- Injuries have prevented Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker from taking a big league mound since April 2018, but he said Tuesday (via Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic) he’s still hoping to make an appearance this year. The 27-year-old sat out the majority of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and has dealt with shoulder troubles this season. However, he threw his first bullpen session in four months Tuesday and came out unscathed. Walker’s absence is among the reasons the Diamondbacks’ starting staff has been shaky this year, though the club has nonetheless stayed in the National League wild-card race.
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.
Hirano, 35, landed on the injured list in mid-August while dealing with elbow inflammation. It turned out to be a three-week stint on the IL for the second-year big leaguer, who pitched a scoreless inning during a rehab appearance with the D-Backs’ High-A affiliate.
After a stellar 2018 season, Hirano has taken a step back this year, as his ERA has jumped to 4.89. However, there are still some positive indicators to suggest that he isn’t far off his 2018 performance: with an increased strikeout rate, Hirano’s FIP sits at 3.89, not far off the 3.69 mark he posted a year ago.
With his activation, Hirano will join a surging Arizona club that has won 11 of its last 12 games and finds itself in the hunt for a Wild Card spot. It remains to be seen just how Hirano, who hasn’t pitched in a big-league game in more than three weeks, will fit into the bullpen mix. However, it seems that manager Torey Lovullo will want to reinstall Hirano, who has been one of the team’s top late-inning options, into high-leverage spots shortly.
- A blister issue forced Robbie Ray to leave during the fifth inning of the Diamondbacks’ win over the Reds on Friday, though he told media (including Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic) that the removal was somewhat precautionary, as the blister hadn’t actually formed. As a result, Ray feels he’ll be able to make his next scheduled start. Ray didn’t want to leave the game but “at that point I’ve got to look at the bigger picture. It’s tough, but you understand it’s the right thing to do.” With the red-hot D’Backs on a run of 11 wins in their last 12 games, Ray (now the rotation’s veteran stalwart in the wake of the Zack Greinke trade) certainly wants to remain able to contribute to the team’s push for a wild card berth.
- With Zack Greinke wearing Astros colors these days, the Diamondbacks will likely be looking to youngster Luke Weaver to lead their pitching staff in coming seasons. After arriving in Phoenix along with catcher Carson Kelly in the deal that sent Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis, the 26-year-old Weaver flummoxed opposing hitters in his first 11 starts as a D’Back this year. His 9.82 K/9 rate and 2.02 BB/9 rate pairing were fuel for a solid 3.03 ERA over 62.1 innings, but many feared the worst when the righty went down with an elbow injury in May. Since being diagnosed with a mild right flexor pronator strain and a mild right UCL sprain, Weaver has been working on a rehab regimen that, on Monday, called for him to throw a 21-pitch simulated game before his team’s game with the Padres. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert passes word from manager Torey Luvollo regarding that sim game, with the skipper saying that Weaver’s pitches “had life” and that this episode in Weaver’s rehab represents “extremely encouraging news”. The team is expected to determine next steps depending on how the pitcher feels following today’s exercise.
We’ll track the flurry of notable callups as roster expand on September 1.
- The Mets promoted left-hander Daniel Zamora and right-hander Tyler Bashlor from Triple-A, and also selected the contract of second baseman Sam Haggerty. (The club posted a fun video on its Twitter account of the players receiving the news.) A 24th-round pick for Cleveland in the 2015 draft, Haggerty came to the Mets last winter part of the trade that sent Kevin Plawecki to the Indians. Haggerty began the year at low-A ball and worked his way up to the Show after posting a .907 OPS over 49 plate appearances at the Triple-A level.
- The Diamondbacks announced a slew of callups today. Most notably, the club has selected the contract of outfielder Abraham Almonte and recalled right-hander Jon Duplantier. Almonte, 30, has logged time as a reserve each of the past six seasons, to the tune of a career .237/.294/.367 slash (79 wRC+). Duplantier, one of the club’s top pitching prospects, has battled injury issues in recent years but offers a high-upside bullpen piece for the stretch run.
- The Rays’ September additions include a number of notable players, with Nate Lowe headlining a group of five call-ups. He’ll be joined by Peter Fairbanks and Daniel Robertson, among others.
- The Braves announced they’ve recalled utilityman Johan Camargo. Camargo was optioned after the club signed Adeiny Hechavarría to replace the injured Dansby Swanson at shortstop. Swanson’s back now, and Hechavarría is still on hand, so it’ll be a tough climb for Camargo, who’s mired in a dreadful season. He’s only a year removed from a productive age-24 campaign, though.
- The Padres will select the contract of right-handed reliever David Bednar, reports Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (via Twitter). The 24 year-old gets a little lost among the Padres’ loaded system, but he boasts a pair of plus offerings in his fastball and curveball, opine Kiley McDaniel and Eric Lognenhagen of Fangraphs. Despite a less-than-stellar reputation for his command, Bednar has dazzled in the Texas League this season, pitching to a 2.95 ERA with elite strikeout (35.8%) and walk (7.5%) numbers.
- The Indians announced today they have selected the contracts of Ryan Flaherty and James Hoyt. They’ve also recalled Eric Haase. Flaherty’s solid Triple-A work this year has earned him his seventh consecutive big league season, where he’ll serve as infield depth for the club down José Ramírez. Hoyt logged 72.2 innings with the Astros from 2016-2018 and offers right-handed bullpen depth, while Haase, 26, is a power-hitting catcher with contact issues.
- The Yankees announced they have selected left-hander Tyler Lyons. The veteran reliever just signed a minor-league contract with the organization a few weeks ago and adds depth to a loaded bullpen. Right-hander David Hale was transferred to the 60-day injured list to clear 40-man space. The Bombers also recalled right-handers Ryan Dull and Chance Adams and outfielder Clint Frazier.
- The Cardinals have selected catcher Joe Hudson, per a team announcement. The 28 year-old got into eight games last year with the Angels. He’s had a tough season offensively with Triple-A Memphis, slashing .223/.293/.411. Outfielder Lane Thomas was transferred to the 60-day injured list with a season-ending wrist injury. Anne Rogers of MLB.com tweets that veteran backstop Matt Wieters is day-to-day with a calf strain, so the club elected to bring Hudson and Andrew Knizner aboard to bolster their catching depth.
- The Brewers announced they have selected the contract of first baseman Tyler Austin. A former Yankee, Twin and Giant, Austin has a strong minor-league track record and brings some right-handed power, but has mustered only a .220/.288/.451 line in 556 career MLB plate appearances thanks to untenable strikeout rates.
- Top Astros prospect Kyle Tucker isn’t up yet, but he will be shortly, tweets Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Houston’s additional reinforcements will be announced tomorrow, Rome adds. The 22 year-old corner outfielder has again laid waste to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and has nothing left to prove at the minor-league level, but opportunities have been few and far between in the Astros’ loaded lineup.
- Just-acquired first baseman Ryan McBroom will be selected to the Royals’ active roster shortly, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. As Flanagan notes, the 27 year-old was likely to be added to the 40-man this offseason to protect him from the Rule V draft regardless, so there’s little harm in giving him his first taste of MLB action in the meantime. The former 15th-rounder has put up strong offensive numbers throughout his minor-league career, culminating in a .315/.402/.574 line in the Triple-A International League this season.
- The season-ending right shoulder surgery Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta had this week went according to plan, general manager Mike Hazen announced (via Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic). Hazen revealed it was a fairly minor “cleanup” procedure of Peralta’s AC joint, and it shouldn’t prevent him from participating in a normal spring training. Peralta’s shoulder troubles forced him to the IL three times this season and limited him to 99 games, in which he batted .275/.343/.461 and hit 12 homers in 423 PA.
The Diamondbacks have had mixed results when buying low on relievers under GM Mike Hazen’s regime, but Hazen tells The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan (subscription required) that prior outcomes won’t close off his mind to any avenues when building his ’pen this winter. “Shutting yourself off to whatever’s happened in the past, or hard-and-fast making rules that you won’t do something again, that just sets you up to miss out on the next opportunity,” said Hazen.
Arizona’s run with the Fernando Rodney Experience yielded solid results in 2017, though more recent matches with Brad Boxberger and in particular, Greg Holland, have been less fruitful. The Diamondbacks’ low-cost acquisition of Yoshihisa Hirano has paid dividends. The organization has plenty of young arms it could trot out next season in hopes of compiling a strong collective unit, but Hazen also cautioned against leaning too heavily on young relievers, which can be tantamount to “flipping coins” in the ’pen. A high-end bullpen signing would be out of character for Hazen & Co., but it seems reasonable to expect some upside plays to pair with the team’s incumbent options.
- Diamondbacks right-hander Luke Weaver continues progressing toward a 2019 return, Richard Morin of the Arizona Republic relays. Weaver, out since late May with a UCL strain and a flexor sprain in his pitching arm, will throw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Friday, and the club will determine where to go from there. While Weaver was eminently effective out of the Diamondbacks’ rotation earlier this season, the lack of time left in the campaign will force him to pitch from their bullpen if he does return. Meantime, the news is less encouraging for fellow righty Taijuan Walker, whose 2018 Tommy John surgery and ’19 shoulder problems have stopped him from taking a major league mound this season. Walker is throwing, but it’s “unlikely” that he’ll come back this year, Morin writes.
- The Diamondbacks released left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski over the weekend, per the Pacific Coast League’s transactions page. The D-backs have now waved goodbye to “Scrabble” twice this season – they cut the 33-year-old at the end of May, only to re-sign him a few weeks later. Rzepczynski has spent the year with their Triple-A affiliate in Reno, where he has pitched to a 5.04 ERA/6.25 FIP with 7.25 K/9, 5.64 BB/9 and a 53.8 percent groundball rate in 44 2/3 innings.