In need of some left-handed help to add to a bullpen that was starting to lean dramatically to the right, the D-backs made a pair of moves over the last two days that should ignite some good competition in Spring Training.
On the heels of re-signing veteran lefty Mike Hampton to a minor league deal, the D-backs selected Joe Paterson in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. If you made it out to watch the D-backs prospects play for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall league, you might already be familiar with Paterson, who was there representing the San Francisco Giants. (If the above photos look strange to you then, well your instincts are correct. Paterson was loaned to the Phoenix Desert Dogs for a day to get some work and help give a day off to some Desert Dogs hurlers.)
Paterson’s effectiveness is tied as much to his funky delivery as his actual stuff as the photos here should demonstrate. And lefthanders do seem to have a great deal of trouble picking up his pitches; they hit just .216 off him this year. He’s a nice, low-risk Rule 5 pick because lefty specialists are the kind of position that can be overpaid in the free agent market relative to the finite amount of innings they pitch. And because Hampton is on a minor league deal, if he and Paterson are going neck-and-neck next March, they actually could keep both by moving Hampton to Reno out of the gate.
The focus was pretty obvious for the D-backs during these winter meetings — the pitching needed major upgrades. The team, already happy with the first four spots in the rotation (Kennedy/Hudson/Saunders/Enright) was able to take a flier on a fifth starter in Zach Duke while also adding four new pieces to the bullpen (Putz/Hernandez/Mickolio/Paterson).
“The starting pitching is better, the bullpen is better, character I think will be better, experience is better, versatility will be better,” D-backs General Manager Kevin Towers said.
“There may be less power but we scored runs last year. We scored enough runs but we just didn’t hold them, if you look at our run differential. We were about league average in offense, they just scored too many runs on us.”
Random note: Joe Paterson played college baseball at Oregon State University. He pitched on the Beavers’ 2006 National Championship winning team where he was a teammate of D-backs outfielder Cole Gillespie.
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.