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D-backs’ Caleb Smith goes scoreless in bounce-back effort vs. Giants

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Caleb Smith (31) throws against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning of a spring training baseball game, Monday, March 8, 2021, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

SCOTTSDALE — Arizona Diamondbacks projected starter Caleb Smith had six days to think about his first start of spring training.

Against San Diego last week, the pitcher was mostly effective, but ran into some problems when it came to Fernando Tatis, who used a second-inning grand slam to tilt the game in favor of the Padres.

Fast forward to Monday’s 2-2 tie with the San Francisco Giants, however, and it was clear Smith had brushed off any first-game jitters.

Pitching three scoreless innings, the pitcher settled in on the mound, striking out three batters and not allowing a single hit. The only blemish in Smith’s performance was a lone walk.

“He was improvising today with his secondary stuff. He had a good feel for the zone and was throwing all his pitches in the zone,” skipper Torey Lovullo said after the game. “What stood out to me was his quality changeup. It was one of those moments where he kept coming back to it and kept ready swings and had a lot of really productive moments with it. I was impressed with the outing.”

Following suit was Alex Young.

Tossing three innings himself, Young allowed just two hits and a walk. He also struck out three batters.

It was yet another solid performance from Young.

“One of the things that stands out with him when he’s throwing the ball extremely well is the cleanliness of his innings,” Lovullo said. “Just pounding the zone, strike one. You look up and he’s walking up throwing eight or nine pitches. The defense appreciates that. It’s just a very, very clean inning when he’s throwing the ball well.

“It’s really the location of his secondary stuff off of his fastball. It’s no secret. I just think he’s in a good spot. He was pounding the zone with all of his pitches today.”

Offensively, the D-backs continued their doubling ways.

It started with outfielder David Peralta, who recorded the first hit of the game with a first-inning double. The double handed Arizona its 18th of spring training. Entering play Monday, the D-backs paced the Cactus League in that category.

They would add to that tally in the fifth inning.

Following three hitless innings, catcher Daulton Varsho broke the streak in a big way, recording a one-out triple. A Pavin Smith walk ensued, setting up Wyatt Mathisen.

The first baseman took advantage of the situation at hand, crushing a hard-hit double into the left field fence and capturing a 2-0 lead in the process.

Mathisen led the way for the D-backs, registering the 2-run double over the course of two at-bats.

Entering play Monday, Mathisen had four hits, two runs scored and three walks through eight games, averaging .333 to go along with a .500 OBP.

“[He’s] controlling the zone, controlling his at-bats, swinging at strikes,” Lovullo said of Mathisen’s play this spring. “The [Jimmie] Sherfy at-bat, when he fell behind with two strikes, I still felt he was in a good hitting position and still looking to do damage. He was guarding both sides of the plate and I think that area of growth has jumped out to me.

“He ends up getting a hanging slider and bangs it off the left field wall, but there was a lot that went into him getting that pitch because he fouled off several other quality pitches with two strikes that enabled him to get his hands on that pitch.”

Catcher Stephen Vogt also got in on the extra-base hits, adding an eighth-inning triple.

Unfortunately for Arizona, the offensive output wasn’t enough to take home a victory, as Yoan Lopez surrendered two runs in the seventh inning that included a solo home run from DH Evan Longoria. The pitcher also added three strikeouts and a walk over the course of an inning.

The D-backs will look to continue to build momentum as they edge closer to the regular season when they take on the Colorado Rockies at 1:10 p.m. on Tuesday.


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