J.B. Bukauskas Flourishes In Bullpen This Spring
It's hard to pitch much better in spring training than righthander J.B. Bukauskas did, and his performance created optimism that the D-backs have an impact arm knocking on the door.
Well, maybe more than just knocking.
“How I describe it is, he’s going to knock the door down,” D-backs pitching coach Matt Herges said. “He’s going to kick it down.”
The 6 foot, 208-pound Bukauskas logged 7.2 innings, allowing no runs on three hits. He issued no walks and struck out 14.
And he didn’t do it purely by overpowering hitters with his mid-90s fastball. The 2017 first-rounder from North Carolina also got swings and misses on both his slider and changeup.
The D-backs acquired Bukauskas in July 2019 as part of the return from the Astros for righthander Zack Greinke.
Despite the D-backs’ pre-camp claims of giving every player a chance to “compete” for a job in spring training, the 24-year-old will open the year in the minor leagues. He might not be there long.
“He is going to be on our team at some point,” D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said.
The club’s decision to hold him down makes sense. The last time Bukauskas pitched in real games, he logged a 5.44 ERA in 92.2 innings at Double-A. He spent last year at the alternate training site and did not pitch well. The team did not want to overvalue a handful of spring outings given his track record.
Moreover, the D-backs have transitioned him into the bullpen and wanted to get him comfortable in that role before bringing him to the majors.
Still, it was hard not to be encouraged by the way Bukauskas threw in camp, particularly given his struggles to throw strikes in the past.
The D-backs have not ruled out the idea of Bukauskas returning to the rotation in the future but would like him to at least get his feet wet in relief.
“I definitely think J.B. Bukauskas will help us win games this year,” Herges said.
—Righthander Corbin Martin had a shaky performance in the Cactus League, giving up six runs in 6.1 innings with four walks, a hit batter and three strikeouts. His struggles were understandable given how much time he has missed due to injuries over the past two years. On the bright side, Martin showed a fastball in the 95-97 mph range.
—Farm director Josh Barfield and pitching coordinator Dan Carlson were among those to speak at Mike Bell’s funeral services on March 31. Bell, 46, spent 13 years in the Diamondbacks’ player development department before leaving to be the bench coach for the Twins prior to last season. Bell died of cancer on March 26.