Bullpen frustration continues for Diamondbacks

Over the first six weeks of the season, the starting pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks has been steady and productive. The same could be said for the bullpen but only until recent times.

Earlier in the present home stand, manager Torey Lovullo told reporters he had “minimal concern” concerning difficulties encountered by relievers. Citing a strong body of work over the first month of the season, Lovullo made the point several times during the current Atlanta series that he retains full confidence in his bullpen.

Yet, another consequence transpired on Saturday. That would be the continued dilemma centered around Archie Bradley. Surrendering two runs in an important eighth inning, Bradley’s demise was instrumental why the Braves came away with a 6-4 victory over the Diamondbacks before 33,168 in Chase Field.

After a melt-down at Coors Field last weekend against the Rockies, in which he allowed four earned runs without retiring a hitter on May 5, the anguish continued Saturday. Coming into the eighth and the Braves holding a 3-1 lead, Bradley gave up three hits and two runs in 1/3 of an inning. Over his last seven games, including Saturday’s outing against the Braves, Bradley holds an 8.59 ERA and told Fancred he is beyond exasperated.

“It’s frustrating and I’m not making many good pitches,” Bradley said. “Plus, doing that consecutively is not very much fun. Yeah, I’ve been watching film and trying to figure it out. Not fun giving up runs and I’m working hard trying to figure it out. It’s not just there now.”

After pulled by Lovullo in the eight, Bradley held boos from the Chase Field faithful and starting to put his hand through a water cooler. On second thought, he exercised better judgment, realized the season essentially just began and the team will need him going forward.

“I’m checking every box, but I’m not getting outs the way I need to do that,” Bradley added. “We’ll continue to work, look at what’s going on and try to right the ship.”

Equally, the offense has slowed and run production, at a high level earlier in the season, has dropped. Including Saturday, the Diamondbacks scored 15 runs in their last six games. In that period, the team dropped four of those six contests.

“In the last couple of games, we have been just one hit away,” infielder Wilmer Flores told Fancred after Saturday’s game. “We’re getting traffic on the bases but one swing away. We just can’t a big hit. We’re getting on base and doing everything right. It seems like when that time comes, we’re not getting the big hit. It will come. This is just baseball. Pitchers will make pitches and we’ll chase. We have too good of a team not to make the adjustments. We’ll be fine.”

Latest transaction …

Prior to Saturday’s game with Atlanta, the Diamondbacks reinstated catcher Alex Avila from the disabled list.

Sidelined with a strained left quadriceps, Avila sustained the injury during a game against the Boston Red Sox on April 5. At the time, the veteran back-stopper was hitting .333 (5-for-15) with two homers and 5 RBIs in the six games in which he appeared.

While a quad injury requires complete rest and away from physical activity, the Diamondbacks took caution with Avila’s recovery.

“If we gave (Avila) a good amount of time to recover, he would make through the rest the season,” Lovullo told Fancred before Saturday’s game. “We front-loaded on the rest-side and made sure he was ready.”

To make room on the 25-man roster, the Diamondbacks optioned infielder Ildemaro Vegas to Triple AAA Reno after Friday night’s game.

Just hours after activated, Avila was back in the lineup and caught starter Merrill Kelly on Saturday. For the night, Avila went 0-for-3 and a walk.

The series finale …

The Braves set wraps up with a Sunday matinee. Zack Godley, demoted to the bullpen, will get the start for Arizona. Godley enters his seventh start of the season with a 1-2 record and 7.49 ERA. He draws lefty Max Fried (4-2, 2.97) as his mound opponent.

Starting Monday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates come in for three and three with the Giants next weekend closes the current homestand.