Sometimes the best laid plans seem to unravel at the worst times. This could have been the theme for the Arizona Diamondbacks 2009 season. From Opening Day when staff ace Brandon Webb was injured to the final out of a 70-92 season nothing seemed to work out.
Going into the off-season there have been a lot of questions about what the Diamondbacks are going to do with their roster. With the departure of Jon Garland in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the pending free agency of Doug Davis there are perhaps more questions about the starting rotation than at any other time in franchise history.
The Diamondbacks roadmap before the season was to have Webb and Dan Haren at the top of the order for 2010. Max Scherzer would then move up to become the number three starter. A fourth starter would be brought in via free agency or through a trade. The number five starter was tentatively penciled in to be former first-round draft pick Jarrod Parker.
Parker would assume a role similar to what Max Scherzer had this season. He would be brought along slowly with pitch count and innings closely monitored. It would most likely be on-the-job training as they groomed a future front of the rotation pitcher.
Parker began the season in Visalia putting up impressive numbers considering the hitter-friendly parks of the California League. He would earn himself a promotion to Double-A. The Arizona Diamondbacks would monitor his inning count and ease him into the Arizona Fall League.
This would give Parker the necessary foundation to be able to pitch approximately 150-175 innings next season either beginning at Triple-A Reno or if things went according to plan Parker would remain with the big league team out of Spring Training.
All of these plans came to a screeching halt in July when Parker complained of tightness and soreness in his pitching elbow. The Diamondbacks shut him down to give the elbow rest. He was no longer going to the Arizona Fall League and there were questions when he would pitch again.
After rest the Diamondbacks placed Parker on a throwing program to build strength in the elbow. Things seemed to be progressing well then after his latest throwing session Parker again complained of pain.
Doctor James Andrews evaluated the pitcher and concluded Parker would need ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction commonly known as “Tommy John” surgery. Parker will undergo the surgery and begin an extended rehabilitation program that typically takes 14-16 months to recover.
The Diamondbacks now find themselves without the services of Parker until sometime during the 2011 season or perhaps 2012. So instead of looking for one more starting pitcher Arizona will be looking for two arms, possibly three depending on Brandon Webb’s health.
What was once considered a strength of the Diamondbacks has almost overnight become an area of grave concern for the team. Chances are Arizona will now look to Billy Buckner, Bryan Augenstein, Daniel Cabrera, and Yusmeiro Petit as their potential number five starter.
Given each of their performances during the 2009 season I am sure none of the Diamondbacks fans are sleeping contently this off-season. The farm system has not fully recovered from the Dan Haren trade and call-ups of 2007-2008 meaning there are not a lot of valuable trade pieces to make a trade for a front-line starter.
The Diamondbacks will have to be content doing something similar to last season, wait until nearly the end of the off-season and pick up a pitcher on the cheap. This may be a reclamation project such as Cabrera or someone past their prime like Garland or even Doug Davis.
Just when you think things can’t get any worse you suddenly realize, yeah they really could get bad. Hopefully this is the darkest moment otherwise Diamondbacks fans may fondly look back at 2009 and wish this team was that good.