By Justin Toscano
After vying for first place with the Colorado Rockies at the end of April, the Arizona Diamondbacks have now fallen into third place in the National League West.
The club is 15-8 at home entering Monday’s game against the New York Mets, but just 6-10 on the road this year. Additionally, the D-backs are 4-6 in their last 10 games after splitting a four-game home series against the Pirates over the weekend.
“To have to go to Washington, it’s not an easy place to play,” said Diamondbacks’ President and CEO Derrick Hall in a May 11 interview with Sports360AZ’s Brad Cesmat. “Then having to go to Colorado where anything can happen and the Rockies have been so hot. I think we’re going to be just fine, but I want to continue our winning ways at home because last year that was a big problem.”
Zack Greinke is 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 51 2/3 innings pitched this season. His performance is improved from last season where he was good but wasn’t the dominant ace everyone expected him to be.
In 2015 with the Dodgers, Greinke had a career-best 1.66 ERA. But he wasn’t himself in 2016, Hall said.
“He was obviously putting a lot of pressure on himself last year,” he said. “He’s commanding all his pitches, throwing strikes. That’s the key for him, getting ahead in the count.”
Hall also gave another reason for Greinke’s improvement. But unlike the first one, the second was out of his control.
Still, it has proved to be a big factor early in the season.
“I think the other difference is that we brought in defensive-minded catchers that know how to call games who appreciate being behind the dish, they frame the pitches better,” Hall said. “I just think it’s a real focus and priority to bring in three guys that can catch any of our pitchers.”
Hall said he is confident the team can continue to remain above .500 throughout the season, but said it will depend on luck, especially with injuries. The beginning of the season looked bright in that regard, but it now may be gloomy as Shelby Miller just underwent Tommy John surgery last week and center fielder A.J. Pollock was hurt in Sunday’s game.
“This stuff happens…I’m going to try to get back on the field as soon as possible.” pic.twitter.com/FkpcwDh3T3
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) May 15, 2017
Starting well is one thing, but finishing is another. May has been a difficult month for the D-backs thus far, but the team is hoping it doesn’t spiral downward as the year progresses.
“We have to play better defense,” Hall said. “We just haven’t played great defense this year and that’s not who we are. We’re an athletic team that does play defense, that runs the bases well. I think we definitely can if we continue to pitch the way we can with our starters. I think our bullpen has been strengthened with veteran arms.”
One of those veteran arms is 40-year-old closer Fernando Rodney, who concerned fans with his two blown saves during the same week in April.
“He’s a tight-rope act, but it’s who he’s always been,” Hall said. “He’s still got a fastball in the mid to upper 90s, a ridiculous changeup and he does keep things lose in the clubhouse. He’s a terrific teammate.”
Additionally, much has been made of the Chase Field situation between the D-backs and Maricopa County. Hall said there is no news to report at this time, but that he is happy the team is making the headlines instead of its stadium.
VIDEO: The D-Backs’ Ken Kendrick discusses the team’s lawsuit with the Maricopa County Stadium District over over Chase Field maintenance pic.twitter.com/YEZmNfRlDG
— azcentral (@azcentral) February 18, 2017
Still, the stadium situation looms.
“We maintain the ballpark, we make it look as good as it does,” Hall said. “We’re proud of that, but it’s an older stadium has some needs to address. These are needs that have been identified by the county, who is the owner and landlord of the building, and they’ve made it clear that they don’t have money to address all those needs in the future.
“We need to figure out how to continue to keep the stadium as state-of-the-art as possible.”