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Alex Young looking to build on last year’s experience in 2020

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Arizona Diamondbacks have options in the starting rotation this season. And that’s by design.

Last year, injuries forced 12 different pitchers to start games for the D-backs. And while that by itself isn’t an exorbitant number, nine guys made more than five starts. That’s high. To put it in perspective, when Arizona made the playoffs in 2017, only five pitchers started more than five games. Even in 2018, only six eclipsed that mark.

In other words, it makes sense that Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo have put an emphasis on rotation depth. And while that’s good for the team as a whole, it makes it tougher for younger guys to break in. As starters, at least.

Alex Young is one of those guys. And he made his spring debut against the Mariners at Salt River Fields on Friday. He cruised through the first inning without any issues, but then surrendered a homerun, triple, double and single to consecutive hitters in the second. When the day was done, he’d allowed three runs while striking out three over 2.0 innings.

“It happened really fast, to be honest with you,” he acknowledged, while also stressing that he did feel really good overall. “Honestly, they were all good pitches. The only one that I didn’t really like was the one to Lewis. Just a two-seamer that just kind of stayed over the middle.”

Young made the most of his opportunity last year, going 7-5 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 17 appearances. And if you take out one game in late September when he got roughed up by the Cardinals for six runs in 5.0 innings, that ERA’s closer to 3.10.

He was a pleasant surprise for the club when they had to turn to him in late June, posting a 0.96 in 18.1 innings over his first four Major League appearances. And he was pretty reliable the rest of the way after that as well. But the addition of Madison Bumgarner and return of Luke Weaver – on top of the fact that Arizona ultimately held on to Robbie Ray – means there’s a pretty good chance he’s on the outside of the rotation looking in when Opening Day rolls around.

That doesn’t mean there won’t still be opportunities though. Bumgarner, Ray, Weaver and Zac Gallen should all be locks for the rotation, but Mike Leake is dealing with a left wrist injury so there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready to start the season. That could leave Young battling with guys like Merrill Kelly and Jon Duplantier for starts early in the year.

He’s also one of the few lefties Lovullo has at his disposal, so the bullpen is definitely an option as well. And with the new three-batter minimum rule that Major League Baseball’s implementing, a guy like Young could prove especially valuable.

“Whatever role they need me in,” Young explained. “I mean I like starting, relieving. I’ll help in any way possible. I like doing both, so whatever they need me to do.”


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