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D-backs right-hander Zack Godley looking to build on last year’s success

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Godley throws to a Los Angeles Dodgers batter during the second inning of Game 1 of a baseball National League Division Series in Los Angeles, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – When looking back at last season, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo has pointed to a handful of players he believes the team could not do without in advancing to the playoffs and ending what had become a franchise-long five-year postseason absence.

Consider them unsung or under-the-radar players.

Right-hander Zack Godley was among those players in 2017.

“Last year he was a staff-saver for us,” Lovullo said. “Without him I don’t think we get to where we need to get to.”

Last season Godley bounced back-and-forth between the D-backs and Triple-A Reno before he finally settled into the starting rotation in June. From there, Godley enjoyed a breakout season, setting career highs in starts (25), wins (8), innings (155.0) and strikeouts (165).

Twice, Godley recorded a career-best 10 strikeouts in a game, while his .198 opponent average at Chase Field was the lowest in team history, besting Josh Collmenter’s .200 mark in 2014.

“And I’m looking for everything to continue,” Lovullo said. “He’s come into camp in very good shape and very ready for every challenge that’s going to put before him this year.”

On Tuesday, Godley made his third Cactus League start. And was outstanding, as he has been throughout spring.

Godley pitched four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and one walk with four strikeouts in the D-backs’ 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in front of an announced crowd of 7,885 at Salt River Fields. Left fielder David Peralta hit a three-run home run, his first of spring, to help lead the D-backs to their third straight win following a five-game losing streak.

In four innings, Godley threw 47 pitches, 30 for strikes including first-pitch strikes to eight of the 14 batters faced.

“I worked a little bit more on different pitches this time out than I had the last couple of times and just trying to establish strike-one and get ahead of guys,” he said. “I might’ve thrown a few more curveballs than what I kind of wanted to just because I was trying to work on that a little bit today just because I haven’t the last couple of outings.”

It was the curveball in which Godley recorded three of his four strikeouts with, including Angels designated hitter and Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani, who twice went down swinging.

The four strikeouts doubled Godley’s Cactus League total to eight against three walks.

Overall in three starts covering 8.2 innings, Godley has not yet surrendered a run.

“There’s no guarantees in this business,” he said, refusing to believe last year’s success is an indicator he’s arrived as a big-league pitcher. “You have to go out and perform every time out. I’m just trying to build on what I have done in the past.”

And that right there is what the D-backs want to hear.

“The one thing that he doesn’t have this year is that he’s not going to be a secret,” Lovullo said. “He’s got a league full of people that understand the action of his pitches and for those teams that he threw very well against, I’m sure they’re looking for a little bit of payback. So it’s time for Zack to make the necessary subtle, easy, quiet adjustments; continue learning from those around him that have pitched more innings than he has; but to remember that he had a lot of meaningful time down the stretch and he was a key part of this and he’s ready for this next step.”

BASE HITS

— Following the off day Wednesday, right-hander Zack Greinke will take his turn on the mound. He, though, will pitch on the backfields at Salt River Fields rather than start the game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Maryvale.

“It’s what he wants to do,” Lovullo said. “And I know that Zack is very aware of his process and we don’t want to get in the way of that.”

Greinke, according to Lovullo, will throw to catcher Alex Avila.

— Speaking of Avila, he and fellow catcher Jeff Mathis have forged a strong relationship.

“Those two have so much experience and knowledge that they share with one another and then that kind of spills out to the pitchers as well,” Lovullo said. “(The pitchers) feel their presence and their leadership qualities and that’s really important to us.”

— On Tuesday, the D-backs made their first roster move, in terms of reducing the number of players in camp. The number is now 59 after infielder Domingo Leyba was optioned to Double-A Jackson.

The 22-year-old Leyba, acquired from Detroit in 2014, is still recovering from July shoulder surgery and wasn’t expected to see any action in the Cactus League.

— Arizona State University president Michael Crow and athletic director Ray Anderson were among those at the game. They, plus more than 200 ASU President’s Club members and prospective members, were hosted by D-backs president, and Sun Devil alum, Derrick Hall.

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