GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Don't kid yourself, Josh Collmenter would still like to be a starting pitcher.
But the D-backs pitcher is not about to complain about once again being the team's long man/spot starter.
After pitching well in a starting role for the D-backs in 2011, Collmenter came to camp last year with a spot in the rotation locked up. After compiling a 9.82 ERA in his first four starts, however, he was moved to the bullpen.
To say Collmenter pitched better in the bullpen is an understatement. In 17 relief appearances, he compiled a 1.32 ERA.
Collmenter also made seven starts after the first month of the season, one of which was an emergency situation when scheduled starter Joe Saunders was not able to get loose the day of his start.
In all, Collmenter posted a 2.13 ERA in 24 games from May 5 through the end of the season. It was the third-best mark in the Majors during that time period.
"Colly's a guy who has the demeanor to do whatever he's asked, he can do it on short notice," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "I would throw him virtually anywhere in a game, anywhere. I know he can handle it. He doesn't complain about stuff, he just wants to be a good teammate and contribute."
Collmenter's ability to deal with pressure was never more evident than when he spun a gem against the Brewers in Game 3 of the 2011 National League Division Series. A loss would have meant elimination, but Gibson had no problem trusting the game to a rookie.
"A priority would be to be a starter," Collmenter said. "I really like starting, and it's what I've always done. Just having the confidence from the team to put you out there every five days and hopefully pitch them to a win. That's a responsibility that I enjoy. There's also value in the other role, though, and I understand whichever way they want to go. I think I can provide value in either role. I'm ready to tackle either one of those."
The team-first mindset that Collmenter has with regards to his role is not lost on his teammates.
"He's been a starter his whole life, so it's probably difficult when you get taken out of that role," closer J.J. Putz said. "But I feel like he's the ultimate teammate who pretty much takes the ball whenever you need him to. He's a guy that can go one inning or he can pretty much save a bullpen for two weeks by being able to go in there when a starter gets roughed up and go five innings. He's a guy that can go out and give you a spot start and go five strong."
Being a long man or spot starter is a thankless role on a pitching staff. You can go a week or more without pitching, and when you're called on, a lot of times it's when your starter has gotten roughed up early and you're far behind.
It is a role that even Collmenter did not fully appreciate before last year.
"I think I kind of got used to it last year and understood the value in being able to save innings or the bullpen," Collmenter said. "The way our team plays, comebacks aren't out of the question, so there's value in coming in and putting up zeroes."
Throughout his career, Collmenter has always relied on his fastball and outstanding changeup. Though not overpowering, his exaggerated over-the-top throwing motion makes him a challenging at-bat for hitters.
The lack of a consistent third pitch is one of the reasons scouts have said he is better suited to the bullpen. Two pitches are fine, but when you face a hitter for the third or fourth time in the game, it helps to be able to have a third pitch to show them.
In his first outing of the spring, Collmenter's curve seemed to be improved.
"I tweaked my grip a little bit, and I'm a lot more comfortable with it," Collmenter said. "I want to make sure I use this time in the spring to get more comfortable and get used to throwing it in game situations. I know in games that I've had it throughout my career, those are the games that I seem to have a lot more success, because if I can mix that in and either steal strikes early or get strikeouts late or even get back swings and ground balls on it, it just takes pressure off the fastball/changeup combo."