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Widener sends D-backs into season with strong outing vs. Cleveland

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Taylor Widener throws a pitch against the Cleveland Indians during the second inning of a spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — For as concerning as the Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitchers’ statistics have looked for much of spring training, the surprise member of the rotation to begin 2021 wrapped the team’s offseason with something of a promising outing.

Taylor Widener allowed a solo home run in each of the first two innings to Cleveland Indians Jose Ramirez and Jake Bauers, both coming off hanging curveballs.

But Widener settled in from there in a 3-2 Arizona victory at Chase Field on Tuesday that closed out spring training.

“I thought he was really good. Couple misfired changeups got hit,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “The fastball presence was there, the command, the secondary stuff was consistent.”

Widener threw 86 pitches and went 5.2 innings, allowing four hits, two walks and two earned runs to go along with seven strikeouts. He finishes the spring with a 3.68 ERA and with a role in the rotation due to the elbow fracture suffered by Zac Gallen.

“When you talk about a final outing before the start of the season, that’s how you want it to be,” Lovullo added.

Widener’s numbers are prettier compared to the other four starters.

Madison Bumgarner (6.35 ERA), Merrill Kelly (5.30), Caleb Smith (8.57) and Luke Weaver (8.59) have all given up their fair share of runs while ramping up in Cactus League play.

On Tuesday, Widener even provided the first D-backs hit of the game in the third inning and then, when he was back on the mound, worked his way out of loaded bases in the top of the fourth.

Arizona got within a run in the bottom of the fourth when, with two runners on, Josh Rojas knocked in an RBI single but was caught off base, thinking about heading for second.

The Diamondbacks’ Jake McCarthy lined a two-RBI hit in the bottom of the eighth to give his team the 3-2 lead that would hold.

Lovullo said Arizona would announce its final Opening Day roster on Wednesday.

The manager said he’s felt the D-backs have been season-ready for about a week and have spent the last few spring outings doing some “housekeeping,” in his words.

“I always feel very good about the state of our team … I know the wins and losses aren’t an indication of what the common fan might see,” Lovullo said. “I feel like our team has been working hard daily with concepts that we’ve put down and the fundamentals we talk about.

“This team is ready to go. This team, to me, has been ready for about a week.”

BASE HITS

— J.B. Bukauskas closed spring on Tuesday with a one-hit, no-run ninth inning to complete a strong spring. He went 7.2 innings over eight appearances, striking out 14 and allowing three hits with no earned runs.

— Starting shortstop Nick Ahmed got in some work Tuesday as he deals with knee tendinitis. He took ground balls and went through batting practice. Lovullo would not rule him out for Opening Day and believes even if Ahmed is held out Thursday against the San Diego Padres, the shortstop won’t be sidelined an extended period that puts him on the injured list.

— Outfielder Kole Calhoun continues to slowly ramp up action after undergoing knee surgery in early March. He took six at-bats on Monday and went through “controlled running,” per Lovullo. Calhoun took Tuesday off.

— First base coach Dave McKay will be away for at least the team’s seven-game road trip to start the year after suffering a broken rib and  lacerated spleen in a mid-March dugout fall.

“He’s going to need to get cleared by our medical team,” Lovullo said, adding he told McKay to target a return on the home opener on April 9.

Quality control coach and catching coach Robby Hammock has stepped in for McKay at first base.


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