SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Taking the mound for the first time since the Arizona Diamondbacks named him their Opening Day starter, Josh Collmenter pitched in front of few dozen fans rather than the several thousand he will once the season begins.
A 10:30 a.m. first pitch Thursday meant only the truly diehard D-backs fans plus scouts and other team personnel watched Collmenter in a ‘B’ game against Cincinnati.
“It’s a little different getting it going than when you’re in the stadiums, in front of people,” he said of the early start, “but it’s always fun either way if somebody is in the batter’s box that’s wearing opposing colors.”
Asked when the last time was he started a game that early, Collmenter thought back to his spring training days as a minor leaguer.
Now entering his fifth season in the majors and coming off his best season as a pro, Collmenter threw three innings to mainly Reds minor league players, though there were a few familiar names sprinkled in, such as Marlon Byrd, Zack Cozart and Joey Votto.
“Always better to face guys like that,” Collmenter said. “It gets you up for that moment as opposed to just facing minor league guys that you don’t really know much about.”
Of course it was one of those names that drove in the only run Collmenter allowed.
Leading off the game, Cozart, the Reds’ starting shortstop, drilled a 0-1 pitch over the wall in left for a solo home run.
From there, Collmenter settled in, scattering five hits. He issued no walks and did not record a strikeout.
“I felt pretty good,” said Collmenter, who had manager Chip Hale, general manager Dave Stewart and chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, among others, watching intently. “My command wasn’t as crisp as it was my first outing. It got better with each inning; just got more of a feel, and that could be a combination of it starting so early and trying to get going. But, definitely made some good pitches when I needed to and tried a few different things, just to try to get some hitter reaction throw different pitches in different counts, different places.”
For example, Collmenter said he used his curveball more after mainly going with the fastball in his two-scoreless inning spring debut against Seattle.
“Threw a couple of good ones in the last inning,” he said, “and it’s just a pitch that I want to continue to work on and continue to hone and get it at least close to the comfort ability that I have with my fastball and changeup.”
Unofficially, Collmenter threw 49 pitches, 37 of which were strikes, including a first-pitch strike to 13 of the 14 batters he faced.
“My body and arm felt good today, and that’s the biggest thing as a starting pitcher just building up the innings and the endurance,” he said. “We’ll add about 15 pitches, I think, each outing and get up to that 90, 100-pitch threshold and be ready to kickoff Opening Day.”
The D-backs open the regular season against the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants on April 6.