Can Brandon Pfaadt solidify the Arizona Diamondbacks rotation?

PHOENIX – This is not quite a panacea and, to be fair, education has only begun.

Welcome to the Show Arizona Diamondbacks’ right-hander Brandon Pfaadt, who seems to be dropped right in the middle of a competitive division race. Granted, the baseball campaign, regarded as a marathon, remains in the early stage. At this point, there may not be panic in the words and transactions of Arizona officials, but there is a realization that if production does not remain at a consistently high level, the season will slip away in a hurry.

With patience limited and tolerance fading from the vocabulary of Diamondbacks’ officials, these days, Pfaadt, Arizona’s fourth rated prospect by the MLB Pipeline, was thrust into the rotation as both a projection and band-aid.

When general manager Mike Hazen sent righty Drey Jameson to the minors and banished veteran Madison Bumgarner to the desert, the hour approached for transition. That meant Pfaadt, who was promoted from AAA Reno with a record of 2-1 and leading the Pacific Coast League in strikeouts, appeared as the most logical approach.

His initial start on May 3 and against the Texas Rangers was less than productive and Pfaadt acknowledged the experience was a challenge. In going 4.2 innings against the Rangers, he allowed nine hits, seven runs and tossed 97 pitches.

“The transition from Triple AAA to here has its differences,” he said in the clubhouse before the homestand opener against Washington Friday night. “This is definitely a bigger stage but it’s still the same game. That’s the words of wisdom that people gave me before I started. I took it like that and went out there to try and do my best.”

From a management standpoint, the glass on Pfaadt was half-filled. Holding a 6-2 lead in the fifth inning against the Rangers, Lovullo said he regretted not taking Pfaadt out of the game earlier but did acknowledgment the learning curve ahead.

“I thought (Pfaadt) threw well enough to win the game,” Lovullo said. “He made some mistakes in the fifth inning and I take responsibility for that. I probably left him a batter or two too long. Until that point, I felt he controlled the zone, made pitches and his pitch count was manageable. I’m curious to see what he will look like in his next outing. I know it’s an easy bet for him to go out and figure it out. Overall, I feel it was adequate and for his first major league start, I thought he did a good job.”

Pfaadt’s next start comes in his Chase Field debut next Tuesday night and faces the Miami Marlins.

“I made a few mistakes, but things will get better, for sure,” he said of that initial major league start. “There were some pitches that hurt me that I left in the middle. It was the first time up here and hopefully next time I’ll be better.”

Opening the home stand Friday night … After surrounding a first-inning home run to Luis Garcia, starter Merrill Kelly settled in and allowed only four base runners over his final six innings. Going seven strong innings, Kelly evened his season mark at 3-3 as Arizona gained a 3-1 win over the Washington Nationals before 16,384 in Chase Field.

“I felt good and probably better than I felt in a while,” Kelly said. “The stuff was coming out of my hand much better, and I felt more like myself. Everything was a little sharper and a little tighter.”

For his seven innings, Kelly allowed four hits, walked one, and had a season-high 10 strikeouts. In the process, he lowered his ERA to 2.75.

Corbin Carroll started the offense with a two-out homer in the third and the Diamondbacks tacked on a pair in the fourth to seal the deal.

Behind Kelly, Miguel Castro turned in a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Andrew Chafin, also a 1-2-3 ninth inning, picked up his fifth save of the season. With the victory, the Diamondbacks increased their season mark to 18-14.

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