Starting rotation remains nagging dilemma for Lovullo

PHOENIX — Over the recent past, manager Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks began to hear the boo birds. Certainly, these are not the endearing contingent one might find, say, in Philadelphia, but there are rumblings. It’s something like those birds flocking to the house in Bodega Bay during Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film.

Some comments center around Lovullo’s choice of a pitcher at any given time. The manager has come under the microscope for his use of reliever Archie Bradley in challenging situations and drew the indignation of many for leaving starter Merrill Kelly in Tuesday’ night’s game longer than reasonable. That’s when Colorado catcher Chris Iannnetta tagged Kelly for a two-run homer and the key hit in an eventual Arizona defeat.

Yet, a larger scenario seems how to organize, structure and manage a starting rotation now in disarray. Now with three starters,  who were penciled in sometime during the season out of sight, the core of the rotation is down to Zack Greinke, considered as the titular head of the staff, and lefty Robbie Ray. Kelly remains in the mix but for only lack of other productive arms.

At the start of the season, three starters now out were given serious consideration to form the core of the rotation, While Taijuan Walker, recovering from Tommy John surgery was not due back until the All-Star break at the earliest, that still afforded Lovullo a reliable starter for the second half of the season.

During the most recent homestand, Walker suffered a setback in his rehabilitation. That’s when a right capsule strain was discovered. Following injection, the medical staff told Walker not to touch a baseball for six weeks, and that puts the right-hander out for essentially the rest of the season.

The Walker news was a revelation during the recent homestand and while the Diamondbacks complete their present trip away from the desert, more revelations.

Right-hander Luke Weaver, whose 4-3 record and 3.03 ERA in 11 starts represent the kind of consistency Lovullo seeks, is now out for an indefinite period of time. In his last start May 26 in San Francisco, Weaver complained of tightness in his right arm and, as a precaution, took himself out. After examination by the medical staff, Weaver was placed on the disabled list and returned to Phoenix for a second opinion. While that is forthcoming, any time a second opinion is requested is not generally a good sign.

With Walker out and so is Weaver, complete the trifecta with right-hander Zack Godley.

Once considered an important and vital component of the rotation, Godley has woefully underachieved. Demoted twice to the bullpen, where he now resides, Godley’s spot in the rotation seems to be filled on “at-need” basis. Right-hander Taylor Clarke was promoted from Triple AAA Reno to fill Godley’s spot and, for now, remains in the rotation. Coming into his next start on Thursday against the Rockies, Clarke is 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA in two, 2019 starts.

Going forward, the issue is how to deal with Weaver’s loss. Because Weaver’s next start is scheduled for Saturday, Lovullo has not named a pitcher in his place. As the rotation is now structured, Greinke would face Jacob deGrom of the Mets on Saturday and Kelly draws lefty Steven Matz as his mound opponent for Sunday.

The next day off for Arizona is not until Thursday, June 6 and that predates a period of 23 games in 24 days, including 13 on the road. With that kind of grind, the rotation needs to be as steady and sturdy as any point in the season.

Next …

After concluding the current road trip in Denver on Thursday, the Diamondbacks return for a six-game homestand. First in are the New York Mets beginning Friday night for three and the Los Angeles Dodgers follow for three.

As the dilemma of the rotation remains acute, Lovullo has not named a starter for Friday. The Mets are scheduled to go with righty Zack Wheeler (4-3, 4.63 ERA).

The series concludes with a night game Saturday and a Sunday matinee.

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