Posted on September 15, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
As their playoff hopes start to fade, the Arizona Diamondbacks have been dealt a significant blow. Arizona manager Torey Lovullo announced Friday night that starter Clay Buchholz has been shut down for the rest of the season. Buchholz was a late scratch from his scheduled start on Thursday because of forearm tightness. His long-term prognosis is unclear, but he will not be pitching again in 2018.
Buchholz was 26 pitches into his 32-pitch warmup routine on Thursday when the tightness in his forearm forced him to stop. An MRI taken Friday revealed a flexor strain in his forearm, which can be a rather ominous injury. Buchholz sat out most of 2017 because of a partial tear of the flexor tendon in his arm. He was also limited to 18 starts in 2015 because of a flexor strain, so arm injuries are nothing new for the 34-year old.
Despite all the recent harm trouble, the Diamondbacks took a chance on Buchholz with a minor league contract. Since calling up Buchholz in may, he’s arguably been Arizona’s best starter. In 16 starts this season, Buchholz was 7-2 with a 2.01 ERA. He has helped form a triumvirate atop Arizona’s rotation alongside Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin.
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Needless to say, the loss of Buchholz is a big blow to Arizona’s playoff hopes. Including his scheduled start on Thursday, Buchholz was likely to make at least three more starts this season. With the Diamondbacks 3.5 games off the pace in the NL West and three games out of a wild-card spot, those three starts would have been critical for Arizona’s playoff chances. He also would have been a candidate to start in the Wild Card playoff if the Diamondbacks were to make it.
Without Buchholz, the Diamondbacks will likely look to either Matt Koch or Matt Andriese to fill the empty spot in their rotation. Either would be an obvious drop-off from what Buchholz has given the Diamondbacks this season. Surely, the Diamondbacks will start Greinke and Corbin as much as possible down the stretch. However, with Buchholz out, the Diamondbacks will need more from back-end starters Robbie Ray Zack Godley.
Ray could end up being huge for the Diamondbacks down the stretch. He’s turned things around after a rough first half. He’s posted a 2.04 ERA during his three September starts. Arizona desperately needs him to continue to pitch at a high level the rest of the way.
“Robbie’s been on a really good run for some time,” said Lovullo. “He’s in a good spot. I can tell by the swagger, I can tell by how he’s walking around that he’s in a good spot. We need him to do that.”
Alas, time is quickly running out for the Diamondbacks. With three games against both the Rockies and Dodgers over the next week and a half, they can play themselves back into a playoff position. However, they’ll have to put their best foot forward and win as many of those games as possible. With Buchholz ruled out for the season, that task just got a little more difficult.