PHOENIX – The dilemma is not new. In fact, this predicament continues to linger and fester.
Since the beginning of the season, the starting rotation of the Arizona Diamondbacks has been less than stable and in a state of flux. With three of the necessary five starters taking their turn with a level of reliability, the two outstanding spots have been vacant absent with uncertainty and inconstancy.
When projected starter Luke Weaver began the season on the Injured Reserve, manager Torey Lovullo turned to several, including Tyler Gilbert, Humberto Castellanos, Zack Davies, and veteran Dallas Keuchel. Though mainstays Madison Bumgarner, Merrill Kelly, and Zac Gallen have turned in creditable seasons to date, the balance of the rotation is barren and empty.
That could change.
On Sunday, right-hander Corbin Martin was recalled from AAA Reno and thrust into the rotation. Because of the revolving door reality of the bottom portion of the rotation, Martin was considered the next man up and received that call to The Show.
In his making his first start of the season, Martin held the Washington Nationals to three hits and one run in four innings of work. Though Martin received a no-decision Sunday, Arizona dropped a 4-3 defeat to the Nats before 20,278 in Chase Field and fell 11 games under .500 at 42-53.
On the whole, the reviews were mixed and Lovullo said after the game that Martin’s future in the rotation was a current conversation among decision-makers. For this part, Martin thought his start against Washington was not a cameo appearance but an effort to make a statement about his future.
“With every opportunity I get, that’s the goal,” he said after the game. “The goal is to go out and prove something not only to them but to myself. I know I belong here, and I’ll continue to work to get better.”
Due to a recent history of an elbow impingement, Martin had not pitched since June 29 but his pitch count was not limited, according to Lovullo. For the game, Martin threw 71 pitches and hit the strike zone 36 times. Doing the math, he missed on 35 or half of his pitches. In walking five, Martin loaded the bases with walks in the third but managed to get Yadiel Hernandez to ground to first and end the threat.
After the game, the issue of control was raised.
“As of late, and what he has been doing in player development, yes, the walks are a little outside of the norm,” Lovullo said. “We have seen this and see him struggle with his command. I mostly think he has put himself in some very tough situations where the margins for error are very small on each side of the plate. Being able to throw secondary stuff will create a lot of space for him to go and do what he needs to do.”
Through his four innings of work Sunday, Martin did escape only one inning without issuing a walk. He gave two free passes to Juan Soto, who leads the majors in walks, and walked three straight in the third.
If Martin continues in the rotation, his effort against Washington could be a teaser. His fastball was clocked around 92 and 93 miles-per-hour but used secondary pitches sparingly. Going forward, Martin, who was a second-round pick of Houston in 2017, is the first to acknowledge the necessity of a clean, consistent outing.
“(Against Washington), it was like mixed emotions,” he said. “You’re frustrated because you want to be better. When I was going through the middle of the outing, I just had to make a pitch when it mattered. I was getting behind guys, and the off-speed stuff was not in the zone. I tried to make the best pitches I could to get us out of big situations and keep us in the game as long as I could. You always want to go deeper into the game and but it was just one of those days where it was pretty much a battle.”
Latest roster moves … Allowing Corbin Martin to start Sunday, the Diamondbacks optioned right-hander Edwin Uceta to AAA Reno.
Elsewhere … had the Diamondbacks won on Sunday and swept Washington, that would have been the first time in franchise history Arizona took three from the Nats in the desert. … The homestand continues with three against the San Francisco Giants. Lefty Tyler Gilbert (0-3, 5.34) opens the series and draws righty Jakob Junis (4-1, 3.06) as his mount opponent. The set continues with a night game Tuesday and concludes with a Wednesday matinee.