By Greg Dillard
The D-backs shook up their bullpen Wednesday, recalling right-hander Esmerling Vasquez from Triple-A Reno, and optioning right-hander Kam Mickolio to Reno.
Vasquez is a familiar name at Chase Field as this marks his third season with the big league club. He made his debut in 2009, and has spent the majority of the last two season in the Major Leagues. During that time, Vasquez has posted a 4.81 ERA in 110 games.
Vasquez enjoyed a strong Spring Training, but just narrowly missed making the Opening Day roster. He didn’t have to wait long, just under three weeks, before receiving the call to the big leagues.
In his first day back in the Majors, Vasquez took the mound in the top of the fifth inning and retired Skip Schumaker to end the inning. He threw another full inning, allowing just one hit.
In his lone outing for Reno this season, Vasquez tossed a scoreless inning without allowing a base runner.
The young hurler is pleased with his recent results and is excited to be back in Sedona red.
“I’m working hard and I feel more comfortable with my mechanics,” Vasquez said.
As Vasquez embarks on his third season at the Major League level, he hopes to continue improving and learning.
“Every year you learn more,” Vasquez said. “When you see a couple pitchers who have a lot of time, you watch and you learn. I take something.”
Gutierrez rebounds after recent struggles
After struggling on the mound in recent outings, allowing three earned runs in each of his last two appearances, D-backs relief pitcher Juan Gutierrez began to look like his old self on Wednesday night.
Gutierrez entered the game in the top of the seventh inning, and threw two innings of one-hit, shutout baseball against the Cardinals.
In his two innings of work, Gutierrez struck out three of the seven batters he faced.
“Gutierrez threw good,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “We had him on the mound before the game trying to get him to not overdo it. He threw the ball great tonight, and located much better. His breaking ball was much sharper.”
In the seventh, Gutierrez allowed a leadoff double, but quickly turned things around. One batter later, he induced a groundout off the bat of Jon Jay.
The next two Cardinals hitters, Allen Craig and David Freese, were strikeout victims.
The eighth was a little smoother for the right-hander. Schumaker lined out to the third baseman Melvin Mora before Gutierrez received a fly out and another strikeout to cap off his impressive performance.
Paterson tosses scoreless ninth
Gibson called on southpaw Joe Paterson to take over the pitching duties in the ninth, and Paterson showed why he belongs at the big league level.
Paterson toed the rubber, hoping to provide a quick inning for his team.
“I felt good,” Paterson said. “I wanted to come in, throw strikes, and get us back in as quick as we can.”
Paterson struck out opposing pitcher Eduardo Sanchez to start the inning. Next up was Cardinals centerfielder Colby Rasmus, who had already collected three hits in the game.
Paterson froze Rasmus for strike three and the second out of the inning. After Daniel Descalso singled to left, Paterson ended the frame by getting Jay to hit a weak groundout back to the mound.
It was another solid outing for the D-backs’ lone bullpen lefty. Paterson entered tonight’s contest with a 0.00 ERA in five appearances.
“It was good,” Paterson said. “I shouldn’t have ever gone full count with the pitcher, but it happens. My goal was to try and get guys out pretty quick. I was glad to go out there and pitch.”
David Hernandez – Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
With all position players now in camp, Spring Training workouts are in full swing for the D-backs.
The third day of full squad workouts took place on Monday morning, and pitchers faced off against live hitters for the first time this spring.
While pitchers get acclimated to the game environment, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson was unsure of who will pitch in Friday’s opening game against the defending world champion San Francisco Giants.
“All the pitchers have now thrown,” Gibson said. “They’ve had their sides on and off, on and off. They all have thrown live today, see how everybody comes out of that. Want to make sure there’s no soreness in shoulders, or forearms, or elbows and stuff like that.”
Blum brings veteran presence, adds depth
One of Kevin Towers’ first moves as new General Manager of the D-backs was to sign infielder Geoff Blum.
Blum brings a strong veteran presence, and much needed experience to an Arizona roster that had a youthful look in recent years.
“I think the expectations are that you stick around long enough you garner hopefully a little more respect by the experiences you’ve been through,” Blum said. “I’ve been fortunate to be on some really good teams, really bad teams, and some interesting teams. I think coming here into this clubhouse and some of the rumors you hear about what had happened in the past. I think that’s exactly what it is, the past. We’re a whole new ball club.”
While Blum is highly regarded as a role player off the bench, he is also in the midst of a position battle at third base.
“So far so good,” Blum said. “Obviously I’m just happy to be here and have a job. To be put in a situation here in Arizona, is going to be a special thing for me. I’m just happy to be even mentioned in the competition at third base.”
Gibson said that the influx of veterans is already paying dividends.
“They’ve got great attitudes,” Gibson said. “They work hard. They go about their business. We’ve talked about Blanco; Blum is the same way, Mora, Bloomquist. They all have different aspects about them. It’s contagious. It’s what we were hoping for.”
Hernandez hopes to make impact in bullpen
David Hernandez is only a week into his D-backs career, but the right-handed hurler is excited to be a part of the new-look D-backs.
Hernandez and fellow reliever Kam Mickolio were shipped from Baltimore to Arizona in exchange for Mark Reynolds over the offseason.
Hernandez offered some insight on his longtime teammate Mickolio.
“He’s really tall,” Hernandez said. “He throws from a wide angle that I couldn’t repeat. He’s got a good repertoire. He just deserves a chance. It was really tough for him over in Baltimore, but I think he’s got a little more opportunities over here.”
Last season, Hernandez sported a 4.31 ERA in 79 1/3 innings of work. He also collected two saves with the Orioles, and will most likely serve as a late inning reliever for the D-backs.
Towers added the two pitchers in hopes that they will revitalize a bullpen that was dreadful in 2010.
“It’s definitely complimentary when he goes out of his way and he trades somebody that is proven big leaguer that hits home runs,” Hernandez said. “I’m happy to be a part of that package, and I’m happy that Kam came along with me. It’s definitely good to come in here knowing at least one person. It’s been really easy to get along with everybody in here.”
Photography: Greg Fiume/Getty Images
The D-backs’ most significant move so far this offseason was the trade that sent third Mark Reynolds to the Baltimore Orioles for a pair of right-handed pitchers.
Those pitchers — David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio — will add depth to an Arizona bullpen that is getting stronger by the day.
Hernandez is the key piece in the deal, as he experienced some real success after being moved from the rotation to the bullpen last year, which suits him in part because he is primarily a two-pitch guy (fastball/curve combo with an occasional changeup).
He made his last start of the year on May 21, and from then on was quite good. In his last 33 games, he threw 37 innings with a 3.16 ERA, with 45 strikeouts and 13 walks.
Hernandez’s opponent-hitting numbers were solid in that time, holding batters to a .236 average, .310 on-base percentage and a .371 slugging percentage. Hernandez should easily slide into the back of the bullpen for the D-backs this season, as his stuff should work in a late-inning role. He dials up his fastball in the low- to mid-90s (average fastball was 93.6 MPH in 2010).
Mickolio is a bit more of a mystery, as he has less big league experience. He’s pretty huge — 6-foot-9, 255 pounds, which I think makes him the third-tallest D-backs player ever, after Randy Johnson and Jon Rauch — and has made a handful of appearances for Baltimore over the last three years. In that time he’s posted a 4.32 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 14 walks in 25 innings.
His ERA has been high at Triple-A the last two years (5.80 in 2009 then 6.37 in 2010) although his strikeout and walk rates were essentially the same as when he was quite successful there (1.80 ERA) in 17 2008 games. He might well be an example of ERA being a poor way to judge a reliever.
Random note: Mickolio was born in Wolf Point, Mont. and went to high school in Bozeman, making him one of only three Montana natives playing in the big leagues right now (along with Taylor Tankersley, who was born in Montana but didn’t go to H.S. there, and Rob Johnson). There have only been 26 Montanans all time in the big leagues.