D-backs' win-now mentality on display

Team's shakeup in rotation extends beyond Henry's callup

April 25th, 2023

PHOENIX -- As players began filtering into the D-backs’ clubhouse Monday afternoon, there was a locker sitting empty that less than 24 hours before belonged to right-hander .

Following a start Sunday in which he lasted just one inning, the D-backs decided to option the highly rated prospect to Triple-A Reno. And in the process, they sent a message to everyone else.

“You got to perform,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said of what the move communicated. “And if you don't, then there's competitive understudies waiting to take your job. That's how it should be, and I think everybody in that room knows that we've got really good young players, talented players throughout the system, and there's more coming.”

There was a time as recently as last season when a pitcher would have gotten a longer leash. But this edition of the D-backs, who sit at 13-11 after a 5-4 win over the Royals on Monday night at Chase Field, is not afforded that because the organization believes it’s ready to win.

“I think we have reached a certain standard right now that you’ve got to go out and perform -- because our expectations are to win and not to develop,” Lovullo said. “We’ll continue to develop here and we want to win baseball games. And if you're not doing your job, we're going to look elsewhere.”

The fact that got the start Monday is evidence of that.

The 25-year-old was starting in the rotation spot that formerly belonged to veteran Madison Bumgarner, whom the team designated for assignment last week despite owing him around $34 million.

Bumgarner was simply not performing, compiling a 10.26 ERA in four starts. With every game possibly mattering toward a potential postseason berth, the team let him go.

So Henry took Bumgarner’s spot, and the team will promote someone to take Jameson’s turn the next time it comes up. , ranked by MLB Pipeline as the organization’s No. 3 prospect, is a strong candidate to get the call.

Henry, who made nine starts for the D-backs in his first MLB season last year, struggled with his control against K.C., walking four while allowing three runs over 4 1/3 innings.

“Probably more than I'd like to admit to myself,” Henry said when asked if he had some extra nerves for the start. “Which is I think why it took me a couple pitches to settle in. But once you realize it's the same game -- stakes are a little bit higher, but same game, same process, same job for me -- it makes it a little easier to settle in.”

Henry allowed a one-out homer to Edward Olivares in the first inning and walked the next two batters on eight pitches.

That prompted a mound visit from pitching coach Brent Strom, who pointed out to Henry that he was trying to place the ball instead of throwing it.

“Sometimes, you just got to let it rip and it'll spot up better than if you're trying to spot up,” Henry said. “Just kind of had to free up, let loose a little bit. And that was the adjustment Strommy actually cued me in on when he came out to the mound in the first inning, and that helped a lot.”

The plan is for Henry to take this spot in the rotation and run with it, but as the D-backs have demonstrated, he’ll have to keep producing.

“Some of our starters are young, and they'll step up and they're going to grow and they're going learn,” Lovullo said. “They have to. When kids come up here from player development, they are stepping into an environment where we expect them to contribute right away.

“Some organizations, some teams and not too long ago when you got called up you were able to kind of find your way and just figure it out slowly. We can't do that here, nor do I want us to do that here. We’ve got really talented players, so those players are coming from Triple-A, they need to be ready to go -- and they know that.

“That's been our messaging -- and not just ready to go but performing at the level that we expect them to.”