ATLANTA -- The bullpen has unquestionably been the Achilles' heel for the D-backs thus far in 2010, but manager A.J. Hinch will have to monitor closely the effect those struggles could have on the starting rotation later this season.
With the worst bullpen ERA in the game, Hinch is understandably sticking with his starters longer.
Entering Saturday night's game, the D-backs led the National League with 21 games in which their starting pitcher had thrown more than 100 pitches.
"In an ideal world, you don't have to extend and tax your starters that way, and we've been riding these guys pretty hard," Hinch said. "In these particular ruts when we're going through what we're going through, we're trying like anything to win a game. On a start-to-start basis, it's not wearing them out, but over a six-month extended view, it can weigh on guys."
Ace Dan Haren has been ridden hard and has a track record of struggling during the second halves of seasons.
And there's also Ian Kennedy, who missed most of last season due to aneurism surgery. The team will likely have to monitor how many innings he is allowed to throw.
More than looking at 100 pitches as a benchmark in a given game, Hinch looks at how many pitches a starter will throw over a three-start period and likes to keep it below 320 pitches.
"I don't always adhere to that," Hinch said. "It's something to pay attention to. You do have to protect these guys a little bit, but depending on how long [their starts] are, I'm more interested in pitches per inning than I am overall 100 pitches."