Three Diamondbacks relievers have made 21 appearances each, putting them on pace for more than 75 appearances this season. Manager Torey Lovullo said he wasn’t comfortable with that pace and looked like he was starting to purposely reduce how often he used them.
“I have to be very, very careful with that,” Lovullo said of relievers Ian Kennedy, Noe Ramirez and Joe Mantiply, all of whom are one appearance away from the major league lead. “We win games. We play a lot of close matches. I think that’s what it means. (But) we have to find other combinations. I think there are other relievers that we can maybe go to.
The Diamondbacks have gone 16 in one-point games, going 9-7 in those contests. Only the Miami Marlins (6-14) and Toronto Blue Jays (11-7) have played in more one-point games than the Diamondbacks.
Kennedy, Ramirez and Mantiply were Lovullo’s most reliable relievers ahead of closer Mark Melancon. Ramirez is the only one of the three to have had a full season close to his pace; while with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, Ramirez recorded 83 1/3 innings in 75 relief appearances, posting a 4.54 ERA.
Lovullo said he has yet to use any of them in games he is not comfortable doing so. The club tracks things like appearances, shots thrown and times that warm up without entering a game and puts them into a formula to help determine availability. Lovullo or his coaches will also speak with the relievers themselves to make sure they are comfortable pitching that day.
Lovullo said he’s trying to get the team on track at the start of the season and may be pushing his relievers too hard to win the games they have a chance of winning. But he knows that could come at a cost later in the season.
“They’re going to be gassed in August and September, when it’s most important,” he said. “When we get into those middle months, I’m going to have to be very careful about that.”
Diamondbacks starters average only five innings per start; according to Baseball-Reference, that puts them in line with the average major league pitching staff so far this season.
Lovullo said Thursday’s news that teams can carry up to 14 pitchers through June 19 could help him take the pressure off his top relievers.
“I think it will help us be a little more creative and save some weapons there,” Lovullo said.
Hummel is back
Left fielder Cooper Hummel, who was reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list after a week away from the team, was disappointed his positive test meant he didn’t get a chance to play at historic Wrigley Field last weekend.
“That was the most upsetting part,” he said. “I went there when I was younger. I went to see a match there when I was 10 or 11 years old. But I want to play it. I don’t just want to watch a game there.
Hummel said after wide receiver Jose Herrera tested positive last week in Los Angeles, he was asked how he was feeling. He thought he felt normal, adding that it was not unusual for him to feel flushed. He was asked to take a test and ended up testing positive.
“I still have allergies; my nose sounds horrible all the time,” Hummel said. “My wife and I joked about it for years. I can’t breathe through one nostril at a time. It turns out they were right.
Third baseman Josh Rojas returned to the lineup Thursday after missing three games with a sore left hand. Lovullo said Rojas felt good enough to be an option on Tuesday “should the need arise” against the Royals.
* Right-hander Zach Davies, who knocked off a 112.4 mph return from his shin on Monday night, threw a bullpen of 31 pitches. “He said he felt great,” Lovullo said, adding the club plans to keep Davies in line to make his Sunday debut against the Dodgers.
*To make room for Hummel, the Diamondbacks moved to third baseman Drew Ellis in Triple-A Reno.