Who Will Be the Diamondbacks Fifth Starter?

When the Arizona Diamondbacks opened Spring Training in Tucson, they were looking for a fifth starter to fall in behind Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, Edwin Jackson, and Ian Kennedy. During the 2009 season there were several pitchers who auditioned for that role none of them successfully.

The Diamondbacks identified several candidates they would be evaluating this spring including Bryan Augenstein, Billy Buckner, Kevin Mulvey, and non-roster invitee Rodrigo Lopez. Each of these players were told they would be given a fair chance to compete for the final spot.

Over the first half of Spring Training the only thing that can be safely said is that there is no clear winning and that fifth spot is still very much up for grabs.

During his first couple of starts it appeared Billy Buckner had the inside track to the final rotation spot but lately his command has been lacking and he has been shelled introducing doubt that he is capable of being that fifth starter.

Right-hander Bryan Augenstein was given a shot last year when he was promoted from Double-A Mobile for a couple of spot starts. Augenstein showed signs of brilliance but ultimately his lack of control led to his downfall.

He entered this spring with a shot but soon his problems resurfaced leading the Diamondbacks to option him back to their minor league camp thereby eliminating him from contention. Perhaps with some seasoning he can overcome his problems and earn a call-up but as of now that seems doubtful.

Mulvey like Buckner has shown signs of greatness only to follow that up with inconsistency and errors in pitch selection. He remains with the major league club but his stock seems to have dropped lately making it questionable whether he will even make the team let alone be part of the starting rotation.

Rodrigo Lopez while he has not been overpowering has shown some consistency in his outings. During his career he has never blown anyone away but his work ethic and his ability to pound the strike zone has made him an intriguing candidate.

During his time with Baltimore Lopez was successful in eating up innings and keeping his team in games that he pitched. If he could do that in the fifth spot of the rotation he just might be the guy Arizona is looking for.

If I were to pick right now I would say the Diamondbacks will leave Tucson with Lopez penciled in as their fifth starter. Given the uncertainty of Webb it might be that Lopez becomes the fourth starter giving Buckner an opportunity to prove himself once again.

This of course could all change during the last week of Spring Training when players have one last time to impress the coaches and stake claim to a roster spot and a place in the starting rotation.


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