Established role allowed D-backs’ Zack Godley to improve this spring
Zack Godley grabbed the bull by the horns, so to speak, when Diamondbacks starting pitcher Shelby Miller required Tommy John surgery early on last season.
The pitcher nicknamed “The Bull” became Arizona’s fifth starter, and a good one at that. Godley started off with a bang after debuting as Miller’s replacement on April 26, but even three starts into his new role, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo wasn’t committed to naming him the permanent replacement to Miller.
That official, formal “he’s here to stay” announcement never really came — and it didn’t need to.
Godley was a rock for the rest of the year and finished 2017 with a 3.37 ERA and a 8-9 record.
Even with the Diamondbacks thinking about stretching out reliever Archie Bradley this spring and with Miller pushing for a midseason return, it was understood from the start of 2018 that Godley had earned a spot in the rotation.
The non-tenuous status helped him build on his 2017 season during the spring, and his 2018 debut — a seven-inning outdueling of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday — gave Arizona evidence that Godley is only getting better.
“As far as my mentality and how I go about things, I try to do it the same each and every time,” Godley told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “But for me, spring training this year was a little bit different because, like you said, coming in and kind of knowing a little bit that I had a little more of an established role allowed me to come in and work on some things that I really thought that I needed to work on regardless of what the outcome was of those situations.
“Coming in and being able to work on certain things helped me out a lot.”
Godley built his reputation on a deadly curveball that the D-backs’ new front office attempted to highlight by developing a plan for a better pitch mix last season. He threw it 36 percent of the time in 2017 and featured it around a four-pitch selection that included a less-used fastball, a cutter and an occasional changeup.
In the spring, Godley said he worked on consistency with, mostly, his secondary pitches.
“I think that was the biggest thing coming into spring for me was building some consistency with my fastball on both sides of the plate along with getting a little bit more of a feel and a little more trust in my changeup coming into the season,” the right-hander said.
“I tried to stay away from the curveball as much as I could for spring training just to kind of get guys off of it a little bit but also to get a feel for my other pitches.”
Diamondbacks assistant general manager Jared Porter sees reason to believe Godley has more to give. Ninety-six pitches into the season, Godley allowed one earned run in seven frames on Tuesday.
“Last night he was commanding his cutter pretty well, which was interesting and good for us to see, and his two-seamer moves a lot as well,” Porter told Doug & Wolf.
“Zack, you guys watch him pitch, the way he kind of comes right at hitters, I think there’s some deception right there. He really attacks and he does a really good job — he’s really convicted with his mix.”