PHOENIX -- The Diamondbacks decision to get a look at young starter Dustin Nippert has meant that Brad Halsey, a mainstay of the rotation all year, has pitched just once since Aug. 30. Far from just sitting around, though, Halsey has put the last few weeks to good use, developing a curveball to add to his repertoire. "It's coming along pretty good," said Halsey, who has made 26 starts this year. "Last time I was throwing it on the side, I'd kind of say I had a break through with it, as far as really being able to throw it."
Halsey features a fastball, slider and changeup, which range in speeds from 78-90 mph. Pitching coach Mark Davis suggested developing a curveball to make that range even greater, with a breaking ball that comes in at 68-73 mph. So Halsey began toying with the pitch in his work in between starts. While he's made progress, he still has a little ways to go before he uses it in a game. Davis would have liked to have seen him throw one when he came on in relief the other night, but it's one thing to feel good about throwing the pitch on the side and another to throw it in a game. "I want to work on this curveball, but I want to get people out, too," Halsey said. "I have to get over that hump and throw it in a game. In the season, it's tough to stop doing the things that have made you effective and start breaking some new toys so it's something we've been gradually trying to implement." Halsey, who manager Bob Melvin said has shown enough this year to have earned a spot in the rotation heading into next spring, will continue to work on the pitch during his offseason workouts at his home near the University of Texas. Speaking of the rotation: Melvin said that Nippert, Claudio Vargas and Russ Ortiz will start over the weekend against the Padres. "We just wanted to make sure everyone, physically, is where we want them to be," Melvin said of the delay in the announcement. With the club having every Monday in September off and using six starters, the pitchers have been pitching once a week. Big role: The Diamondbacks playoff hopes have faded this month, but they still have a chance to affect the National League West. After completing a three-game set with the Dodgers on Thursday, the Diamondbacks will have three games with the Padres and three with the Giants. It's with that in mind that Melvin will not just run a lineup of younger players out there every night. "You always go out there with an eye on winning the game, period," he said. "At least that's the way I feel." Seen enough: One young player who hasn't gotten a lot of playing time since being brought up from Triple-A Tucson in July is first baseman Conor Jackson. With Tony Clark swinging a hot bat, Melvin has given the veteran the majority of the starts at first. With sporadic playing time, Jackson has hit just .197. "Conor's numbers aren't indicative of what he's going to do down the road," Melvin said. "But I think we've seen some of Conor here to know that this guy is going to hit, probably as early as next year." On deck: The Diamondbacks continue their series with the Dodgers on Wednesday night at Bank One Ballpark. Right-hander Brandon Webb (12-11, 3.73 ERA) rejoined the club on Tuesday after spending the weekend at home in Kentucky following the death of his grandmother. The right-hander will start against former Arizona farmhand Brad Penny (7-9, 3.92 ERA).
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.