The right-hander was impressive in his one inning of work, and after the game found out that he would be staying in the big leagues for the near future.
With Arizona needing to clear a roster space in order to purchase Micah Owings' contract and have him start Friday's game against the Nationals, the club had to decide between optioning Nippert to Triple-A or designating J.D. Durbin for assignment.
The D-backs chose the latter option despite the fact that Durbin was claimed off waivers last week and could be snapped up by another team when Arizona puts him on waivers. The D-backs now have 10 days to trade, waive or release Durbin.
Nippert meanwhile will continue to pitch out of the bullpen, a role he hasn't filled since 2002, when he pitched in relief for Rookie Missoula. Nippert was impressive in narrowly losing out to Owings for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, and his performance out of the bullpen Wednesday showed he could handle that role.
"We feel like Nippert has accomplished enough to stay here and that he deserves to make the team," manager Bob Melvin said. "When we brought him out in that role [Wednesday], we were thinking, 'Wow, guy comes in throwing that hard good downhill plane, good breaking ball, changeup, [and you] don't really have to establish three pitches if you don't want to in a shorter role. Now I'm not taking out the possibility that he's still a starter, and we believe he can be. He's increased his chances to stay at the big-league level because of what he's done."
The missing piece for Nippert has always been a third pitch to complement his fastball and curve. As a reliever, a third pitch isn't as necessary, but even so, he threw several good changeups Wednesday and showed during the spring that he had made progress with the pitch.
"I definitely felt like I belonged on this team," Nippert said. "It feels like good things are going to happen to this team, and I definitely want to be a part of it. [The changeup] is getting to where I feel almost 100 percent with it, almost like my fastball and curveball. My changeup is definitely getting a lot better to where I feel like I can throw it in any count, throw it for a strike and get a groundball when I need it."
It was a tough day for Durbin, who gave up seven runs while only recording two outs in the eighth. Just last week, he was celebrating the fact that he was going to be playing close to his Phoenix-area home. Now, though, he's back in limbo.
"Hopefully I get to stay with this team," Durbin said. "I really like the guys around here. Obviously Arizona is where I'd like to be. Hopefully we'll move on and get sent down to Triple-A with these guys, be fine, get comfortable, get off the mound a couple of times and start throwing the ball the way I know I can. I know I've got the stuff, I've just got to get my confidence back. I don't know, something about the big leagues ... I just don't feel comfortable and it shouldn't be that way. It should be the most exciting time and it's not. So it's just frustrating."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less