Luke Weaver hasn’t thrown a pitch for the D-backs since late May, when he was diagnosed with a forearm strain and a UCL injury, but the righty’s 2019 season isn’t necessarily over. Bill Ladson of MLB.com writes that Weaver is slated to throw a bullpen session later today, after which he could either toss a simulated game or pitch in a postseason game for a minor league affiliate. Most encouraging of all for D-backs fans is that Diamondbacks skipper Torey Lovullo tells Ladson he thinks there’s a “strong chance” Weaver will return to a big league mound in 2019.
It’s a welcome development for D-backs fans not only because some have feared that Weaver’s injury would culminate in surgery but also because the Diamondbacks have pulled themselves within two and a half games of the National League’s second Wild Card spot. With 18 games yet to play, they’re still a postseason underdog, but there’s a legitimate chance that they could find their way into a play-in game despite shipping Zack Greinke to the Astros in the final minutes of this year’s trading period. There’s also, apparently, a legitimate chance that Weaver will be able to impact that race and any subsequent postseason endeavors.
It seems unlikely that the Diamondbacks would be able to get Weaver stretched out sufficiently enough to resume his role as a conventional starter, but he could presumably work in shorter stints if he’s cleared to return. Given Robbie Ray’s recent blister issues, some added bullpen depth would be of benefit to Lovullo in the final weeks. Arizona is currently carrying a whopping 12 relievers, so it’s not as if Lovullo is lacking options, but a healthy Weaver would be superior to the majority of said options — many of whom are unproven at the MLB level.
Weaver, 26, went to the Diamondbacks along with Carson Kelly, minor league utilityman Andy Young and a Competitive Balance (Round B) draft pick in the trade that sent Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis. While some fans were frustrated by the lack of a marquee prospect headlining the deal, both Weaver and Kelly were top-tier farmhands in St. Louis before debuting and were ready to step directly onto the roster. A strong 2019 showing for Kelly and terrific early results for Weaver have helped to justify that deal for the D-backs. In 62 1/3 innings prior to going on the injured list, Weaver pitched to a 3.03 ERA (3.10 FIP, 3.83 SIERA) with 9.8 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9 and a 40.7 percent ground-ball rate. He’s controlled through the 2023 season and won’t be eligible for arbitration until the 2020-21 offseason.