D-backs anxious to put playoff pieces together, Ray could play in Wild Card
PHOENIX — The luxury of clinching an NL Wild Card spot a week before the season ending, and of securing home-field advantage the same day, isn’t lost on the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Manager Torey Lovullo, however, admitted Wednesday the remaining four games of the regular season present an anxious time as his team awaits a nameless opponent.
“I have fear about what’s right and what’s wrong,” he said of making decisions leading into next week. “I’m not afraid to admit that I have some overall anxiety. But I know that I follow the process, I follow the strategy. Being proactive as possible — and we are here — is going to help me gear up and get ready for Wednesday’s game.”
In pursuit of the last National League postseason berth, the Rockies are attempting to hold off the Cardinals and Brewers, who as of Wednesday were still within reach of taking it from the Diamondbacks’ NL West rival.
So Wednesday morning, Lovullo could only reveal one update: left-hander Robbie Ray, after pitching Tuesday night, will make a start in the D-backs’ season finale at Kansas City on Sunday. He is likely to have a shortened outing, leaving the possibility open that he has more pitches in the tank if he needs to back expected starter Zack Greinke in the Wild Card game a week from Wednesday.
“Keep my arm in shape, keeping the body feeling good, staying on normal rest,” Ray said of the news. “It’s just the right thing to do to keep me sharp. We’re here to win today’s game.”
“At this point, it’s whenever they call my name, be ready.”
The bullpen construction for the remainder of the season — Wednesday’s series finale against the Giants and a Friday-through-Sunday series against the Royals — is not even set. Lovullo said starters Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley could piggy-back Friday starter Zack Greinke and Saturday Taijuan Walker, respectively.
“We’re running out of days for guys being able to pitch,” Lovullo said. “We’re going to pile some guys into a couple days. It just makes the most sense for us to stay sharp and ready.
“It’s all hands on deck and we want to make sure everybody is sharp and available,” the manager added. “We’re all in. Everybody is going to be engaged. All 25 guys on the (Wild Card) roster are going to be there for a reason.”
Who makes it won’t be known until Monday or Tuesday, after an opponent secures their Wild Card berth and the D-backs have time to map out the final plan.
But all signs point to Arizona prepping to have their best starting pitchers ready for a single, do-or-die game.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Robbie is available on Wednesday,” Lovullo said before stressing that pitch counts and weekend plans have yet to be finalized.
“We don’t know who we’re going to play. That’s the challenge right now so bullpen construction for the teams we’re going to play is going to have an impact on who makes that roster.”
ADVICE FOR HIS FIRST WILD CARD GAME
The Diamondbacks don’t want to lose sight of the task at hand, the one-day-at-a-time approach Lovullo has preached.
They’re focusing on winning, and the 11-4 victory Tuesday over San Francisco that followed a day off for most of the D-backs’ starter was evidence of that. Still, Lovullo is already preparing himself for something he’s never experienced.
“I want to get as close as I can to it by having conversations with people who have been in it and help me navigate that day,” Lovullo said. “It’s a different day for me — I’m not going to lie. I’ve been a part of playoff teams and this one is just probably a little bit different. I don’t want to make it anything more than it is. It’s a baseball game but I want to make sure we’re prepared, and I think we will be.”
Lovullo expects he’ll reach out to Royals manager Ned Yost, who in 2014 took Kansas City to a 9-8 win over the Athletics in the American League Wild Card game en route to a World Series loss to the Giants. He’s already talked during the current series with San Francisco hitting coach Hensley Meulens and bench coach Ron Wotus.