Arizona Diamondbacks: Pitching staff going through changes

Replacing Taijuan Walker in the rotation, Matt Koch gets the start Friday night, (Scott Kane/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Replacing Taijuan Walker in the rotation, Matt Koch gets the start Friday night, (Scott Kane/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Injuries to Taijuan Walker and Randall Delgado of the Arizona Diamondbacks have forced changes.

In once what was considered a formidable dimension of this team, the structure of the pitching staff could loom as a concern for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Not that the rotation and bullpen are crumbling, there are a few visible cracks which could get larger.

First, there is a rising gap among the starters. At the conclusion of spring training, the set of Zack Greinke, Zack Godley, Robbie Ray, Patrick Corbin and Taijuan Walker for the Arizona Diamondbacks appeared as strong as any at the major league level. That seems above the health issue to long-reliever Randall Delgado.

While Delgado did not appear in any spring game and continues to rehab sporadically from a left oblique strain, there is no timetable for his return to the majors. Last season, Delgado provided service as a long reliever and spot starter, and manager Torey Lovullo continues to cite his contributions.

In 2017, Delgado was 1-2 and a respectable 3.59 ERA mostly out of the bullpen. Of his 26 appearances, Delgado did make five starts.

Though the schedule for his return appears to languish, Lovullo told Call to the Pen prior to Thursday’s home game with the Giants that he expects Delgado back some time this season.

“Of course,” Lovullo said when asked if Delgado would return to the 25-man major league roster. “We’ll still walking through the process. If you tell me (Delgado) would not return this season, that’s a surprise to me.”

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In the meantime, there is no clear long reliever. At this point, that may not be necessary, and that’s based on the production of the starters.

Lovullo asks each starter to get 21 outs and then hand the baton to set-up reliever Archie Bradley and closer Brad Boxberger. For the most part, that blueprint seems to work, and starters generally go into the sixth and seventh innings.

While replacing Delgado may not be much of a dilemma, Walker’s absence, who will undergo Tommy John surgery on April 25 in New York, is a huge concern. Here in the formative stage of the season, Lovullo is now left to fill Walker’s spot for virtually the entire campaign.

For now, the first man up his right-hander Matt Koch, whom Lovullo said “earned” this assignment. For his part, Koch told Call the Pen before Thursday game he is ready for the assignment.

"‘I’m just trying to help the team any way I can,” he said. “I want to get out there and get outs as fast as possible and get a quality outing. You can’t get rattled. You have to calm and always try to get outs.”"

Beyond his start Friday against San Diego at home, Koch remains realistic about the future.

"“You really can’t look ahead,” he told Call to the Pen. “I’m here for (Friday) and then we’ll see what happens after that. Right now, I’m focusing on (Friday).”"

Earlier this season, Koch was up for a brief time and appeared in one game at St. Louis on April 7. In that contest, he threw two innings and fanned three hitters.

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In two previous major league starts, Koch, a 27-year-old out of Cherokee, Iowa, posted a 2.45 ERA for a combined 11 innings of work. Prior to his start Friday, Koch made one other start at the major league level. That was against the Padres on Oct. 2, 2016. In that game, he pitched six innings and allowed one run on five hits.