D-backs closing in on Opening Day roster, finalize starting rotation
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A busy final day of spring training answered virtually all of the remaining roster questions for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are closing in on their Opening Day roster less than a week before the opener.
The D-backs on Sunday trimmed their camp from 31 players to 27 by optioning pitcher Robby Scott and infielder Ildemaro Vargas, reassigning pitcher Marc Rzepczynski and sending Rule 5 Draft selection Nick Green back to the New York Yankees.
With pitcher T.J. McFarland (shoulder) likely headed to the injured list and outfielder Socrates Brito unlikely to make the team, per D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, there aren’t many Opening Day roster decisions left.
“We did not fill out our roster, we’re very close,” Lovullo said after the 3-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday. “Obviously a couple moving parts toward the last day or two of spring training and once we get to that day, I’ll obviously give the final count, but there’s still a lot of moving parts.”
Sunday’s moves help solidify questions about several position groups, especially the bullpen and catcher.
The decision to not keep Rzepczynski and Scott on the 25-man roster and part ways with Green likely means Matt Andriese, Matt Koch and Yoan Lopez will assume the D-backs final three bullpen spots.
They will join Andrew Chafin, Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley and Greg Holland, who was named the team’s closer on Sunday, in the bullpen.
Brito likely not making the team means the D-backs will again probably carry three catchers to start the season. John Ryan Murphy, who is out of minor league options, would be the team’s third catcher behind Alex Avila and Carson Kelly.
Brito also has no more options remaining with the club, which means he would have to clear waivers before being assigned to the minors.
But of those cut, Vargas provided the biggest spark throughout spring training for Arizona.
Entering play Sunday, Vargas was tied for third in hits (22), fourth in average (.393) and 10th in OBP (.424) among MLB leaders.
With options still available and a group of versatile infielders, though, Vargas was the odd man out.
“I’m sure other managers feel the exact same way I do,” Lovullo said when asked about how hard it is to make these type of cuts this close to Opening Day. “You get attached to guys and they give you everything you ask and you have to make some very, very tough decisions.
“You empathize with them, you sit down, you feel their pain and then you’ve got to push them off to the minor leagues to make sure they get themselves ready to go.”
Christian Walker, another player who has played well this spring training and was seemingly on the roster bubble, is also a lock to make the final roster.
In 46 at-bats, Walker compiled 17 hits, 11 RBIs and scored 10 runs. He averaged .370 at the plate over that span, slugging .609.
“Christian Walker has been a very good hitter for us,” Lovullo said. “He hasn’t had a lot of opportunity at the big-league level.
“There was always something very intriguing about him prior to this year. Then he came into spring training and killed it, and I felt like we couldn’t miss that. And he earned this, he earned this spot.”
Walker’s joined in the infield with Eduardo Escobar, Nick Ahmed, Jake Lamb, Wilmer Flores and Ketel Marte. Marte will have double duty between playing the infield and outfield.
The outfield will consist of Marte, Jarrod Dyson, David Peralta, Steven Souza Jr. and Adam Jones.
“Exciting conversations for me today,” Lovullo said of his talks with those who have a spot on the roster. “It gets you through some of the dark moments of having to sit down and ruin a guy’s dream, spring training dream, but it’s just the nature of the game.
“I know the guys going down are going to go down and be productive and start to get after it and force their way back up here. And the guys that are here are going to grasp and embrace their roles and help us win some baseball games.”
D-BACKS FINALIZE STARTING PITCHING ROTATION
Not only did the D-backs make more cuts today, they also announced their starting rotation.
While Zack Greinke has already been given the nod as the Opening Day starter, Robbie Ray will take over the following day.
Zack Godley, Luke Weaver and former ASU player Merrill Kelly round out the rotation.
On Sunday, Godley went six innings (82 pitches/51 strikes) in the D-backs’ 3-2 loss to the Brewers. He allowed two earned runs on three hits. He also walked a batter and struck out two.