D-backs’ Zach Davies to return from IL, start vs. Reds Saturday in key series

Aug 22, 2023, 5:20 PM

Zach Davies...

Zach Davies #27 of the Arizona Diamondbacks walks off the mound as he is pulled in the fourth inning after giving up a three-run homer to Austin Riley #27 of the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on July 18, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks will turn to Zach Davies fresh off the 15-day injured list Saturday against fellow National League Wild Card contender, the Cincinnati Reds, manager Torey Lovullo said on Tuesday.

Davies will have missed more than five weeks by the time he returns after landing on the IL July 19 with lower back inflammation.

He was a consideration to start last Sunday against the San Diego Padres, but MLB rescheduling the game to a Saturday doubleheader ended that possibility.

Lovullo said Davies is fully loaded after three rehab starts with Triple-A Reno, which had varying levels of success. His most effective was his most recent on Sunday, when he threw six innings with three earned runs on seven hits.

The righty allowed 10 earned runs in 7.1 frames with the Aces over his first two outings, and Lovullo said he was just trying to get his feel back.

“He’s a feel guy, he’s gotta throw two, three or four pitches where he wants and I felt like the more reps he got, the better he was going to get, just talking to him about it,” Lovullo said. “He was able to execute and repeat things.”

The Diamondbacks have mixed and matched their pitching arsenal for weeks with Davies and Tommy Henry on the injured list and Ryne Nelson getting optioned to Triple-A.

The onus has been on Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt to provide some depth with bullpen games making up the difference over the past 10 days. Slade Cecconi has also effectively given the D-backs some length in a starter-bullpen hybrid role over his first four MLB appearances.

Davies enters to fill out the rotation a bit more, although his results before landing on the IL were dubious.

This will be his second return from the injured list after a left oblique strain held him out for much of April and May.

Since the oblique injury, Davies has a 7.69 ERA in 10 starts, albeit with a much more reasonable 4.31 FIP that could keep the D-backs in more games. Five of his last eight starts extended at least five innings.

Davies gave the Diamondbacks a 4.09 ERA in 27 starts last year, providing some veteran stability in a rotation that became increasingly young as the season progressed.

This year, he’s been hit much harder with a 41.9% hard hit rate compared to 34.5% in 2022. His arsenal is a bit different with more fastballs and cutters and fewer changeups, his put-away pitch throughout his career. Even the effectiveness of the changeup has been up and down this year with a .331 expected wOBA(weighted on-base average), his highest with the pitch since 2017.

“I think his overall fastball velocity has got to sit around that 90 mph mark and then there’s got to be a certain amount of subtraction for a secondary stuff to get the swing and mess,” Lovullo said.

“I think there’s been some foul balls or some ground balls in play on pitches that are typically missed. … I think it might be the movement, maybe a little something falling off the barrel or just below the barrel. But I think overall he’s just getting a better feel, and I think the more he throws, the better he’s going to be able to kill ball speed.”

Arizona’s top duo of Gallen and Kelly has been aware of the club’s situation recently, as Lovullo said Kelly apologized for only going 5.1 innings in his last start.

The manager said he has to be mindful with their workloads for the final six weeks of the season while looking to win each of their starts. A factor is how loaded the bullpen is, which Pfaadt and Cecconi now impact as youngsters eating innings.

Drey Jameson throwing

Lovullo also gave updates regarding reliever Drey Jameson, who is on the 60-day injured list with a strained right UCL and decided against Tommy John surgery.

Jameson is up to 60-90 feet in his throwing program, and the next step will be 120 feet before he can get on a mound.

“Drey is pushing along nicely,” Lovullo said. “He had a tough decision to make, and he took the route he did and he’s gonna hopefully find himself healthy and back pitching and on the mound as soon as possible.”

Lovullo said there is still hope he could return by the end of the season.

The D-backs moved Jameson to the 60-day IL on July 8, so the earliest he would be allowed to come off would be the first full week of September.

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