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D-backs ‘excited to put on a uniform’ against Grand Canyon University

Arizona Diamondbacks players stretch during spring training baseball workouts in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Clear skies. Dry fields.

The Arizona Diamondbacks had another “great day” at Salt River Fields, according to manager Torey Lovullo.

Even better, the team had full use of all fields on Tuesday, something that could not have been said in previous days thanks to Mother Nature.

The rains are gone, and the work continues for the D-backs.

“We did some pickoffs and combined that with run-downs. We had a nice day of individual defense,” Lovullo said. “Pitchers were working on another field, (handling drills) very specific to what their needs are to control the running game. I thought it was a really productive day for us today.”

The D-backs will get their first taste of game-action on Wednesday, when they play an exhibition contest against Grand Canyon University as part of the annual Collegiate Series. The D-backs played Arizona State in 2015, the University of Arizona in 2016 and will continue to rotate through those opponents for the next four years.

Left-hander Anthony Banda, 23, will start the game.

The D-backs are high on the 6-foot-2, 190-pound southpaw who went 10-6 with a 2.88 ERA (48 ER in 150 IP) and 152 strikeouts in 26 starts behind Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno last season. Named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Banda represented the D-backs in the 2016 All-Star Futures Game at Petco Park.

“I want to make it as normal as possible,” Lovullo said. “Have these guys have a day to prepare and feel the dirt under their spikes and play a baseball game the way they know best.”

According to Lovullo, the “core group” of players is expected to receive at least one at-bat and play an inning or two in the field.

“We’re going to attack it like it’s a normal day. Play it like we should,” he said. “We’re excited about tomorrow. We’re excited to put on a uniform, get in the dugout and play live baseball. We’re going to play it as hot and live as it normally would be.”

Cactus League play begins on Saturday, so the D-backs will have two more days after Wednesday of on-field drills and live batting practice with pitchers throwing to hitters.

“Two more fundamental work days,” Lovullo said. “We’re going to do as much as we possible can before it starts to really pick up speed and the games start.”

BASE HITS

— Who starts and which pitchers will throw in the first couple of Cactus League games is still being discussed, according to Lovullo. A schedule will be announced soon, paying close attention to those games against fellow teams from the National League West.

“(Pitching coach) Mike Butcher and I and a lot of us have walked through that thought. It can be challenging at times,” Lovullo said. “We want our guys to ramp it up against really good competition, so we might have some moments where we will have those matchups occur, but we’re going to really try and limit them.”

— On the injury front, left-handed reliever Steve Hathaway has not thrown a bullpen session since camp began. He’s dealing with some shoulder soreness. Catcher Chris Herrmann, meanwhile, played catch and took batting practice on Tuesday, but he isn’t running, yet. On Sunday, Herrmann took a ball off his foot, when hitters stood in the batter’s box but did not swing facing live pitching for the first time.

— Outfielder David Peralta is expected to rejoin the team Wednesday. He’s missed the past two days of spring training, for a very good reason.

“He had an immigration hearing. That’s been finalized. Everything, from what I understand, went well. He’ll be on his way back tonight (and be) ready to go tomorrow,” Lovullo said. “This was something that we had absolutely prepared for, that he had been talking to us about for three weeks and we’re excited for him.”

— Pitch-framing has quickly become a hot topic, and not only for the D-backs. Teams throughout baseball are looking for an edge with their catchers behind the plate.

“It’s something that is fairly new to me. It’s a fairly new concept for professional baseball as a whole, but there is some value to it. There’s a lot of value to it,” Lovullo said, referring to a catcher’s ability to frame a borderline pitch into a called strike. “How is it going to help us win moments. What are we going to do right now to win this pitch. If we can win a pitch, it’s going to help us win an at-bat, win an inning and win a game. So, I’m all for it. It’s just one more component that you can add in to helping us understand how to get through a situation.”

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