After losing Patrick Corbin for the year because of getting Tommy John Surgery and then dropping both games to the Dodgers in Australia to begin the season, it was hard to think the momentum going into the Diamondbacks home opener at Chase Field on Monday against the Giants could be any worse.
That was until news came down on Friday that their set-up man, David Hernandez, has a partial tear of the UCL ligament in his elbow and could also need season ending Tommy John Surgery.
“It’s not something that happens over night and is something that he’s been dealing with over time this spring and probably hoped it was just tendonitis,” D-Backs Writer for MLB.com Steve Gilbert told Jeff Munn on the Brad Cesmat Show on Friday. “I know this morning, when I exchanged texts with him it was real tough pill to swallow.”
“He thought it was tendonitis and to get the results back of it being a partial tear, that a big blow unless something is drastically different in the second opinion but usually it’s not,” he added. “It spells the end of the year for him.”
So now the question is who fills this void? Newly acquired Addison Reed has cemented himself as the closer but after that, one would think the former closer, J.J. Putz would be the man for the job.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about J.J. because he hasn’t had the greatest of springs and I know there has been some talk about his velocity being down,” Gilbert mentioned. “You’ll see that with veterans and you never know during spring training whether you should be concerned or not.”
“Kirk Gibson talked in Australia about using J.J. in lower leverage situations and getting his feet underneath him,” he explained. “It may be J.J. in the 8th but you might first see a guy like Brad Ziegler in the 8th.”
Ziegler is coming off of a season where he started the year in the seventh inning role and finished the year as the closer. It has been noted that the Diamondbacks prefer putting him in when there are runners on base because of his ability to get ground balls. That type of role isn’t always conducive for someone needed to enter the game as the set-up man. But could there be a young, up-and-coming player that could step in to fill the void so that the veterans and specialists can stay in position?
“I think a guy like Will Harris who probably makes the team because of the injury to Hernandez is a guy you want to keep an eye on,” Gilbert stated. “He’s had a very nice spring and he had a very nice year for them last year. So that’s another name to keep in mind.”
Kirk Gibson had mentioned on Thursday that he was looking to keep two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen with Joe Thatcher and Oliver Perez. Whether or not he said that knowing what was going on with Hernandez is uncertain, but that may become more of a reality because of the injury.
A lot of decisions will be made over the weekend before the Diamondbacks officially take the field for the rest of their 160 game haul. A good start against the Giants starting on Monday at home could be just what this teams to turn this negative momentum in the right direction.