COMMENTARY | Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson will soon face a dilemma--what to do with so many quality players.
The Snakes in Sedona Red find themselves atop the National League West Division despite a disabled list of everyday players. Those owing to injury include second baseman Aaron Hill, center fielder Adam Eaton, starting pitcher Daniel Hudson, closer J.J. Putz, and utility man Willie Bloomquist, leaving the D-backs with some potentially season-changing decisions to make in the coming weeks.
Let's break it down.
Questions loom over the infield when Aaron Hill and Willie Bloomquist return. This actually may be the easiest call for Kirk Gibson and upper-level management to make. Hill, who recently signed a multi-year extension after hitting .302 with 26 HRs and 86 RBIs in 2012, will most likely be inserted immediately into the starting lineup. Bloomquist, on the other hand, would probably ride the pine, making starts here and there and providing late-game pinch hits, pinch runs, and defense.
In all probability, the guys to go would be struggling shortstop Josh Wilson (.213) and Cliff "Swing and Miss" Pennington (.204), who is 1 for his last 11 plate appearances with five whiffs.
As good as A.J. Pollock has been for the D-backs this season in center field, he is likely destined to Triple-A Reno when Adam "Spanky" Eaton returns from a left elbow strain. Pollock was a shining star in April, when the D-backs needed him most, hitting .256 with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs. However, he has hit just .208 in May and has seen increasingly less playing time since Cody Ross returned from the disabled list in mid April.
Adam Eaton--not the former pitcher--has been heralded as a potential leadoff man and everyday centerfielder. His guts and grit define the D-backs and are everything Kirk Gibson looks for in his players. Eaton's return would give the team four quality outfielders, including Jason Kubel, Cody Ross, and Gerardo Parra, who happens to lead Major League Baseball in WAR (2.9). Kirk Gibson has taken a shine to testing different lineups, and he will likely regularly rotate the four outfielders, starting each one three times every four days.
The D-backs starting pitching has been brilliant. ranking fifth in the league for quality starts. The crew includes Ian Kennedy (2-3 4.70 ERA), Trevor Cahill (3-4 2.48 ERA), Brandon McCarthy (1-3 4.74 ERA), Wade Miley (3-3 3.67 ERA), and the biggest surprise, Patrick Corbin (7-0 1.52 ERA). The numbers may not be eye-opening at first glance (except for Corbin), but the rotation has not given up more than three runs in a game in nearly three weeks.
But what about Daniel Hudson? A season ago Hudson was hands-down the D-backs #2 man in the rotation, after going 23-13 with a 3.01 ERA in his first year and a half in the desert. That's not to mention his .277 batting average and 14 RBIs, earning him the 2011 National League Silver Slugger Award. After season-ending Tommy John Surgery in 2012, Hudson has begun rehab assignments with a late-May or early-June return date.
What will the D-backs do with a full and healthy roster?
While only time will tell, one thing's for sure--they've made all the right moves so far this year.
Justin Bray, who studies sports history at the University of Utah, has followed the Arizona Diamondbacks since Andy Benes' first pitch at the BOB in 1998. He was an original member of the Andy Fox Fan Club and even risked his life for a Dan Plesac autograph.
- Sports & Recreation
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Kirk Gibson
- Willie Bloomquist
- Daniel Hudson
- Aaron Hill
- Adam Eaton
- National League West Division