As we will try to do on every Arizona Diamondbacks’ off-day, we will provide you with some thoughts on stories pertaining to the team that we otherwise wouldn’t get to because of game action and the like. With the Diamondbacks off until Friday when they play the Miami Marlins, here is your first taste of this occasional feature.
You may have noticed this over the past several games, but “Tatman” Ryan Roberts has been riding the pine for the past several games for the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his place at third base has been Cody Ransom, a 36-year old journeyman who has been hitting the ball very well and took advantage of the fact that Roberts has been struggling this season.
Whether those struggles are being caused just by a standard temporary slump or the fact that Roberts puts a ton of pressure on himself can be argued (although Gibson seems to be in the camp that he is putting the pressure on himself), the fact is that Roberts is a hindrance when he is in the lineup so far this season. He is hitting .182, has a home run and 7 RBI, and he has struck out 12 times already this season. He has also stolen two bases, but both of those game in the same game, so his speed isn’t really being used all that adequately either.
There isn’t much doubt that Roberts will eventually break out of his slump, but with Ransom playing as well as he has been, Gibson almost is forced to continue to insert him in the lineup until his “fever breaks”.
Now, when the story about Daniel Hudson suffering a shoulder impingement came out last week, there wasn’t a lot of cursing of the Gods among Diamondbacks fans. Everyone in the organization seemed to be in unison that it wasn’t a serious injury, and it was pretty much left at that.
Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic revealed in his article on Hudson that there actually is reason for concern. Fans of the team are intimately familiar with what an impingement can mean, because staff ace Brandon Webb suffered one in 2009, and after he had surgery later that year, he hasn’t pitched a single inning in the Majors since.
To his credit, Gibson didn’t seem too concerned about it, putting a positive spin on the MRI results.
There are a few things that need to be addressed in terms of Hudson. The first and primary among those is that the team should not make the mistake of rushing him back. Shoulder injuries are very similar to groin injuries, in that it’s almost impossible to make a bulletproof diagnosis as to how long it will take someone to come back from one. With that knowledge, as well as Hudson’s status as arguably the co-ace of the staff along with Ian Kennedy, the team cannot afford to make a decision based on short-term considerations rather than long term implications, and Hudson needs to stay on the shelf as long as he needs to.
The other thing that is brought up in the linked article above is the question of whether or not Wade Miley will make the next start in the rotation when it comes up. As of right now, that will be Sunday against Miami, and Gibson declined to announce for sure that Miley will be the guy, with the likely reason being in case he is needed to pitch in long relief on either Friday or Saturday.
The reality of this situation is that Miley earned another start with his tremendous performance on Monday against the Phillies. He looked like he was in complete command of his pitches, and although he doesn’t have the most overpowering stuff on the planet, the fact of the matter remains that he still pitched well enough to get another shot, and Gibson could do a lot worse than hand the ball to him again.
As for Chris Young, the news isn’t as good for him, as the team’s initial timetable of two to three weeks seems to be out the window for the time being. Gibson said that he did not expect the center fielder to be back in 15 days, so it appears as though the team’s offense will be without its primary catalyst at least for the time being.
Fortunately for Arizona, Justin Upton is starting to hit the ball better, so he may be in a better position to help them weather the storm without their center fielder. There is still little doubt, however, that Gibson is rubbing his rabbit’s foot to try to prevent another injury in a season that has seemed to be full of them.
Jason Kubel doesn’t get a lot of love from fans of the Diamondbacks, and that leads directly back to his usurping of the left field job from Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra. People complained at length about replacing that caliber of defensive player with a guy like Kubel, who is far more known for his bat. His early season struggles at the ditch seemed to gird those doubters, but they have started to retreat from their insults as time has worn on.
Especially lately with regular playing time thanks to Young being on the shelf, Kubel has started to swing the bat a lot better, and he is making some very solid contact just about every time he steps up to the dish. He has struck out 19 times already this season, but he now has the best batting average of any active player on the team, and he has driven in nine runs so far this year.
If he can keep up that kind of production, the movement to replace him in left field will definitely be more subdued when Young returns to center.
As for the topic of the link above, it details how Kubel is on pace to destroy the team record for assists in a season by an outfielder. He already has five so far this year, which leads the league. The team record for assists was set by Parra a year ago, when he racked up 12 of them. At his current pace, Kubel will end up with about 40, but that does seem a bit unlikely. That could be an underrated story line as the season wears on, and it will be interesting to see if teams continue to try to test Kubel defensively knowing that he has the capability to throw guys out regularly.