PHOENIX -- When Zeke Spruill takes the mound Sunday to start the D-backs' series finale vs. the Mets, it'll be the first time he has pitched since Aug. 1, a span of nine days. For a guy used to working every five days in the Minors before he was promoted to the Majors, that week and a half hiatus is by far the longest the right-hander has gone without appearing in a game this season.
Spruill is adamant, though, that the long layoff won't be an issue Sunday. In fact, he's grateful for the extra rest, giving him an opportunity to work on some things he wanted to fix from his last outing, when he surrendered five runs on seven hits over four innings in his Major League starting debut against Texas.
"I'll be fine, really," he said. "I'm just worried about getting into better pitcher's counts, not falling behind. I want to throw my breaking ball and changeup a lot more consistently in the strike zone, too."
The 23-year-old added that since he will likely be batterymates again with his catcher from Triple-A Reno, Tuffy Gosewisch, that aspect will help him settle in as well.
"It's a lot easier, you're not worried that he doesn't know what my tendencies are or how I like to throw to certain types of hitters," Spruill said. "And I know he knows how to read hitters with my stuff. He knows what to do, and I don't have to do much thinking on the mound. He's got it all pretty much under control."
D-backs option struggling Hernandez to Triple-A
PHOENIX -- At the onset of the 2013 season, it was all but set in stone that David Hernandez would be the D-backs' heir apparent to J.J. Putz at the back end of the club's bullpen. Now just a little more than four months later, the right-hander's future isn't nearly as clear.
With Hernandez's ERA at a season-worst 5.59 after another rough outing Saturday night, the D-backs optioned the 28-year-old to Triple-A Reno following the club's 4-1 loss to the Mets. Arizona will make a corresponding move Sunday.
"I'm surprised I lasted that long, it's been a pretty rough year," Hernandez said. "But I just have to move forward."
Hernandez was arguably the D-backs' most reliable reliever in 2012, posting a 2.50 ERA over 68 1/3 innings. This season, however, has been a completely different story for the righty. Hernandez has surrendered 28 earned runs in just 47 1/3 innings in 2013, allowing more home runs (10) than he had in his previous two campaigns combined (8). More recently, since July 23 he has worked five innings and allowed nine earned runs on eight hits and seven walks.
Asked if he thinks some time away from the spotlight will help, Hernandez replied: "I think so, get regular innings in a less pressured environment.
"There's no reason to go down and pout about it. I've been sent down before and I've always come back better, so hopefully that's what will happen."
Hernandez, who hasn't pitched in the Minors since 2010, came into Saturday's game in the eighth inning with the D-backs trailing by just a run. He walked the first batter he faced before giving up a bunt single to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Hernandez retired the next two Mets to get within one out of escaping the jam, but after an intentional walk to Ike Davis to load the bases, Wilmer Flores singled through the left side of the infield to plate two runs.
"The game has kind of been cruel to him," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He has made some good pitches and it hasn't worked out. We were playing [Flores] to pull and he hits it in between the five-and-six hole. It's kind of been the way it's been going for David."
Added Hernandez: "It just sums up the season, really. I finally started making good pitches and they're finding holes. That's the way the game goes sometimes. More times than not, I'll get out of that inning."
After three-game break, Parra back in starting lineup
PHOENIX -- After being out of the lineup for three consecutive games for the first time this season, D-backs outfielder Gerardo Parra returned to his starting role Saturday against the Mets, batting seventh and playing right field.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said he gave Parra the rest in hopes the outfielder would come back feeling refreshed and with a clear head. The 26-year-old began the season hot, but he hit just .157 in July and was just 2-for-16 in August before his skipper decided to take action. Parra took the first step toward breaking out of his slump, going 2-for-4 in a 4-1 loss to the Mets.
"I think everyone gets worn down. Parra played a ton early in the year and he's always on the ground or in the wall or wherever," Gibson said. "He plays real hard, he's a max-effort guy and I think he got worn down a little bit. He'll tell you he wasn't tired, but beyond that, he was struggling. His approach wasn't as good at the plate."
Parra also began taking his struggles at the plate with him into the field, where he typically is as steady as any outfielder in the league. Back on Aug. 4 in Boston, Parra made a couple of defensive miscues in right field, dropping one ball and losing another in the sun.
"You haven't seen Gerardo Parra drop too many balls like that, so to me, you have to look at it," Gibson said. "That's one of the reasons I wanted to give him a break."
Gibson is confident Parra will be able to return to the player who hit .301 through the first three months of the season, he just has to not be so hard on himself.
"He takes it personal when he doesn't perform well, because he plays his heart out and he wants to do good for his team," Gibson said. "We talked about it. Just needed to take some pressure off him."
• The D-backs have an unusual way of celebrating dramatic victories. Each of the seven times they've walked off this season, including Friday night on Paul Goldschmidt's home run, the players have congratulated the game's hero by mixing water with dirt and smothering it all over the player's upper body.
"I guess it makes it not that much fun to hit the walk-off," Gibson said, smiling. "It's what they do, though. It signifies a very good moment, so I guess it's pretty cool."
• After hitting .192 in 52 July at-bats, D-backs outfielder Adam Eaton has been much more productive so far in August, collecting six hits in 15 at-bats entering Saturday night's contest. The 24-year-old missed the first half of the season with an elbow injury.
"He's played better," Gibson said. "A lot of his work was done in the summer league with young kids. He did some at Triple-A, but it wasn't a lot so it was a lot to catch up to. Then once you get here, you have to get your legs back under you."
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.