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Pitcher Zac Gallen gives D-backs clean game in 1st spring training start

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Upon being shipped from the Miami Marlins to the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline last July, it was immediately clear right-hander Zac Gallen had promising stuff.

Now spending his first spring with the D-backs, it’s on Gallen to build on a small sample size of eight games with Arizona and 15 total in his maiden MLB season.

Gallen threw a clean 2.0 innings Monday at Scottsdale Stadium as the Diamondbacks fell to the San Francisco Giants, 11-9. He didn’t allow a hit and didn’t walk a batter, finishing with one strikeout in his first tune-up game this year.

Manager Torey Lovullo said to start camp that Gallen’s goals for improvement started simply with focusing on finishing batters off. The 24-year-old emphasized just that in getting his 2020 debut jitters out.

“I wasn’t ecstatic but wasn’t super mad,” he said. “Was a good outing. Some of the pitches need a little bit of work but first time out, it was fine.

“I think the biggest thing was a 2-2 curveball to (Evan) Longoria and then the at-bat with (Brandon) Belt, just being up 0-2 and letting it get away, run the pitch count up a little bit. But I was happy with the second inning, just kind of came at them, settled down a little bit. Having some efficiency in the second inning was nice.”

His manager wasn’t as critical of Gallen’s work. Lovullo said the right-hander hit “all pitches in all locations” and performed as they expected.

Gallen’s nitpicking over wrapping at-bats when he gets ahead in counts isn’t just about the results but about preserving himself for longer performances. Lovullo said earlier in spring that the team wasn’t looking to change his four-pitch arsenal in terms of mix.

“You don’t really change anything,” Gallen added. “It’s just not letting those things get away from you, making that pitch when you have to.

“That costs you a batter maybe in the seventh inning, eighth inning. It’s not only the downside of the result. It’s the fact that you wasted pitches when you could have put those guys away. On the worse end of the spectrum, it’s a hit or a walk.”


— D-backs infielder Ildemaro Vargas saw a 3-0 count and took the fourth pitch for a homer to left field in the top of the second inning to get Arizona on the board. It was a good start for a rotation-caliber player who will find playing time tough with players like Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Nick Ahmed starting at positions he can play.

“That type of an at-bat, working counts, making plays defensively,” Lovullo said of what he wants to see from Vargas this spring. “He’s a good baseball player — he’s a very good baseball player.”

Vargas’ homer was the first of five home runs that accounted for all the scoring by Arizona on Monday.

— Seventeen-year MLB veteran Edwin Jackson, who is on a minor-league deal, followed Gallen with a rough single inning of work. He walked Steven Duggar and Chris Shaw and then saw Brandon Crawford’s hit for a force-out put runners on the corners. Longoria doubled to give the Giants their first two runs.

Jackson posted a 9.58 ERA in 18 games between the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays last season.

— Taylor Widener, last year’s 12th-rated prospect in the D-backs farm system, per MLB Pipeline, also gave up two earned runs in 1.0 inning pitched. He allowed two hits and a walk but struck out three batters.

— Domingo Leyba smacked a three-run home run to right-center in the top of the fourth inning, giving the D-backs a 4-2 lead, but they did not score again until catcher Michael De La Cruz hit a solo shot to right field to pull Arizona within 11-5 in the top of the eighth.

Shortly thereafter, Yasmany Tomas, who is entering the final year of his six-year, $68.5 million contract, pulled Arizona to within 11-6 with his own dinger. Drew Ellis hit a three-run shot to wrap the scoring for the D-backs.

— Lefty reliever Andrew Chafin threw a clean 1.0 inning in his first outing this spring.

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