Pitcher Braden Shipley not feeling the pressure as D-backs determine his role

Feb 26, 2017, 3:57 PM | Updated: 4:16 pm
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley delivers against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inn...

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley delivers against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Sept.25, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Braden Shipley can find comfort that Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo will take his first outing of spring with a grain of salt. It wasn’t the cleanest of starts for the 25-year-old righty, who Lovullo said is in the mix to move to the bullpen if he doesn’t win a starting job.

Don’t expect 1.2 innings of work Sunday in a 6-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies to set Shipley back in the competition for either a starting role or a spot in the bullpen.

“Well, he obviously has a start today so he’s going to compete as a starter,” the D-backs manager said before Arizona faced the Rockies. “We’re also going to take a look at all options in the bullpen. He’s certainly one of the candidates that we’ve spoken to about possibly transitioning to the bullpen, help us be as good as we can possibly be.”

But starting Shipley was the move Sunday at Salt River Fields.

His second pitch was teed up for a home run by the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon on a 1-0 count, and Shipley struggled to nibble at the strike zone when he walked the second Colorado batter, D.J. LeMahieu, and followed that with a pick-off throw that went over the outstretched arms of Daniel Descalso at first.

“That first time out you always have a little bit of jitters, I think that’s all it is for me,” Shipley said. “I feel like the velocity is there. My bullpen before the game was the best I’ve felt all spring. I’m taking the positives away from it regardless of how the results were. I’m working on stuff. Next time out, hopefully, I’ll slow down a little bit and be a lot better.”

Shipley settled in after the rough start and got out of the first, albeit after 19 pitches, with a deep line-out and two pop-outs as Arizona trailed 1-0. In the second, Shipley had his ups and downs, allowing a one-out grounder for a double and a RBI single to follow it up.

He got the second out of the second before being pulled for a final line of 1.2 innings pitched, three hits, three runs (all earned), one walk, one strikeout and one homer. He threw 36 pitches, 21 for strikes.

Last season, Shipley played in 13 games for the D-backs, including 11 starts. He went 4-5 despite a 5.27 ERA.

“He’s got a complete package of pitches,” Lovullo said. “But the best thing that I see in him is his fastball command, his ability to walk the ball around the zone with the fastball. I think every major league pitcher has to have the ability to do that.

“We’re looking at him as a starter today, where that takes us tomorrow will be determined day-by-day. He knows there’s a possibility of both and we’ll communicate with him piece by piece as that happens.”

Regarding Lovullo’s apprehension to put too much weight into the first, brief spring performances of his pitchers, the D-backs manager said he will take things under more consideration after two or three starts.

Knowing that, Shipley wasn’t fretting his brief appearance more than a month before opening day.

“I was really excited, had a lot of fun even though a couple things happened,” Shipley said. “It’s spring training, you just learn from your mistakes. Threw some really good pitches that I really liked, curveball looked really good, which I’m happy with because with my timing and my delivery right now had been inconsistent, but today was back to normal. Other than that, it was just getting a little quick down the hill, pulling some pitches. That’s why we have spring training.”


— Reliever Jake Barrett underwent an MRI that came back clean but is behind due to shoulder stiffness, Lovullo said. He’s in a throwing progression but does not have a timeline for being game ready. “As far as his ramp-up timing, we’re not sure at this point in time,” Lovullo said. “Knowing that he’s a reliever, to get him ramped up is not as big a challenge as it is for somebody who’s a starter.”

— Lovullo said there’s no plan in place regarding how many games how many catchers will play this upcoming season. Of course, there are still decisions to be made upon who wins catching gigs at all.

“There’s so many new normals as far as games caught with catchers. We’re not going to follow all those guidelines,” he said. “We’re going to do what we have to do within the walls of our clubhouse.

— About veteran offseason pickup, catcher Jeff Mathis: “There’s a calm and an easiness to his personality. There’s and intensity and a fierceness that he shows between the lines that we only get to know about, we see every day. That’s the combination I’m most interested in,” Lovullo said. “He’s a really good player, so let’s not forget that.”

— Closer Fernando Rodney, who was signed this offseason, was late to D-backs spring camp due to a citizenship hearing but threw off the mound Sunday facing three hitters.

“Fastball command was down in the zone, which is always positive for me. Threw some great changeups that were falling out of the zone,” Lovullo said. “I was watching from behind him, it looked fantastic. It looked like he was encouraged.”

Rodney will represent the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, and the D-backs are letting him work into pitching shape at his own pace knowing he will be geared up to close for the first regular season game April 2.

— The lineup for Arizona’s game against Colorado on Sunday.

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