Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo after his team rallied to beat the Dodgers 3-2 on Monday night. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
1 of 43
Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray walked four batters early but settled in and struck out 10 in six innings against the Dodgers on Monday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
2 of 43
azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley discuss Zack Greinke’s slump and the Cardinals and Sun Devils continuing their preparations for the season.
3 of 43
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks about Fernando Rodney’s save, Taijuan Walker’s performance and his team’s win against the Dodgers on Sunday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
4 of 43
Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker gave up just one run in five innings against the Dodgers on Sunday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
5 of 43
Diamondbacks catcher Chris Iannetta talks about his home run against Dodgers lefty Rich Hill and the performance of teammate Taijuan Walker in Sunday’s win. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
6 of 43
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo explains why he used closer Fernando Rodney with his team trailing in the eighth inning on Saturday night. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
7 of 43
Diamondbacks left-hander Patrick Corbin gave up five runs (three earned) in six innings vs. the Dodgers in Arizona’s 8-4 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday night. Nick PIecoro/azcentral sports
8 of 43
Manager Torey Lovullo talks about Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw’s dominance vs. the Diamondbacks on Friday night.
9 of 43
Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke gave up five runs in five innings against the Dodgers on Friday night, coming up short in his matchup against Clayton Kershaw.
10 of 43
Shot Clock: azcentral sports’ Mark Faller and Dan Bickley discuss the Diamondbacks vs. Dodgers series and the NBA playoffs.
11 of 43
Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke and Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw will combine to make more than $69 million this season.
12 of 43
Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller took the blame for Wednesday night’s loss to the Giants.
13 of 43
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talked about Shelby Miller’s outing and his hitters’ struggles with guys in scoring position.
14 of 43
Now that the Cubs have their rings, a look back the Diamondbacks’ World Series ring from 2001.
15 of 43
Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock talks about his play on Aaron Hill’s third-inning drive and Jake Lamb’s go-ahead, three-run triple.
16 of 43
Lefty Robbie Ray worked around five walks and was helped by his defense in the Diamondbacks’ win over the Giants on Tuesday night.
17 of 43
Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker said he made a mistake by trying to throw home on a strange play against the Giants in Monday’s loss in San Francisco. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
18 of 43
Arizona Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin talks about his personal performance so far this season after the team swept the series against the Indians, April 9, 2017. (Bob McManaman/azcentral sports)
19 of 43
Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley disagree on the NBA MVP and share their thoughts on the D-Backs’ hot start.
20 of 43
Arizona Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo discusses the team’s win against the Indians, sweeping the series, April 9, 2017. (Bob McManaman/azcentral sports)
21 of 43
Breaking down the Diamondbacks’ fantastic start to the 2017 season.
22 of 43
Right-hander Zack Greinke gave up just one run in 6 2/3 innings against the Indians as the Diamondbacks rolled to another victory.
23 of 43
Arizona Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo talks about the team’s ups and downs in a win against the Indians, April 7, 2017. (Bob McManaman/azcentral sports)
24 of 43
D-Backs’ Shelby Miller talks about his 2017 season start in a win against the Cleveland Indians, April 7, 2017. (Bob McManaman/azcentral sports)
25 of 43
azcentral sports’ Mark Faller and Dan Bickley discuss the D-Backs’ start to the season as well as the retirement of Shane Doan.
26 of 43
Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta discusses Thursday’s win over the Giants.
27 of 43
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo discusses his team’s 3-1 start to the season.
28 of 43
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo on using humidor for baseballs at Chase Field.
29 of 43
Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker discusses his first start in a Diamondbacks uniform on Wednesday against the Giants. Bob McManaman/azcentral sports
30 of 43
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks about his club’s 8-6 win over the Giants on Wednesday. Bob McManaman/azcentral sports
31 of 43
The Diamondbacks need a shortstop. Scott Bordow and Jay Dieffenbach discuss that and the Hamilton hazing scandal in the Shot Clock.
32 of 43
Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings talks about his error in the Giants’ five-run fifth inning.
33 of 43
Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin talks about his outing vs. the Giants and his struggles to retire Hunter Pence.
34 of 43
The Arizona Diamondbacks dedicated Paul Goldschmidt Field in Goodyear on April 4, 2017. It’s the 39th “Diamonds Back” Field in Arizona. Video: Arizona Diamondbacks
35 of 43
Former Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals slugger had an emergency brain procedure to address a brain hemorrhage.
USA TODAY Sports
36 of 43
You can stream baseball online using MLB.TV, but the service does have restrictions.
Reviewed.com – Jeremy Stamas
37 of 43
Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings delivered the game-winning hit on Sunday vs. the Giants.
38 of 43
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks about the hug he gave walk-off hero Chris Owings and about his first win in his new job.
39 of 43
Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke gave up two runs in five innings against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday at Chase Field.
40 of 43
Diamondbacks insider Nick Piecoro and Jay Dieffenbach talk about the upcoming baseball season. The lineup appears to be solid. What about the pitching staff? Video: Cheryl Evans/azcentral sports
41 of 43
USA TODAY Sports released its annual list of players to watch for in the upcoming season.
USA TODAY Sports
42 of 43
The Diamondbacks had their photos taken on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 at Salt River Fields.
43 of 43
Manager Torey Lovullo after D-Backs split series vs. Dodgers
Robbie Ray on his 10-strikeout game vs. Dodgers
Shot Clock: Time to worry about Zack Greinke?
Torey Lovullo on D-Backs’ win 3-1 win over Dodgers
Taijuan Walker tosses five strong innings vs. Dodgers
D-Backs’ Chris Iannetta on facing Rich Hill, catching Taijuan Walker
Torey Lovullo on usage of Fernando Rodney vs. Dodgers on Saturday
D-Backs lefty Patrick Corbin talks about his outing vs. Dodgers
Torey Lovullo after D-Backs’ 7-1 loss to the Dodgers
D-Backs’ Zack Greinke on his loss vs. Dodgers
Why series vs. Dodgers is big for D-Backs
Greinke-Kershaw matchup is incredibly expensive
Shelby Miller says loss vs. Giants is ‘definitely on me’
Manager Torey Lovullo on D-Backs’ rubber-match loss to Giants
Remembering the Diamondbacks’ championship rings
A.J. Pollock talks about his big catch in D-Backs’ win over Giants
Robbie Ray after tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings vs. Giants
Taijuan Walker discusses his errant throw vs. Giants
Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin describes personal performance
Shot Clock: NBA MVP and surprising D-Backs
Torey Lovullo on D-Backs’ sweep against the Indians
Diamondbacks’ hot start by the numbers
Zack Greinke after strong start vs. Indians
Torey Lovullo talks about the D-Backs’ win against the Indians
D-Backs’ Shelby Miller describes starting his 2017 season
Shot Clock: What D-Backs’ good start means
David Peralta on hot start: ‘We’re ready for anybody’
D-Backs manager Lovullo on starting year 3-1
D-Backs manager Lovullo on using humidor for baseballs
Taijuan Walker on his first D-Backs start
Torey Lovullo on D-Backs’ win over Giants
Shot Clock: Answer to D-Backs’ shortstop question?
Chris Owings talks about his fifth-inning error
Patrick Corbin after loss to Giants
Diamondbacks dedicate ‘Paul Goldschmidt Field’
Former Dodgers star Pedro Guerrero in critical condition
How to watch every baseball game in 2017
Chris Owings discusses his walk-off hit vs. Giants
Torey Lovullo on his emotional first win as D-Backs’ manager
Zack Greinke after his start vs. Giants on Opening Day
What is in store for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017?
MLB’s 100 Names to Know for 2017
Behind the scenes at Diamondbacks Photo Day
The Diamondbacks have two problems. One is at the front of the rotation. The other is at the back of the bullpen.
Nearly 10 percent of the season is in the books. The Diamondbacks have a winning record, a fighting spirit and two budding problems.
They have an ace who no longer looks the part, a quirky sort who is threatening to become the next pariah in Arizona. And at the back end of the bullpen, they have a closer who could bring unnecessary drama to a team hoping to end up on the playoff periphery.
One comes with an easy solution. The other could cripple the franchise, tapping into the deep well of negative energy in the Valley.
First, Zack Greinke, who has been a mediocre pitcher over 29 career starts with the Diamondbacks. Owner Ken Kendrick said his $206.5 million investment does not have health issues. He likened Greinke to Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux, who struggled against certain opponents. He does not sound overly worried, and unlike his relationship with former star Justin Upton, he will not voice any disappointment or frustrations.
“The longer I’ve been involved in this game, the more I’ve come to rely on professional judgment,” Kendrick said. “I entrust all of that to (General Manager) Mike Hazen and his guys.”
Greinke’s sudden decline is baffling. From 2013-15, he was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. Yet his ERA ballooned nearly three points to 4.37 in 2016, his worst season in 11 years. After much speculation about his declining velocity in spring training, he hasn’t been much better so far this season.
Most sports fans don’t take kindly to underperforming players who earn exorbitant salaries, especially when their personality doesn’t elicit empathy or resonate with the paying spectators. The reactions can be acute in Arizona, where many transient fans take pleasure in ridiculing the local teams that fail, the ones that don’t measure up to their hometown favorites.
If Greinke doesn’t get better soon, he will become a subject of derision at the ballpark and around Valley water coolers. Just ask Andre Wadsworth, Anfernee Hardaway, Russ Ortiz and Eric Byrnes how that feels. It could even happen to a player as beloved as the Honey Badger, especially if Tyrann Mathieu can’t stay on the field after signing a $62.5 million contract extension with the Cardinals.
Remember this: Greinke isn’t to blame for his salary. He merely accepted an extremely generous offer. Meanwhile, Kendrick should be cheered for taking an enormous financial risk to win a championship. And in real time, most of the Valley was electrified by the acquisition, believing a legitimate ace would put the team over the top.
If Greinke, 33, has lost whatever made him special, he could go down as one of the biggest busts in free agent history. He’s practically untradable at the moment, and his contract could make it impossible for the team to keep Paul Goldschmidt or sign any big-name players in the future.
My advice? Keep calm and carry on to the concession stand. Be assured that the highly analytical Greinke spends more time at his craft than most starting pitchers. If anyone can figure out how to reverse this unnerving trend and bring commensurate value to the mound, it’s Greinke.
The closer, Fernando Rodney, is something different altogether. He’s 40 years old and unleashed a 98-mph fastball to close out Monday’s victory against the Dodgers. He’s one of four pitchers to average more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched while throwing more than 30 innings after the age of 39. Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan are also in that exclusive club.
Johnson and Rodney have also penned two of the strangest split seasons in baseball history before joining the Diamondbacks. Johnson spent the first half of 1998 in the tank, posting a 9-10 record with the Mariners. He was traded to Houston and was practically untouchable.
Rodney did the same in 2016, only in reverse. He allowed only one earned run in 28 games with the Padres, but was simply atrocious after being traded to Miami. His debut season with the Diamondbacks has offered a little of both.
Entering Tuesday’s game against the Padres, Rodney had an eye-popping ERA of 8.53, allowing six runs in 6 1/3 innings. He was also 5-for-5 in save situations. That’s why he’s considered more of an experience than a relief pitcher.
Rodney has the necessary swagger that his position demands. But a never-ending tightrope act can wear out a team and its fan base, especially if the Diamondbacks are playing meaningful baseball games in August and September. Fortunately, the team might have a ready replacement in Archie Bradley, a pitcher who is finally coming into his own and could be perfectly suited for a closer’s role. Nobody knows for sure until they encounter the pressure that comes with recording the last three outs.
“I’m pleased with the start,” Kendrick said. “They absolutely do not give up, which is a great trait for any squad to have. But it’s not quite clear the level of talent we have when you take it piece by piece. We have areas of real strength and areas where we aren’t exactly sure.”
This much is certain: If Greinke can find his way back to dominance, things will brighten considerably. Maybe the incoming humidor will unlock his missing magic. If not, he might want to spend some of that money on ear muffs.
Reach Bickley at [email protected] or 602-444-8253. Follow him on twitter.com/dan.bickley. Listen to “Bickley and Marotta” weekdays from 12-2 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.