D-backs open spring games with big swings, taste of rule changes, plenty to clean up
Feb 25, 2023, 6:05 PM | Updated: 6:41 pm
(Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)
SCOTTSDALE — The Arizona Diamondbacks had split-squad action to open spring training games on Saturday which allowed almost every position player on the team to take the field.
Arizona dropped both its home game against the Colorado Rockies 12-5 and away matchup with the Oakland Athletics 12-7 on a day manager Torey Lovullo felt could have been much cleaner. But the games were also defined by strong strokes from Arizona’s starters, along with players getting a first look at the new rules such as the pitch clock.
The baseball jumped off the bat of Ketel Marte to lead off the first frame in Scottsdale at 107 mph for a double. Josh Rojas doubled in a run, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. mashed his first home run in a D-backs uniform and shortstop Geraldo Perdomo went yard from the right side.
— Reno Aces (@Aces) February 25, 2023
Over in Mesa, Corbin Carroll singled, stole second and scored in the first inning. Jake McCarthy picked up a pair of singles and catcher Gabriel Moreno hit his first home run of the spring.
Both players Arizona got back in from the Toronto Blue Jays for Daulton Varsho went deep in their debuts.
“You gotta love some of the approaches,” Lovullo said. “Marte’s at-bats were fantastic. He’s balanced, he stays through the ball and doubles in the left-center field gap, draws a walk … I was very pleased with a lot of the guys.”
On the hill, Arizona turned to Ryne Nelson and Drey Jameson, who are contenders in what Lovullo called a spirited competition for a spot in the rotation. Jameson turned in a pair of scoreless frames at Hohokam Stadium, but Nelson had a bit more trouble.
Nelson surrendered a pair of runs in his first inning, allowing two doubles and an infield single. His defense didn’t commit any errors but left some plays to be made out there.
His second frame did not fare much better, as a walk and a single ended his outing.
Nelson said his arm and fastball command felt good, and his heater sat at 93-95 mph in the first inning. He exited the game with plenty to work on, he noted, including consistency with his offspeed pitches.
“Wasn’t a good outing with the secondary stuff, I thought the fastball velocity and command were good enough but the secondary stuff was too inconsistent,” Lovullo said. “Those are things that will happen at this point in spring training. I’ll look for him to rebound.”
Ryne Nelson picks up his first strikeout of the spring 👏 pic.twitter.com/drsFcwfAKM
— Reno Aces (@Aces) February 25, 2023
The 25-year-old was used to the speed of the game, though. He has already needed to adjust to a pitch clock in the minors.
“I’ve never really been like a super slow worker, but it’s a little different when you’re forced to go fast,” Nelson said. “So I think it took everybody a little bit of time to adjust.”
The amount of new proceedings in the game presents spring training as a trial and error period for teams to adjust, and Rojas had some questions for the umpires on the field.
He wanted clarity on whether he could put his hand up while getting ready in the box so long as he still had time.
“If your head is down, you’re protected, so I can get in the box at 13 seconds and gather myself,” Rojas said.
“The only question I had is if I’m getting in the box early, I should at least get until the eight seconds until he throws me the ball.”
Arizona was never penalized for pitch clock infractions at Salt River Fields.
The game at Salt River Fields still ran long, though, as it took more than an hour to get through two innings after two reviews, two pitching changes and four walks.
Back to the performance, Lovullo was displeased with many aspects of Saturday’s outing, highlighting making plays defensively, alignments and situational hitting as areas in need of improvement.
“We’re not gonna waste a failure, we’re going to go out there and take advantage of situations and teach,” Lovullo said.
Lovullo expects play to clean up as spring marches on.
– Arizona’s offseason bullpen acquisitions got off to a strong start, as Andrew Chafin, Jeurys Familia and Miguel Castro each threw a scoreless frame. Castro struck out the side on sliders ranging from 95-97 mph.
– Shortstop Nick Ahmed was absent from the lineup, as Lovullo said he is dealing with forearm tightness and inflammation. Ahmed said he felt it on Wednesday, played through it, got home Thursday night and it swelled up.
“Kinda lower forearm, upper wrist area and started to bother me when I was swinging a little bit and just figured it was probably smart to say something now, being really early in camp,” Ahmed said.
– Outfielder Kyle Lewis did not play in either game, but Lovullo said he is really close to game ready. Lovullo attributed leg strengthening and fatigue as reasons Lewis did not debut Saturday, as the former Mariner had knee surgery in 2021 that limited him last year.
– Prospects Brandon Pfaadt, Blake Walston and Bryce Jarvis threw bullpens before the game.
– Outfield prospect Jorge Barrosa started in center field but exited after he walked in the second inning. Lovullo said he experienced hamstring tightness while chasing a fly ball.
– Pavin Smith said he is working five days per week on the infield and two days in the outfield, while last year he was more 50/50.
The D-backs will take on the San Diego Padres Sunday in Peoria. Lefty Tommy Henry — who is also in the running for a rotation spot — will start on the bump.
First pitch is at 1:10 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM and 98.7 FM HD-2.