi-homer game of his career, and how he’s feeling at the plate after homering three times in the past four games.
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Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker says his fastball was working well for him on Thursday night.
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Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller says he has a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and that Tommy John surgery is an option, April 27, 2017. (Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports)
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Diamondbacks closer Fernando Rodney on Wednesday’s blown save against San Diego.
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo reacts to the Padres’ comeback win.
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Wednesday night’s game against the Padres drew the smallest crowd in Diamondbacks history.
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Manager Torey Lovullo, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and left-hander Patrick Corbin react to Tuesday’s win. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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Manager Torey Lovullo, right-hander Zack Greinke and shortstop Chris Owings react to Monday’s home win over the Padres. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller did not provide many details on his elbow injury on Monday, but he is planning to receive a second opinion on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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D-Backs’ Shelby Miller talks about arm injury suffered during the 6-2 loss to the Dodgers, April 23, 2017. (Scott Bordow/azcentral sports)
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David Peralta talks about the Diamondbacks’ offense and his record-setting four doubles Saturday.
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Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray talks after his team’s 11-5 victory over the Dodgers.
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Manager Torey Lovullo, right-hander Taijuan Walker, shortstop Chris Owings and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt react to the 13-5 win.
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First baseman Paul Goldschmidt says the Diamondbacks couldn’t string together enough hits against the Padres on Thursday night.
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks about his team’s 4-1 loss to the Padres and their 4-6 road trip through San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
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Torey Lovullo on D-Backs’ blowout win vs. Padres
Taijuan Walker tosses six scoreless vs. Padres
Brandon Drury homers in win vs. Padres
Watch out for Dodgers; Cards CBs apply for job
Diamondbacks outlast Mets in extra innings
Diamondbacks discuss close win over Mets
Diamondbacks’ Zack Godley talks after win over Mets
Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo talks upbeat pace in win over Mets
A.J. Pollock discusses his injury after loss to Pirates
David Peralta downplays his injury vs. Pirates
Torey Lovullo on injuries, loss vs. Pirates
Chris Iannetta talks about scary HBP vs. Pirates
Diamondbacks rally falls short against Pirates
Lovullo: Iannetta “said he could play tonight if he had to” after HBP
Diamondbacks overwhelm Pirates 11-4
Kaepernick blackballed? Greinke now trade bait?
Zack Greinke on his near no-hitter against Pirates
Lovullo reacts to Greinke’s near no-hitter in win
Diamondbacks snap losing streak with win over Tigers
Diamondbacks drop third straight with loss to Tigers
Shot Clock: D-Backs face pivotal homestand
Torey Lovullo after D-Backs’ latest loss to Rockies
Taijuan Walker after loss to Rockies
Patrick Corbin after being roughed up by Rockies
D-Backs’ Torey Lovullo on ‘tough night’ at Coors Field
Zack Greinke on impressive outing vs. Rockies
Manager Torey Lovullo after win over Rockies
Manager Torey Lovullo after D-Backs lose series vs. Nationals
Braden Shipley after walking six in loss to Nationals
D-Backs’ Torey Lovullo after loss to Nationals
Diamondbacks’ Robbie Ray strikes out 10 in loss to Nationals
Torey Lovullo on D-Backs’ 6-3 win over Nationals
Taijuan Walker on his short start vs. Nationals
Shot Clock: Rockets sizzle, D-Backs fizzle?
A.J. Pollock on controversial play: “You guys saw the replay”
Descalso talks about walk-off home run over Rockies
Lovullo on pitching, more in D-Backs’ wild win
Corbin discusses his scoreless outing vs. Rockies
Fernando Rodney talks about his latest blown save
Zack Greinke after outing vs. Rockies
D-Backs’ Shelby Miller to have Tommy John surgery
Diamondbacks fall 3-1 to Rockies
Chris Owings on his two-homer night
D-Backs’ Taijuan Walker on his 11-strikeout performance vs. Padres
D-Backs’ Shelby Miller considering Tommy John surgery
Fernando Rodney reacts to his blown save against the Padres
Torey Lovullo reacts to Diamondbacks’ ‘heartbreaking’ loss
Diamondbacks attendance hits new low
Diamondbacks pull away from Padres for 9-3 win
Diamondbacks hold on for win over Padres
Shelby Miller on his injury, visit with team doctor
Arizona Diamondbacks’ Shelby Miller discusses arm injury
David Peralta on his record-setting night
Robbie Ray reacts to Saturday’s win over the Dodgers
Diamondbacks use 9-run eighth to overwhelm Dodgers
Paul Goldschmidt on D-Backs’ offense vs. Padres
Manager Torey Lovullo breaks down D-Backs’ loss, road trip
SAN DIEGO — When they were hired in October, the new members of the Diamondbacks front office inherited a bullpen that ranked among the worst in the majors last season. Not only was there no established closer, there were only two pitchers who appeared to have big league jobs secured. As it turned out, there were benefits to such uncertainty.
“The one thing we had available,” General Manager Mike Hazen said, “was opportunity.”
That opportunity went a long way, and the Diamondbacks have been able to reshape their bullpen into what so far has been a largely dependable unit.
The season isn’t yet two months old, but the Diamondbacks bullpen has looked overpowering and deep, a collection of mostly power arms capable of dominating in short bursts or multiple innings, and seemingly able to do so without being bogged down by strictly defined roles.
Best of all, the Diamondbacks were able to assemble the group on the cheap, putting it together for a guaranteed outlay of about $10 million – or roughly two-thirds what the New York Yankees are paying closer Aroldis Chapman this year.
With five bullpen spots up for grabs, the Diamondbacks started by addressing the ninth inning, settling on veteran Fernando Rodney, whom they gave a one-year, $2.75 million guarantee.
They signed him relatively early – agreeing to terms during the winter meetings, before all of the top free-agent closers had come off the board – doing so in part because they didn’t want to risk deep-pocketed clubs circling back on him after missing out on a bigger name. They also didn’t want to risk going into spring training without a closer in place.
“I do think one of the things with a bullpen is, it seems to me that most of the time when teams go into spring training with a closer competition, oftentimes it doesn’t work out,” Diamondbacks Assistant General Manager Jared Porter said. “With Rodney, we wanted to bring in someone who was going to be in that role and have that job, who has done it before, and who could take some pressure off the other guys.”
The Diamondbacks then set their sights on an array of targets. Hazen said the club at least had talks, if not negotiations, with nearly every free-agent reliever on the market, and with a wide-net approach that lasted into spring training, the club eventually signed eight pitchers to minor league contracts, all of whom came to the big league camp to compete for a job.
There was J.J. Hoover and Erik Davis, Tom Wilhelmsen and Keyvius Sampson, Jorge De La Rosa and T.J. McFarland, Brian Matusz and Kevin Jepsen. All had big league experience. All were coming off down years – or seasons spent entirely in the minors. And all came with virtually no risk for the Diamondbacks.
Porter said he broke them down into three groups. First, there’s the pitchers almost certain to get minor league deals; next came a wave of pitchers who were nontendered; and, lastly, there were those who thought they’d get a major league guarantee but had to settle for a minor league contract.
“To me, you have to be patient and know it’s not a sprint early in the offseason,” Porter said. “You try to sign the guys you really like and then try to wait it out after that.”
Not all of them worked out – Jepsen was released in March, Matusz and the club parted ways this week – but from that collection the Diamondbacks were able to cobble together the backbone of a reliable bullpen.
Hoover and Wilhelmsen had dominant springs and easily secured jobs. De La Rosa flashed good stuff but only so-so results, leaving the Diamondbacks with a difficult late-March decision of whether to add him to the roster or potentially release him. Ultimately, they stuck with him, betting on De La Rosa’s stuff and makeup eventually leading to better results.
Hoover (2.57 ERA in 14 innings) and De La Rosa (2.35 ERA in 15 1/3 innings) have elevated themselves into late-innings roles. Wilhelmsen (4.26 ERA in 19 innings) has pitched in a variety of situations.
De La Rosa ($2.25 million), Wilhelmsen ($1.25 million) and Hoover ($900,000) each received relatively modest guarantees upon making the big league roster, and have the opportunity to earn more in contract incentives, as does Rodney.
McFarland, who hung around until late in camp before being sent to Triple-A Reno, worked his way back to the majors in late April and allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings before landing on the disabled list with an ankle contusion. He’s making $800,000.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have received excellent results from a handful of in-house candidates.
Starter-turned-reliever Archie Bradley has been a revelation, exhibiting perhaps the most dominant stuff on the staff. Right-hander Randall Delgado shook off a rough start to the season to become a valuable long reliever. Lefty Andrew Chafin, after a rocky season last year, is pitching more like he did during his standout rookie year.
A year after posting the majors’ fourth-worst bullpen ERA at 4.94, the Diamondbacks are tied for the 10th-best at 3.76. They have just two blown saves, making them one of just four teams with two or fewer.
Just as impressive, the Diamondbacks have had success without help from right-hander Jake Barrett, who was the club’s best reliever last year and one of the two who entered the offseason seemingly assured of a job.
Barrett, however, missed all of spring training with shoulder problems; healthy again, he completed a rehab assignment and was optioned last week to Triple-A Reno.
Along with Barrett, the Diamondbacks also have depth in the form of Rubby De La Rosa, who also signed a minor league deal as he works his way back from elbow problems.
Club officials are quick to give credit to the pitchers themselves for how well they’ve thrown, while also mentioning the contributions pitching coach Mike Butcher, bullpen coach Mike Fetters and others in the organization have made to support them.
But Porter, who oversees the club’s pro scouting department, acknowledges the challenging nature of rebuilding a bullpen with so many jobs up for grabs.
“I think it’s really exciting,” Porter said. “It’s an opportunity to make an impact and also simultaneously provide an opportunity for these players to bounce back or, in the case of Archie or Chafin or Delgado, to take steps forward in their careers.”
Hazen said the lack of clearly defined roles other than closer has given manager Torey Lovullo the freedom to deploy them in a variety of ways.
“Those guys are all pitching really well, whether they came in on guaranteed deals or on non-roster deals, they went out in spring training and earned those spots and they’re pitching well for us,” Hazen said. “It’s a good group. They’ve done their job. It’s been different guys in different spots.”
Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.
Diamondbacks at Padres
When: 7:10 p.m.
Where: Petco Park, San Diego.
Pitchers: Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray (2-3, 4.57) vs. Padres RHP Luis Perdomo (0-0, 4.19).
TV/Radio: FSAZ/KMVP-FM (98.7), KHOV-FM (105.1).
Ray labored through four innings his last time out, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks against the Pittsburgh Pirates. … Since posting a 1.96 ERA in his first three outings, Ray has a 6.33 ERA in his past five. … Ray is averaging 5.2 walks per nine innings, fourth highest in the majors. … Perdomo allowed eight runs in 10 1/3 innings in his first two starts but has a 3.00 ERA in four starts since. … He has shown improvement in several statistical categories, including lowering his hits, walks and homers allowed and increasing his strikeout rate. … Perdomo throws a sinking fastball that averages 94.5 mph, according to BrooksBaseball.net.
Sunday: At San Diego, 1:40 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Zack Godley (1-0, 1.93) vs. Padres LHP Clayton Richard (2-5, 4.86).
Monday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke (5-2, 3.09) vs. White Sox RHP Miguel Gonzalez (3-4, 4.29).
Tuesday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks LHP Patrick Corbin (3-4, 4.38) vs. White Sox RHP Dylan Covery (0-3, 7.64).