Time on Diamondbacks' side as trade deadline approaches

Time on Diamondbacks' side as trade deadline approaches

ANAHEIM, Calif. – With the focus of the baseball world beginning to shift toward the July 31 non-waiver deadline, the Diamondbacks find themselves in an interesting spot. Sitting narrowly atop the National League West – they entered Monday night with a 1 1/2-game lead in the division – they look like clear buyers. What’s less clear is what they should be buying.

The current roster has plenty of needs or areas to upgrade. The Diamondbacks could use more depth in the lineup. The bench could stand to be strengthened. And, like every team, they could a frontline starter or a back-end reliever.

But those could all be filled on their own in the coming weeks, thanks to returns to health by several players on the disabled list.

They could find power in the lineup courtesy of center fielder A.J. Pollock or right fielder Steven Souza Jr., both of whom could be back within the next few weeks, if not sooner. Their returns will push current starters, including recently acquired outfielder Jon Jay, into reserve roles.

Left-hander Robbie Ray and right-hander Shelby Miller are capable of providing a significant lift to the rotation. Both possess frontline stuff. And both have demonstrated that they’re capable of posting top-of-the-rotation results. Ray did it as recently as last year.

The bullpen also has help on the way, first in the form of Randall Delgado, a versatile right-hander capable of filling a variety of roles. And, in the same way the bench could be strengthened by the lineup’s return to health, the bullpen could get a boost from the rotation.

With Ray and Miller coming back, the Diamondbacks could send right-hander Matt Koch to Triple-A Reno and bump right-hander Zack Godley to the bullpen. Godley, freed from the constraints of having to throw 100 or so pitches, could let it fly for an inning or two at a time; he might have a power fastball/curve combo similar to Archie Bradley.

With six weeks to go before the deadline, the Diamondbacks have plenty of time to evaluate their roster. When it comes to performance, there are no assurances with players returning from injuries. Pollock is a perfect example; he struggled mightily last season after coming back from a lengthy DL stay.

This can be especially true with pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery, like Miller is trying to do. For every Stephen Strasburg and Adam Wainwright, who returned rather seamlessly, there are pitchers like Homer Bailey and Zack Wheeler, who suffered setbacks on their way back.

Of course, the Diamondbacks could always go after the no-brainer upgrades, like Orioles infielder Manny Machado or Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Both are stars and won’t come cheap, but the Diamondbacks are so committed to their current window of contention that a case could be made for further emptying the cupboard.

They also could approach the deadline with an eye toward next year. They did that in one sense last July: While they made win-now moves to land slugger J.D. Martinez and reliever David Hernandez, they also traded for catcher John Ryan Murphy, a player who didn’t fit their roster at the time but who has made an impact this year.

More than likely, the Diamondbacks will get to late July and find themselves in need of something. The club will be watching closely over the next six weeks to find out what that need is.

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Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.

Diamondbacks still waiting for A.J. Pollock to heal

Diamondbacks still waiting for A.J. Pollock to heal

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The weekly test on A.J. Pollock’s fractured thumb revealed further healing, manager Torey Lovullo said, but not enough to allow the injured Diamondbacks center fielder to begin swinging a bat.

As such, it continues to look like Pollock will be returning closer to the back end of the four-to-eight week recovery timeline the club estimated shortly after he was injured diving for a ball on May 14.

“We were hopeful at that time that something miraculous could happen and he would heal faster than the normal human being,” Lovullo said. “But that was obviously a stretch. I know we’re into our fifth week right now, so I know it’s as predicted, as we thought it would fall into place as far as that bone healing. It still hasn’t healed completely, but it’s showing signs of getting there.”

Pollock will undergo another CT scan next Monday, Lovullo said.

Pollock was off to one of the best starts of any player in the National League when he was hurt last month. He was hitting .293 with 11 homers and a .969 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging). He won National League Player of the Month honors for the first month of the season and picked up Player of the Week honors for the first week in May.

Meanwhile, right fielder Steven Souza Jr. underwent tests of his own that brought back similarly middling results. His right pectoral strain continued to make progress, Lovullo said, and while he’s hitting and playing catch he has not yet been cleared to ramp up the intensity to where he’d need it in order to play in games.

Lovullo said Souza threw and hit at Salt River Fields on Monday while Pollock did more range-of-motion work.

Miller update

Lovullo said right-hander Shelby Miller will throw his between-starts bullpen session on Tuesday but gave no hints as to what would come next for him.

Miller, who is nearing a return from Tommy John surgery, is coming off his best outing yet on the rehab trail. Pitching on Saturday for High-A Visalia, Miller tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only three hits, walking none and striking out 10 on 80 pitches.

The Diamondbacks have yet to officially name any starters for the upcoming series in Pittsburgh, and it stands to reason Miller could return from the disabled list to face the Pirates.

Saying hello

Reliever Yoshihisa Hirano found time before Monday’s game to catch up with Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani in the hallway between the home and visitors’ clubhouses at Angel Stadium.

Hirano said the two aren’t particularly close, but he’s known him for at least five years and wanted to say hello.

Before landing on the disabled list with an elbow injury, Ohtani was having success both as a pitcher (3.10 ERA in 49 1/3 innings) and hitter (.289 average, .907 OPS).

“He was a really good player in Japan and I had really high hopes for him coming in here,” Hirano said through interpreter Kelvin Kondo. “Unfortunately, he got hurt, but he did some really good things. If it wasn’t for the injuries, he could be doing more of those things that I wanted to see.

“I’m looking forward to him getting back on the field and maybe playing against one another (in the majors). I’d enjoy that.”

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Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.

Diamondbacks' Alex Avila: Offensive skid continues

Diamondbacks' Alex Avila: Offensive skid continues

Avila went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Mets.

Avila has recorded three hits in 55 at-bats since the beginning of May, shrinking his average to .109 for the season. That’s the lowest mark of any player with at least 100 plate appearances, with Avila’s 45.7 strikeout percentage also representing the highest rate among that group. Avila’s two-year, $8.25 million pact with Arizona will likely lock him into a roster spot all season despite his immense struggles, but he won’t unseat John Ryan Murphy as the club’s primary catcher anytime soon.

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Game Day: Injury-ridden Angels to host Diamondbacks in short series

Game Day: Injury-ridden Angels to host Diamondbacks in short series

Following a 4-3 homestand that ended on a sour note, the Diamondbacks head back on the road to face the Angels in Anaheim. Follow this page for scoring updates, pitching updates, news and notes.

PREGAME READING

Up next

Los Angeles Angels update

The Diamondbacks will catch an injury-ridden Angels for a quick two-game set on Monday and Tuesday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. … Entering Sunday, the Angels had lost five of their last six games and begin a six-game homestand with their series against the Diamondbacks. They are just 17-18 at home this season. … The Angels enter play Sunday with a 38-33 record that puts them 8 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West. … The Angels’ disabled list currently houses 15 players, a franchise record. …  The Angels are led in hitting by outfielder Mike Trout, who entered play Sunday with the second-best OPS (on-base plus slugging) in the American League with a mark of 1.136 on the season. He also leads the team in hits (81), doubles (16), triples (3), home runs (23), RBIs (46) and stolen bases (13), among other categories. … Shortstop Andrelton Simmons (.324) is the only other active, qualified Angels position player batting over .260. … Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs leads the club in innings pitched with 80 on the season and is tied for the team lead in starts with 14, matching that of right-hander Garrett Richards, who is on the DL. Skaggs leads active Angels starters in strikeouts (86) and FIP (3.24). … Right-hander Blake Parker leads the teams in saves with seven and has posted a 2.67 ERA to go along with 39 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings.

Tuesday’s game

Diamondbacks at Angels

When: 7:07 p.m.

Where: Angel Stadium, Anaheim, Calif.

Pitchers: Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke (5-5, 3.87) vs. Angels RHP Jaime Barria (5-2, 2.61). 

TV/Radio: FSAZ, ESPN/KMVP-FM (98.7), KHOV-FM (105.1).

Greinke is coming off his shortest start of the season, lasting just 4 2/3 innings in a 5-4 loss to the Pirates in which he allowed a season-high-tying five earned runs and issued a season-high four walks. … Greinke has allowed seven home runs in four of his past five starts. His road ERA of 5.91 is three-plus runs higher than it is at home (2.40) this season. … Greinke is 23-15 with a 3.66 ERA in 54 career appearances (48 starts) in Interleague play. … A few of the Angels have hit Greinke rather well over their careers. Luis Valbuena is 11 for 26 (.423) against him, Mike Trout is 5 for 13 (.385) and Albert Pujols is 10 for 39 (.345). … Barria is making his ninth start for the Angels and he’s allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his first eight. He’s struck out 32 batters compared to walking just nine. … Opponents are batting .237 against the 21-year-old with 12 extra-base hits in 157 total at-bats. … With runners in scoring position, Barria is holding opponents to a .200 average (5 for 25) with no extra-base hits and just three RBIs. … In four starts at Angel Stadium, Barria’s ERA is 2.14.

Coming up

Tuesday: At Anaheim, 7:07 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Matt Koch (5-3, 3.09) vs. Angels TBA.

Wednesday: Off.

Thursday: At Pittsburgh, 4:05 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Zack Godley (7-5, 4.77) vs. Pirates RHP Ivan Nova (4-5, 4.42).

Friday: At Pittsburgh, 4:05 p.m. Diamondbacks LHP Patrick Corbin (6-3, 3.48) vs. Pirates RHP Joe Musgrove (2-1, 2.16)*.

* – Stats entering Sunday’s game.

Down to last strike, Mets rally past Diamondbacks

Down to last strike, Mets rally past Diamondbacks

Brandon Nimmo hit a go-ahead two-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth inning as the New York Mets rallied for a 5-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday at Chase Field.

The Mets were down to their last out and eventually their last strike before putting together a stirring rally off Brad Boxberger (1-3), who blew his third save.

Jose Reyes, who is hitting .165, started it with a bunt down the third base line that appeared to go foul. Instead, catcher Alex Avila fielded the ball and Reyes reached.

Jose Bautista was down to his last strike when he snapped a 0-for-14 skid by ripping a double to deep right. Right fielder Jon Jay made a lunging attempt to catch it but the ball deflected off his glove and Reyes easily scored from second following defensive indifference.

Two pitches later, Nimmo cracked his 10th homer by launching Boxberger’s 0-1 pitch well over the right-field fence for a 4-3 lead.

It was New York’s first go-ahead homer in the ninth or beyond when trailing since Lucas Duda did it on Sept. 27, 2014, against Houston’s Tony Sipp at Citi Field.

After Nimmo’s homer, Asdrubal Cabrera added insurance by driving Boxberger’s 1-1 changeup 421 feet over the center field fence and adjacent to the swimming pool.

The homers lifted the Mets to their second win in games when trailing after eight innings.

The homers also gave the Mets only their fifth win in the last 23 games.

Before scoring four times, Todd Frazier lifted a sacrifice fly in the first inning.

The Diamondbacks lost for the second time when leading after eight innings. Boxberger tied a career worst by allowing four runs for the fourth time and his first instance since Sept. 20, 2016, with Tampa Bay.

Jeurys Familia (3-3), who was activated off the disabled list before the game, gave up an RBI single to Jake Lamb in the eighth but was credited with the win when Nimmo homered.

Robert Gsellman notched his third save and survived first baseman Dominic Smith dropping the throw from Cabrera at second base on Avila’s grounder. The Mets challenged the call, but the ruling stood and Gsellman quickly finished the game with Paul Goldschmidt looming on deck.

David Peralta hit an RBI double and Ketel Marte had a run-scoring groundout in the fourth as Arizona lost for the sixth time in 20 games.

Long before the wild ninth, both starters pitched well.

In his sixth start with Arizona, Clay Buchholz held the Mets to one run and four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out three, walked two, and threw a season-high 88 pitches.

New York’s Zack Wheeler retired the first 10 hitters before walking Goldschmidt. Shortly after the walk to Goldschmidt, New York starting pitcher Jason Vargas was ejected by plate umpire Jim Reynolds for arguing balls and strikes from the bench.

–Field Level Media

Hometown hero: Drafted by Diamondbacks, Phoenix native Ernie De La Trinidad off to promising start with Cougars

Hometown hero: Drafted by Diamondbacks, Phoenix native Ernie De La Trinidad off to promising start with Cougars

Last year’s Major League Baseball draft was pretty much the best-case scenario for Ernie De La Trinidad.

What’s happened since has been pretty good, too.

Selected by the team he grew up watching — the Arizona Diamondbacks — out of UNLV in the 19th round in 2017, De La Trinidad has emerged as a reliable performer for the Cougars in his first full season as a pro.

De La Trinidad, a 22-year-old outfielder, grew up in Phoenix, winning state titles in baseball and football at Mountain Pointe High School. He spent time at Central Arizona College before landing at UNLV.

When the 5-foot-9, 165-pounder found out he was drafted by the Diamondbacks, he was excited.

“I was so happy,” De La Trinidad said. “It’s my hometown team, so you root for them. … Going into the draft, I just wanted a spring training team in Arizona. I was stoked with that.”

An added benefit in his first offseason as a professional was his proximity to the Diamondbacks’ facility in Scottsdale, about a half hour from his high school. Being close meant access to Diamondbacks’ minor league hitting coordinator Chris Cron throughout the winter.

“This past offseason I really worked on controlling the zone,” De La Trinidad said. “Me being in Arizona, I have the luxury of having the spring training facility in my back yard. I go out there and hit and that’s what I practice with (Cron). The way we take batting practice is to swing at your pitch.”

De La Trinidad has drawn a team-best 32 walks this season. But he’s also having success swinging the bat.

After enduring a four-game hitless streak, he has hit in seven straight, going 12-for-27 to raise his average to .273. He belted his fifth home run in Sunday’s 4-3 win over Wisconsin to end the first half of the season. Kane County finished fourth in the eight-team Western Division at 35-34 and did not earn a playoff berth.

“The organization is big on controlling the zone,” De La Trinidad said. “It’s definitely something that I bought into big time. You just have to swing at your pitches. If I can get a hit and get a good swing on it, I’m going to go after it. If it’s something out of the hand that it doesn’t look like I can do too much with, I spit. More times than not, I’m pretty good with the eye.”

Cougars hitting coach Rick Short notes several things working in De La Trinidad’s favor. He’s a left-handed hitter, he knows the strike zone and he can play left and right field and fill in at center.

“That adds value,” Short said. “He’s got an advanced approach. He knows what he’s looking for. He knows what he can handle. He’s kind of a student of the game. He loves to prepare. He’s polished.”

In a league with much turnover throughout the season, De La Trinidad and first baseman Yoel Yanqui have been mainstays in the Cougars’ lineup. Yanqui played in 63 first-half games, while De La Trinidad played in 62.

“On a daily basis, they both make really good contact, so it keeps the ball moving, keeps the action going, not a lot of strikeouts,” Short said. “You know what you’re going to get each and every day. These guys are kind of a steady presence and it’s kind of nice to have those guys in the lineup.”

Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.