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D-backs’ Lovullo seeking consistency and quality of strikes in rotation battle

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks with the team during spring training baseball practice, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Glendale, Ariz. — The Arizona Diamondbacks have a plethora of options to fill five spots in the starting rotation with Opening Day just under a month away.

Ace Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Mike Leake and Luke Weaver figure to take up four of the five spots.

Zac Gallen, Jon Duplantier, Merill Kelly, Alex Young and Taylor Clarke all appear to be battling for the final spot.

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said consistency and quality of strikes are what he is looking for when weighing his options about who will be the team’s fifth starter.

Each candidate has had at least one outing so far in the spring, with Clarke appearing in his second game on Saturday and struggling in 7-4 loss to the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.

Clarke tossed 2.2 innings giving up six runs on seven hits while striking out three and walking none. He allowed three runs in 1.2 innings on Feb. 23 against the Oakland Athletics.

Gallen and Duplantier each have two scoreless innings so far this spring, while Kelly has allowed two earned runs and Young has allowed three earned runs.

When all the dust is settled, only one of the group will fill the fifth spot, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be on the third-base line for Opening Day.

Lovullo said discussions have taken place about using starters in the bullpen who don’t crack the five-man rotation.

“Don’t know what shape the bullpen will take yet,” said Lovullo. “We certainly want to take the best team to Chase Field with us on Opening Day.”

In addition, it is unclear if Leake will be ready to start the season due to a fracture in his left wrist.

Lovullo said Leake threw three simulated innings at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Saturday, adding he threw the ball well and was hitting his spots.

Either way, the D-backs appear to be on track to enter the season with a considerable amount of pitching depth.

EXTRA BASES

– The D-backs got their first look at Mookie Betts in a Dodger uniform on Saturday, as the 27-year-old former MVP went 1 for 3 with a single, stolen base, and a run scored. Lovullo chatted with Betts prior to the game. The two shared a dugout as members of the Boston Red Sox from 2014 until 2017 when Lovullo was hired by the D-backs.

– Robbie Ray pitched in a side game against Keio University from Japan on Saturday. Lovullo said he wasn’t able to see Ray’s entire outing, but thought Ray was throwing the ball well with good fastball velocity. David Peralta and Carson Kelly also participated, with Kelly catching Ray behind the plate.

– Eduardo Escobar and Kevin Cron each drove in a run for the D-backs in the loss to the Dodgers on Saturday, while Trayce Thompson’s two-run home run in the ninth inning accounted for the other two runs.


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