My Waistline Is Not the Only Thing Growing

This time of year is always busy around Major League Baseball. The play-off picture begins to come into focus and the dog days of summer begin to fade into the drive to the post season. And while the Arizona Diamondbacks have struggled as of late they still find themselves clinging to the lead in the National League Western Division or at the very least the lead in the National League Wild Card race. Not all of the buzz around baseball revolves around the players on the current 25-man roster.

We are but three days away from the time when rosters expand from 25 to 40 giving managers an opportunity to bring up some much needed help from the farm system. This serves two primary purposes. For those teams in the play-off hunt it gives them an opportunity to bring in players that could help them down the stretch whether that be adding another relief pitcher or a third catcher or a utility player who can give the starters a much needed break. The season has only 28 games remaining after tonight and that has a tendency to take its toll on the regulars who have started the majority of the 134 games played to date. The expanded rosters also allow a manager to begin to tinker with the pitching staff to align the pitchers to where they want them when the play-offs begin. That of course may be a little premature to be talking about just yet since the Diamondbacks have not yet nailed down a play-off berth.

For those teams who are not play-off bound the expanded rosters allow them an opportunity to begin assessing their team to determine what changes should be made to make them play-off contenders next season. It gives the general manager and the coaching staffs a chance to evaluate young prospects in game situations to set them up for success in the future. The Diamondbacks were in this mode last season when they brought up several of their young stars to give them a chance to show they were ready for the challenges of the major leagues. That has played dividends this season as youngsters such as Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin, Chris Young, and Miguel Montero were able to get their feet wet and get a head start on their development for this season. The early success these players had gave them confidence that they belonged at this level which has gone a long way this season with the success the team has enjoyed.

This year I am not anticipating a lot of players being brought up. The Diamondbacks find themselves in a play-off battle so there may be little time for evaluation. I would expect that a couple of relievers will be brought up to ease the burden on the existing bullpen. The names should not surprise anyone as most have been a member of the parent team at some point during the season such as Brandon Medders and Jailen Peguero. The fifth starter position is also a contentious spot given the recent struggles by Yusmeiro Petit and the failed Byung-Hyun Kim experiment. Expect to see left-hander Dana Eveland join the team to try and nail down that spot. Eveland battled for the job of fifth starter in Spring Training and his work as of late in Tucson where he has allowed only 2 runs in 54 innings gives the team a hope that he might be able to fill this role. There will be a few additions from a position player standpoint as well. Look to see utility man extraordinaire Robby Hammock come back to the big leagues. His ability to play any position including catcher will be an added benefit down the stretch. Alberto Callaspo will most likely also return to the big leagues though his arrival may be delayed by injuries he has battled this season in Tucson. He too is capable of playing several positions which will give Bob Melvin some flexibility especially with a switch hitter coming off the bench. Struggling outfielder Carlos Quentin will probably return from his latest injury assignment when the rosters expand. Defensively he will be a boost to the current outfield but questions remain whether he can break out of the hitting funk he has found himself in for most of this season. None of these call-ups should be surprising. One name that continues to surface lately is infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Bonifacio has been touted as the fastest player in the Diamondbacks farm system and a decent second baseman. There is talk he may be brought to the major league club to see how close he is to being ready to take the final step in his career. It is the one place where if the opportunity arises the Diamondbacks could evaluate whether he is their second baseman of the future or if they should attempt to sign Orlando Hudson to a long-term contract. Personally Bonifacio would have to blow my socks off to persuade me from not giving O-Dog a new contract. September will be an interesting month as the boys of summer evolve into the boys of fall. Hopefully the youthful spirit of this team can survive the stresses of a play-off run. While the Diamondbacks may not have the depth and experience necessary to be a strong favorite to represent the National League in the World Series; this year should give these young players a sense of what it takes to be a play-off contender and make them hungry enough to challenge for a championship for years to come.

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