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D-backs pitchers work back from injury; team still eyes playoff spot

Starting pitcher Robbie Ray #38 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during sixth inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on July 22, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The revolving of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting pitchers has been a major theme of this season, for better and for worse.

When the season started, the rotation was Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Zack Godley, Luke Weaver and Merrill Kelly. As of Wednesday morning, ahead of the D-backs’ series finale against the Rockies at Chase Field, only one of those players, Kelly, was an active member of the rotation.

Greinke (traded), Ray (injured), Godley (waived) and Weaver (injured) were missing. The D-backs have been forced to dip into their prospect pool, using Jon Duplantier, Taylor Clarke and Alex Young to make starts, while also acquiring Zac Gallen and Mike Leake via trade.

More movement could be on the way as Ray, Weaver and Taijuan Walker slowly make their way back from injuries.

“Luke Weaver as well as Robbie Ray, who felt very good after his bullpen yesterday, will continue to throw another bullpen on Friday at Salt River Fields,” manager Torey Lovullo said Wednesday, adding that Weaver will throw at least one more bullpen before the team evaluates whether he could face live hitters.

“Most encouraged obviously by Robbie, who continues to keep plowing away. We’ve got to check that box on Friday. We talked about what some of the possibilities are beyond that yesterday. So we’re hoping that we hit those targets some time over the weekend.”

Ray and Weaver both threw bullpen sessions on Tuesday. Weaver has mild sprains to his flexor pronator and UCL in his right arm and hasn’t pitched since May 26, while Ray has been out with lower back spasms but pitched in a major league game just last week.

Walker, who has been recovering from Tommy John surgery since April 2018, most recently threw at 105 feet. There’s no target date to get him in a bullpen, but Lovullo said Wednesday, “I think that’s approaching.”

PLAYOFF CHASING

Entering Wednesday’s game against the Rockies, in which the D-backs were going for the sweep, Arizona was four games back of the second National League Wild Card spot. The Cubs occupied that second spot, while the Mets, Phillies and Brewers sat between Arizona and Chicago.

The D-backs’ next series is against the Brewers, while they’ll face the Mets in a four-game series in early September.

They’re still hunting for that playoff spot.

“I am the eternal optimist and I’ll never come off of that. I’m the one that’s got to believe in everybody more than anybody else,” Lovullo told Burns & Gambo  Tuesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“There are times where I have some really, really negative thoughts and I get a little pissed off, I’m not going to lie. And everybody sees that in me. But on a daily basis, I’ve got to be that guy that’s going to stand up there and say, ‘We’re pushing and we’re going.’ I’ve got to lead the charge.”

Arizona will have to play exceptionally well the rest of the way. The Diamondbacks entered Wednesday 64-63 but are 47-50 since the end of April.

“I’ve been telling the coaches, ‘Look, if we get into the big dance, we’re going to be battle-tested because every day right now is a playoff game, and I want us to approach the game, teach the game, evaluate the game as if it’s our last game of the year.

“We know we’ve got to get on a run. We feel like we got the type of players that can get on a really, really good run. We need our pitchers to get out there and do their job as they have been as of late. And a couple turns through, this thing can change quickly. We know that. We’ve seen it go backwards on us for five games, six games at a time. We can turn it around in one week’s time.”

STEVEN SOUZA JR. BREAKIN’ RULES

Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury in April and is still coming along in his rehab, which was described Wednesday as being on-target.

But perhaps Souza is trying to accelerate things a bit.

“I caught him running on a treadmill about 10 days ago and he wasn’t supposed to, and I was like, ‘What are you doing? Get off of the treadmill,'” Lovullo said. “But he felt that good. So I think there’s very limited forward running right now.”

D-backs Interviews and Segments