PHOENIX – In a desperate search for a pitcher who can link victories together, the Arizona Diamondbacks may have found an answer in lefty Alex Young.
If his third appearance in Sedona Red on Sunday was any indication, Young, a 25-year-old out of Westlake, Ohio, proved he can simply get hitters out and with efficiency. After all, manager Torey Lovullo and other Arizona decision-makers would agree that’s the bottom line of any pitcher. Coming into the All-Star break, the Diamondbacks have only one starter above .500 and that’s Zack Greinke at 10-3. Lefty Robbie Ray stands precariously at the even mark with a 6-6 record and no other starter remains in that category.
After Young’s stellar effort before 22,964 Sunday afternoon in Chase Field, the lefty certainly attracted attention. Pulled by Lovullo after six hitless innings, Young allowed only one base runner for those six innings and that was a one-out walk to Tony Wolters in the third. After Arizona came away with a 5-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies Sunday afternoon, Young helped the Diamondbacks end the traditional half-way point of their season with a weekend sweep of NL West Division-rival Rockies.
At the break, the Diamondbacks are 46-45, and last season, the team was 53-44 at the same point. The team faltered in September and then finished two games over .500 at 82-80.
For now, Young left a significant calling card to enter the rotation, and that was a message heard loud and clear. Lovullo, for one, told reporters after Sunday’s game, Young receives “my vote is to give him the baseball in the next five days,” Lovullo said.
By removing Young with a no-hitter and just 71 pitches over his outing, Lovullo reinforced the changing nature of baseball. In recent years, a pitcher of Young’s accomplishments would have likely remained in the contest. Now, the evolution of the game, with prescribed pitch counts and role players in the bullpen, represents pronounced changes. Clearly, the fans recognized Young’s accomplishment and booed Lovullo’s decision to place in Yoshihisa Hirano on the mound to start the seventh inning.
At the same time, both Lovullo and Young agreed that pushing an unrealistic pitch count, and risking injury, was clearly subordinate to the main objective of winning the game.
“I want to be healthy and this is a team game,” Young told Fancred and other reporters after the game. “I want to do what’s best for the team and that’s what (Lovullo) thought. I agreed with that. I was happy with everything and pitch selection. Can’t complain about that.”
Prior to the game, Lovullo and the medical staff developed a pitch count of around 70 pitches and that criteria was strictly adhered. The fact Young had a no-hitter after six innings did not enter into any equation. It’s the health of the athlete which remains paramount, Lovullo pointed out.
During his playing career, Lovullo affirmed he saw pitchers push themselves to physical limits and unrealistic expectations. Now, there is a plethora of medical information, scientific data regarding the human body and factors of endurance and limitation. All entered into Lovullo's decision to remove Young.
“I was part of that generation that would just run that tank dry,” Lovullo said. “I saw personally what some of my teammates would go through from a health standpoint. Perhaps, they were hiding from trainers and what they would have to do to gear up to do four, five from now. I know the impact and what it does to the body. There may not have been enough information about certain things that we have today. The strategy has changed, the game has changed, and the game has evolved. That’s where we are at, these days. We have to preserve these guys for as long as we can.”
From an offensive perspective, Young was pushed to victory by a two-run single from Christian Walker in the sixth and that proceeded a two-run homer from Nick Ahmed later in that inning.
After the break …
Over the All-Star break, Lovullo expects players to take an emotional break from the game but not a physical one. Before Sunday’s game, he told reporters he expects players to continue with land drills and encourages, as he said, “to pick up a baseball.” The players reconvene Thursday afternoon in Chase Field and then bused to the airport for the initial road trip of the post-All-Star period.
That first stop is Friday night in St. Louis and three with the Cardinals. Then, on to Arlington and two with the Texas Rangers. The Diamondbacks return to Chase Field on July 18 and face the Milwaukee Brewers.