GLENDALE, Ariz. — Any baseball accomplishment occurring in February needs context and appropriate qualification.
After his impressive, 3.2-inning start Thursday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a shrugging Randall Delgado of the Arizona Diamondbacks did that work for us.
“I felt pretty good today,” Delgado said, using an appropriate, understated tone. “I was trying to make good quality pitches and that’s it. Wasn’t trying to do too much.”
Delgado cruised through the first third of a mostly big-league Dodgers order, which included second baseman Dee Gordon, outfielder Andre Ethier and shortstop Hanley Ramirez. After a pair of manageable flyouts to left field, the 24-year-old right-hander fooled Ramirez with a called third strike on a changeup that caught the outside part of the plate.
His first and only trouble came in the following frame, when cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez took an outside fastball to opposite field and ended up on second base. The pitch, Delgado said after the game, was located perfectly, however.
After a strikeout of Yasiel Puig, who was 0-for-2 against Delgado, left fielder Mike Baxter moved Gonzalez to third with a single. Thereafter, a blooper off the bat of Juan Uribe sailed toward second baseman Cliff Pennington, who lost the ball in the bright Glendale sun and watched it fall at his feet, allowing Gonzalez to score.
“It was the pitch I wanted,” Delgado said of the ball hit by Uribe. “I think it was pretty windy for Pennington. It’s too hard to catch a ball like that. But it’s alright — I felt good with the pitch, so yeah.”
It was 79 degrees at the start of the game with a 10 mph wind blowing in from center field.
But outside of the lone, borderline-unearned run surrendered by Delgado, what the 5,285 in attendance at Camelback Ranch of him was a strong grasp on the game.
After the Uribe bloop hit, Delgado retired six of the next seven Dodgers he faced, exiting the game with two away in the bottom of the fourth.
The Panamanian pitcher said after the game that he was a little surprised by the rhythm he found, having not pitched since last season, with the exception of a pair of 45-pitch simulated games at Diamondbacks camp in Scottsdale.
“It’s been a while since the last time I pitched, so I felt pretty good today,” Delgado explained through partially-broken English.
“They are the big league lineup so, you know, it’s pretty good.”
A lack of record made Delgado’s pitch count undeterminable Thursday and he, too, was unsure of the final number of pitches he threw in the Diamondbacks’ 4-3 loss.
Knowing he’s probably destined for a long relief role in the bullpen as he enters his fourth season in the majors, Delgado said on Thursday he was focused on consistency and location.
“I’m just trying to keep the ball down and that’s it. I’m not trying to invent too much,” he explained.
Delgado went 5-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts for the Diamondbacks last season. He logged 116.1 innings for the team, finding his way into the rotation in mid-June and beginning a three-game win streak — highlighted by a complete game shutout against the San Diego Padres — in late July.
With the lesser-acclaimed squad of the Diamondbacks’ split squad embarkation Thursday, Delgado’s review of his performance — like his expectations for the upcoming season — was held in check.
“It was the first game of spring, so (I guess) it’s good,” the pitcher calmly relayed, sitting in a lonely visiting locker room cubby.