What to know for Diamondbacks’ Opening Day at Dodgers
Mar 30, 2023, 12:12 PM | Updated: 12:14 pm
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ 2023 season is hours away as they take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine.
The D-backs made a 22-win jump last year to finish 74-88 and made moves this offseason to keep the trajectory upward.
For the first time in his career, Zac Gallen will get the ball in the season opener after Madison Bumgarner started the last three for Arizona.
“We’re ready to go,” manager Torey Lovullo told reporters this week. “We’re as ready as we possibly can be. I think we’re all excited to head out of town, get into L.A. and start the season. Really proud of these guys. They did everything I asked all spring training long.”
Gallen will square off against L.A. southpaw Julio Urias after they matched up twice last season.
The teams split those starts, but both aces shined.
Gallen tossed 14 innings of one-run ball with 18 punchouts — a career-high 13 in one game. Urias allowed one earned run over 11.1 frames with nine strikeouts.
🚨 ZAC GALLEN HAS SET A CAREER HIGH WITH THIRTEEN STRIKEOUTS! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/eWsc6RngCE
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) September 23, 2022
The two finished in the top five of the National League Cy Young race with Urias No. 3 and Gallen No. 5.
Gallen set a career-high with 184 innings pitched and had a 2.54 ERA. He finished in the 74th percentile in strikeout rate at 26.9%.
“I still think ultimately I have something to prove,” Gallen told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo this week.
Urias, like Gallen, is starting his first Opening Day game after he had a 2.16 ERA last year.
The series will continue with probable pitching matchups of Merrill Kelly facing Dustin May on Friday, Bumgarner versus Clayton Kershaw on Saturday and Zach Davies against Noah Syndergaard on Sunday.
Gallen will likely throw to 23-year-old catcher Gabriel Moreno, who came over in an offseason trade from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Arizona has shown a lot of faith in Moreno, dealing Daulton Varsho for him and not adding a catcher when Carson Kelly broke his forearm in spring training.
The D-backs lacked in right-handed offensive options and firepower in the bullpen last year, which general manager Mike Hazen addressed.
Arizona added right-handed bats 3B Evan Longoria, OF Kyle Lewis and OF/1B Lourdes Gurriel Jr. How Lovullo deploys his new right-handed arsenal will be an early decision against two lefties in the first three games. They each add needed depth to raise the floor of the team, allowing Lovullo to play with matchups and keep players fresh throughout the year.
In the bullpen, the D-backs brought in hard-throwing righties Miguel Castro, Scott McGough and Carlos Vargas, along with veteran southpaw Andrew Chafin for his second go-around with the club. Arizona admittedly left wins on the table last season with 27 blown saves, and pitching coach Brent Strom requested more juice out of the pen.
Miguel Castro, Ridiculous 99mph Sinker.
With 25 Inches of Run. WTF.😳 pic.twitter.com/aZafF5CcGn
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 11, 2022
David Peralta has started in the outfield for the D-backs over the last seven Opening Day games, but he signed with the Dodgers this winter after getting traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2022.
Against a righty in Gallen, Peralta could very well be a part of an eighth-straight D-backs season opener, just in a way that may make Arizona fans squirm a bit.
MLB changed its schedule format so more teams could play each other. The D-backs, in turn, will see NL West foes 52 times instead of 76 — 13 times each.
Arizona starts off the campaign with four games at Dodger Stadium, another two at Petco Park against the Padres and returns home for Opening Day at Chase Field against Los Angeles on April 6.
With the Dodgers and D-backs playing each other eight times over the first three series, the two won’t match up again until August.
“We’re going to be battle-tested early and get a feel for where we stand,” assistant GM Mike Fitzgerald told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Wednesday.
The D-backs have not made the postseason since 2017, but Gallen told Burns & Gambo this week he’s as confident in the team as he has been since becoming a D-back in 2019.
Only four teams since 2017 have gone from 100 losses to an above .500 record within two seasons, including the White Sox and Marlins during the 60-game 2020 season.
Lovullo said he wants the rest of the baseball world to know the D-backs will not back down this year, sensing a change from the past couple of seasons in the group.
“This team is totally different. This team is ready to step up and get after it,” Lovullo told reporters. “You’re gonna see a team that doesn’t back down from anybody and that’s one of my demands.”
Opening Day history
The D-backs snapped a three-game Opening Day losing streak last season when Seth Beer hit a walk-off home run against the Padres at Chase Field.
Arizona is 13-12 in season openers overall, 1-3 against the Dodgers with the sole win coming in 2003, 3-2, thanks to a Luis Gonzalez go-ahead home run.
Last year, Arizona’s Opening Day game was three hours and 18 minutes long. Thursday will mark the debut of the pitch clock and pickoff limits to quicken games and keep the action flowing.
How to listen
First pitch is at 7:10 p.m., and the game will air on 98.7, the Arizona Sports app and ArizonaSports.com.