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D-backs P Jon Duplantier’s comfort levels on the rise in spring training

Arizona Diamondbacks' Jon Duplantier pitches during the second inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tuesday, June 11, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For players who are shipped back and forth between the majors and minors, finding your comfortability within the team dynamic can be a hard thing to come by.

Especially for a young pitcher.

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jon Duplantier has only seen 15 games and just three starts in one season at the big-league level. In those three starts with Arizona in 2019, Duplantier went 1-1 with a 4.42 ERA. He pitched a total of 36.2 innings and gave up 18 earned runs, striking out 34 batters in the process.

But while the pitcher hasn’t had nearly the same amount of reps on an MLB mound as the likes of Robbie Ray or Madison Bumgarner, Duplantier’s used all the time he had in the offseason, and now in spring training, to better prepare himself for what he hopes is a full MLB season.

In his Cactus League debut, that offseason work was on full display. While it was a small sample size, the pitcher got through 2.0 innings unscathed, allowing just one hit and giving up a walk on 39 pitches (24 strikes). He also struck out three batters as the D-backs took down the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-3 on Tuesday.

“Body felt great, it was really nice to get back out there, be on the mound, have all your friends around you,” Duplantier said. “To look back and have those guys say, ‘hey, I’m right behind you, let’s play some ball,’ that was fun. Beautiful day too.”

It was a welcome sight for D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, who is stuck with a plethora of starting pitchers and only a certain amount of rotation spots. As it stands, the team website shows eight starting pitchers, with Duplantier among the names in the bullpen. But that’s why spring training exists, anything can change. Opportunities are fought for, not given out for free. If Tuesday was any indication of his upped play, Duplantier could make a serious argument for the starting rotation.

“He was just pounding the zone with a lot of quality stuff and I think it had late life, his secondary stuff had depth in the hitting zone and there’s been some mechanical adjustments that showed up today,” Lovullo said. “He deserves a lot of credit for that. It’s not easy to take a step back and understand that, ‘hey, I need to make some adjustments to have the stuff come out the way I want it to and have it be consistent.’ Today’s a very good start for him and a very good stepping stone for him.”

Adding to his performance is the overall confidence that Duplantier seems to bring to the mound, something that might not have always been there last season. A big reason for that is meshing with his Arizona teammates and letting his actions speak for themselves.

“I’m more comfortable, I know these guys, these guys know me,” Duplantier said Tuesday. “It feels less like I’m in here and gotta kinda impress people or get to know different people and kinda show up. It’s like I said, it’s like seeing all your friends, you return from summer break and see all your friends the first day of school. It’s been a lot of fun.

“To get the start today and everybody’s like, ‘hey, you on the bump today?’ I said ‘yep’ and they were like, ‘sick man, go do your thing and let’s go get it. Let’s have fun.'”

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