PHOENIX – There seems to be a vow to hang out a “do not disturb” sign.
That is in regard to bullpen construction established by Torey Lovullo, manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since the early days of spring training, Lovullo failed to name a closer and instead, vowed to use his bullpen as needed.
It’s no secret for a team to be successful, its’ closer plays a significant role. That would translate into 40 to 45 plus saves in a season destined for success.
This time, Lovullo entered spring training without a clear-cut closer and continued in the prevailing weeks to remain steadfast. Now, it’s almost a closer-by-committee and Lovullo remains committed to using a particulate reliever in a given situation.
Translated, that could dictate a pitcher closing one night and then putting out a fire in the fifth the next night.
Despite Lovullo’s best-laid plans, there appears to be a pattern. With the back end of the bullpen consisting of right-hander Scott McGough and veteran lefty Andrew Chafin, Lovullo appears to interchange these late-inning relievers.
A prime example took place on an April night in the desert. With the Diamondbacks holding a 3-0 lead into the late innings, Lovullo went to McGough in the eighth and closed out the Milwaukee Brewers with Chafin in the ninth. The result, on this night of April 10, was a 3-0 victory and an element of foreshow.
“That’s definitely an option,” said McGough on the back-end construction with Chafin. “Everyone on this team is good enough to close so it depends on the matchups and numbers. That’s a smart to way Torey wants to play and we’re ready for that.”
At this point and less than two weeks into the books, Arizona is quietly forming an effective trio. In addition to McGough and Chafin, add veteran reliever Miguel Castro to the mix. After that 3-0 win over the Brewers on April 10, both Chafin and Castro sported 0.00 ERAs and in Lovullo’s postgame session with the media on April 10, he clearly put Castro in the decision-making process.
As the season progresses, Castro could be the ‘x” factor. In his nine major league seasons, Castro spent last season with the New York Yankees and went 5-0 in 34 games. In that span, he fanned 31 hitters in 29 innings of work.
“You guys know whose the back-end is at his point,” Lovullo said. “You can throw Castro in that mix. (On April 10,) we need two innings (as starter Zac Gallen went seven) and Castro was the odd man out. Look, I have a lot of information sitting in front of me and it just lined up for McGough and Chafin.”
Less than two weeks into the season, numbers are not kind to McGough and that’s because he surrendered back-to-back homers to David Dahl and Ha Seong Kim in San Diego on April 3 at Petco Park. That kept McGough’s ERA over 11 runs per nine innings but demonstrated on April 11 the confidence Lovullo displayed.
By striking out Garrett Mitchell, getting Luke Voit to bounce the mound and retired Brice Turang on a fly to left, McGough retired the Brewers in order. In the process, he could foreshadow that back-end of a critical bullpen.
“I don’t look at specific innings,” McGough said. “We are in the bullpen together and we have to do our job. You have to go day-by-day with this, but we always have to be prepared. That’s what a good bullpen does.”
With veteran closer Mark Melancon out for an indefinite period with a sub-scapula strain of the right shudder, the veteran reliever received a Platelet-rich plasma injection. At this early part of the season, Lovullo was quick to tell reporters Melancon is out “for months.”
Now the trio of McGough, Castro and Chafin steps forward and so far, early season results are positive.
Getting the ball on Wednesday afternoon … before Monday’s game with Milwaukee, Lovullo announced a change in the rotation. Originally set to face the Brewers in the home stand finale Wednesday afternoon, lefty Madison Bumgarner is now pushed ahead to open the upcoming road trip. Bumgarner is now slated to face the Marlins in Miami on Friday night.
In his place for the Wednesday matinee, right-hander Drey Jameson (2-0, 2.16 ERA) gets the start. He draws veteran Brandon Woodruff (1-0. 0.79) as his opponent.
Remembering a cherished moment …Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell’s return to Chase Field was again another trip into history. Counsell was part of the 2001 Arizona World Series championship and was asked, aside from winning that World Series, what other moments with the Diamondbacks organization remain memorable.
“It starts with (the championship) because that’s what our goals always are,” he said sitting in the Brewers dugout before the series opener. “It starts with that and in many ways, ends with that. I think there are the relationships you make with people here and throughout that game are the things that you always remember. I still text with that group of players and you’re talking with these guys constantly. Those relationships last forever.”