D-backs like Wagner's athleticism, sinker

D-backs like Wagner's athleticism, sinker

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The D-backs made Tyler Wagner's big league debut on May 31, 2015, one the right-hander would just as soon forget, but even then they saw his potential.

That's a big reason why Wagner is now a member of the D-backs, having come over along with Jean Segura from Milwaukee at the end of January in the deal that sent Aaron Hill and Chase Anderson to the Brewers.

"I know we hit him well in his first start in the Major Leagues, but obviously his numbers in Double-A speak for themselves," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "He's a sinkerball pitcher, and guess what? That's what we like here. So he's going to be a nice addition."

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Wagner, rated as the D-backs' No. 10 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, was called up from Double-A Biloxi to make that emergency start against the D-backs and allowed nine hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings.

At Biloxi, Wagner was dominant, going 11-5 with a Southern League-best 2.25 ERA.

That earned Wagner another big league promotion in September, during which he made two starts. His final one was his best, as he allowed one run on seven hits over six innings against the Cubs.

"There were some other factors that I wasn't used to, and it just came down to me not being comfortable," Wagner said of his debut. "I blame myself for that, and I'm working hard to not let that happen again. It was good to see how those guys go about their business and how even the logistics of everything work -- flying and everything. It's a lot different than Double-A, there are so many factors that are different that you have to get used to. It's just about being comfortable, and I'm trying to put myself in a situation to do that."

Mayo on Wagner to the D-backs

Wagner, 25, is also trying to put himself in position to win the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Robbie Ray is the favorite heading into Cactus League games, but Wagner is in the mix, along with Archie Bradley and Zack Godley.

Wagner has added a cutter to go along with a changeup and a slurve -- a mix between a curve and slider -- but his signature pitch is his sinker.

"When you have a sinker like he does, it gives you the ability like Brandon Webb used to have, to just be able to throw it almost down the middle and it would just sink, sink, sink," Hale said. "The location doesn't have to be as right on as some guys. I like his arm, his athleticism."

Wagner's athleticism allowed him to play shortstop his freshman year at the University of Utah, but apparently it only went so far, as he moved to the pitcher's mound as a sophomore.

"I just couldn't hit," Wagner said. "I could field. I could throw, obviously, but I just couldn't hit, so I think they made the change because I had a pretty good arm and I started to learn how to pitch."

The D-backs are counting on that learning process to continue.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.