D-backs still waiting for rotation to gel

April 8th, 2021

Six games into a Major League season is not enough time to draw any hard and fast conclusions about a team, but one thing seems clear about the D-backs right now -- their starting pitchers need to pick up the pace.

The D-backs' two-game winning streak came to a halt Wednesday night when they fell, 8-0, to the Rockies at Coors Field and left the ballpark for the night hoping their best player, Ketel Marte, is not hurt seriously.

How rare is a D-backs shutout at Coors Field? In franchise history, they've played there 202 times and including Wednesday it's now happened twice.

Madison Bumgarner (0-2) got the start for Arizona and allowed five runs on eight hits over five innings.

"I thought Bum, today, he was OK in spurts," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "But there were just too many three-ball counts and some situations where he had some misfires to some hitter's hot zones and just could never really get anything going."

Bumgarner was signed by the D-backs before last season with the hopes that he would be a staff ace. Last year was a struggle for him, but the team believed that with a full offseason and a regular Spring Training and start to the 2021 campaign that he would return to the form he displayed when he was an All-Star and World Series hero with the Giants.

So far this year, he's given up 11 runs across nine innings over two starts.

"We know that he’s working hard," Lovullo said. "He’s got a process, he’s got a plan and he’s prepared. This game can be unrewarding at times. I think just consistency with locating the baseball is very important for him and all of our pitchers. I think when he fine-tunes that you’re going to see a better version than what you’ve seen so far this season."

The D-backs need to see a better version of all their starting pitchers if they hope to compete for a playoff spot this year.

With each starter having pitched once (and Bumgarner twice) so far, the only starter to really pitch well was Taylor Widener, who tossed six shutout innings against the Padres.

The rest of the rotation has combined to allow 20 runs in 21 2/3 innings.

"I view [the rotation] the same way you guys do and everybody that's watching us play," Lovullo said. "I think you got to find consistency in your starting rotation that's going to go out there and give you a chance to win a ballgame. In the games that we've been in, the starting pitching has done that. In the games that we have not been in, the starting pitching has been less than we expect."

The D-backs already have made one adjustment to the rotation, shifting Caleb Smith to the bullpen. Who takes his place in the rotation remains to be seen.

And there will be more changes ahead as well.

Their best starter, Zac Gallen, is on the injured list with a hairline fracture in his forearm. It appears he will be back sooner than later and at that point the D-backs will need to make room for him in the rotation.

In the meantime, they'll have to make do with what they have.