Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo excited to piece together bullpen game vs. Phillies
Oct 20, 2023, 3:29 PM
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies will have to deal with a series of moving parts on the mound during Game 4 of the NLCS before their starting rotations reset.
Arizona’s Zac Gallen and Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler meet again in Saturday’s Game 5, but both clubs will lean heavily on the bullpen on Friday at Chase Field. Arizona is starting opener Joe Mantiply with Philadelphia opting for young left-hander Cristopher Sanchez. The Phillies lead the set 2-1.
Sanchez has been a starter this year, but his last start was almost a month ago on Sept. 24. He threw two innings in a simulated game before the NLCS began, and manager Rob Thomson said it is no secret the Phillies won’t be getting 100 pitches from their starter.
“This isn’t really an opener for us,” Thomson said. “Sanchy is one of our starters. It’s just a matter of how many pitches we’re going to put on him and how effective he is because he hasn’t had a start in 26 days.”
D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said he’s looking forward to piecing together his pitching staff and see how the pieces match up. He said the plan will be fairly obvious with how they match up to Philadelphia’s lineup. Mantiply is in there to face left-hander power hitters Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper at the top of the order.
He feels a high level of excitement from his relievers, too.
“We have a really awesome bullpen here,” reliever Ryan Thompson said. “There’s a lot of guys in our bullpen who maybe haven’t gotten as much opportunity as of late, and they deserve to have the opportunity and tonight they’re probably going to get it.
“I think we’re all really excited, and we’re here for each other. Conversations leading up to our outings, stuff that we’re communicating with in the bullpen and lifting each other up and stuff like that.”
Lovullo called in an “all-in” situation. Paul Sewald threw the most pitches in relief on Thursday with 21.
The D-backs’ manager said knowing Gallen and Merrill Kelly will start the next two games gives him some flexibility.
The Phillies have starter Taijuan Walker in the bullpen if needed for length, but Thomson said there is no guarantee he pitches.
Neither team adjusted its lineup from Game 3, a 2-1 D-backs win.
“They know that Mantiply is a one-plus guy, he hasn’t gone more than two in quite some time,” Lovullo said. “We’re projecting and seeing what Sanchez is doing right now. We’re having those conversations.
“We’re a very right-handed hitting team no matter what. It doesn’t matter if a righty or lefty is in there. We’ll probably have a couple of options at some point in the game to transition, and when we do it, there will be a strategy to that.”
Arizona has six righties in the batting order with two switch-hitters. Corbin Carroll is the lone lefty.
The D-backs have leaned on bullpen games at times this season due to fluctuation in the starting rotation. It is an element of the modern game Lovullo has had to adjust to. He remembers the Tampa Bay Rays starting reliever Sergio Romo as an opener in 2018 and thinking, “What are you doing, (Rays manager Kevin Cash)?”
“I read his comments after, and I thought that’s actually a pretty good idea,” Lovullo said. “He had his best righty option attack their three top hitters, and now you are talking about one fewer at-bat that might not be a great matchup for pitcher A and B.
“When the National League had the pitchers hitting, it became a little bit of a challenge. But since it’s changed, I feel like I don’t want to get stuck in 2015 and get run over. We have to stay on top of this.”
First pitch on Friday is at 5:07 p.m. on 98.7 and the Arizona Sports app.