25 July 2011
The Diamondbacks will do more roster shuffling on Tuesday, for both the bullpen and the bench. First, closer J.J. Putz will be activated from the Disabled List after a bout of elbow tendinitis. Putz was placed on the DL on June 29th, and has made four rehab appearances in the minors, two in the Arizona Rookie League, and two with AAA Reno. He pitched a total of 4 IP in the Minors, and gave up 0 ER and only 2 Hits, while striking out 3 and not walking anyone. It remains to be seen if Putz is placed straight back into the Closer's position, since David Hernandez has pitched so well as his replacement. Over his last nine appearances, Hernandez has not allowed a single run, and has only allowed 1 Hit and 1 Walk while striking out 10. Most likely, Putz will move back as the closer, while Hernandez returns to his 8th inning role. Going back to the Minors will be Ryan Cook, who struggled in his call-up from AA Mobile - 2 G, 36.00 ERA, 1 IP, 4 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 0K, plus a Balk and a Wild Pitch. Cook will be sent to AAA Reno rather than back to Mobile.
The other roster move will be to replace infielder Geoff Blum, who fractured his right pinky on Sunday. What are the options to replace Blum on the roster? Here is the usual starting lineup and bench, now that Stephen Drew is out for the year:
C Miguel Montero (L)
1B Brandon Allen (L)/Xavier Nady (R)
2B Kelly Johnson (L)
3B Ryan Roberts (R)
SS Willie Bloomquist (R)
LF Gerardo Parra (L)
CF Chris Young (R)
RF Justin Upton (R)
Bench: C Henry Blanco (R), IF Cody Ransom (R), 3B Sean Burroughs (L), and one of Nady/Allen.
Clearly, this lineup and bench has a few holes. Against a right-handed pitcher, SS Bloomquist has only a .272 OBP this year, and just a .303 lifetime mark. Similarly, 3B Roberts has a .314 OBP against RHP this year, and a .318 career rate. Against LHP, both Bloomquist (.766 OPS) and Roberts (.885 OPS) have been decent, but they both have a problem against RHP.
The current bench choices don't help much here. Burroughs has only a .468 OPS for the season, and only a .505 OPS against RHP. Ransom is also a RHB, and hit very well in AAA Reno, but has never hit well in the Majors before, and is off to a 0-for-5 start this year. In AAA, Tony Abreu can play 2B, SS and 3B, but suffers from the same problem - he hits LHP (1.069 OPS this year) much better than RHP (.721 OPS). Recently signed IF Angel Berroa has a career .303 OBP in the Majors, and is also weak against RHP (.660 OPS).
If the team decides to stick with the infielders they have now, since there are no obvious improvements from the Minors, then they may decide to just select a bench bat to take Blum's roster spot. The top choices would include 1B Paul Goldschmidt (R, 1.052 OPS in AA), OF Collin Cowgill (R, .984 OPS in AAA), and OF Cole Gillespie (R, .928 OPS in AAA). Since the team is probably not ready to pull the plug on Brandon Allen after just 20 AB, I don't think Goldschmidt will get the call. I would put Cowgill in the lead for the 25th spot - he could platoon in the OF with Parra, and could serve as a backup CF if needed. Besides adding Cowgill, I wouldn't be surprised to see Sean Burroughs demoted also. Burroughs has not drawn a single walk in 55 PA, and has only one extra-base hit (a double) all year. Without walks or power, all Burroughs has is an empty batting average of .226. Plus, he is 0 for his last 14 AB. Replacing Burroughs with Abreu would make some sense, since Abreu can play 2B, SS, and 3B, while Burroughs is limited to 3B.
So there is my recommendation for the Diamondbacks - replace Blum and Burroughs with Cowgill and Abreu. When Blum returns in 3 weeks, then either Abreu or Ransom would be sent back to Reno. Let Brandon Allen continue to start against all RHB for at least a few more weeks before any decision is made about First Base.