Diamondbacks Set Their Pitching Staff

The Arizona Diamondbacks finalized their eight-man bullpen Tuesday, electing to retain Yusmeiro Petit, Juan Gutierrez, Billy Buckner, and Doug Slaten on their 25-man roster. Bobby Korecky and Leo Rosales were optioned to Triple-A.

The placement of Max Scherzer on the 15-day DL to begin the season opened the door for an extra bullpen arm in the early going.  The Diamondbacks will go with a four-man rotation until April 14th, when Scherzer will be recalled from the disabled list and the club will need to make a decision on one of these four pitchers.

In:

Yusmeiro Petit - Supposedly, Chad Qualls, Tony Pena, Jon Rauch, and Scott Schoeneweis were the only relievers guaranteed a spot on the opening day bullpen, but Yusmeiro Petit was all-but guaranteed to make the club as well.  Petit has been solid in the swingman role for the Diamondbacks for each of the past two seasons and was out of minor league options, meaning that he would have needed to clear waivers prior to reporting to Triple-A.

Unable to boast spectacular stuff, Petit uses deceptive arm action to fool batters and has excellent command of his pitches. He has posted a 4.09 ERA in 11 spring innings.

Juan Gutierrez - Like Petit, Gutierrez was also out of minor league options.  Unlike Petit, Gutierrez has no history of major league success and did nothing this spring to indicate his major league readiness.  His 8.71 ERA was highest among all Diamondbacks pitchers who had thrown more than eight innings this spring.  The reason the D-backs want to keep him in the cupboard is his lively low-90s fastball that has sometimes been clocked as high as 95 MPH.  They figure that if Gutierrez can improve one or two of his three secondary pitches, that he could become an impact player at the major league level.  But the price of that willbe a 2009 season full of licks at the big league level.

Doug Slaten - Expected to break camp as the second lefty out of the pen due in part to the huge role he played on the 2007 playoff-bound squad, Slaten was hit hard early this spring.  Then D-backs pitching coach Bryan Price lowered Slaten's arm angle from an over-the-top delivery to a more traditional three-quarters slot.  Since that adjustment, he's lowered his spring ERA to a respectable 5.19, although his peripherals (4K, 4 BB, 13 H, 8.2 IP) still look pretty ugly.

"Slaten pitched really well, especially down the stretch," insisted Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin.

Billy Buckner - Buckner didn't figure to have a good shot at making the roster based primarily on the fact that he still has a minor league option.  Also, the D-backs wanted Slaten to compliment Schoeneweis as a lefty specialist and already had Petit as a potential spot starter.  It was Buckner's excellent spring, combined with the team's decision to put Scherzer on the DL, that landed Buckner the roster spot.  He owns a 3.31 ERA in 16.1 innings this spring, but will have to impress even more than that if he wants to avoid being sent down to Reno come April 14th.  Buckner's off-the-table curveball is his bread-and-butter pitch.

"I've seen a guy that has good stuff and isn't afraid to compete,"  Melvin said of Buckner.

Out:

Bobby Korecky - Korecky wasn't particularly effective for the Twins last year, and it was hard to understand why the Arizona Diamondbacks were so high on him in February.  The 29-year-old's 6.35 ERA this spring did little to reinforce the D-backs' stance, although he did convert his lone save opportunity and average more than one strikeout per inning.  He could begin the season as Reno's closer, having held that role in several stops around the minor leagues.

Leo Rosales - Rosales figured to be plan B if Doug Slaten could not get his act together.  While Rosales doesn't throw left-handed, his excellent changeup fades away from left-handed hitters, and would have given the D-backs an additional weapon to combat tough lefty hitters to go with Schoeneweis.  Rosales did nothing to pitch himself out of a job this spring, as he fanned nine, walked two, and converted his only two save opportunities en route to a 3.86 ERA.  Rosales has a history of emotional instability, as his punching a wall and fracturing his throwing hand is part of the reason the San Diego Padres were willing to trade him to Arizona.  Hopefully, he takes this undeserved slap to the face in stride.


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