Diamondbacks’ Tommy Henry happy with 1st spring training start vs. Rockies

Feb 23, 2024, 5:50 PM

Tommy Henry...

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Tommy Henry throws during spring training baseball workouts Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SCOTTSDALE — Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Tommy Henry threw a pair of scoreless innings in his first spring training start Friday at Salt River Fields as he competes for the final spot in the starting rotation.

Henry, in his first MLB action since July 28 after a season-ending elbow injury, delivered three strikeouts and one hit allowed with no walks against the Colorado Rockies.

The lefty faced seven hitters on 22 pitches, although he jumped in the bullpen to get his pitch count up to 35 to build up for the regular season.

“Warming up today honestly was the first time I realized it would be the first time in like a stadium setting since (July), so it felt good,” Henry said postgame. “I had a little bit of pregame jitters, which felt good. That’s always fun. And there was a great crowd out there today.”

“I had no expectations coming in, I’m not really a huge expectation guy,” he added. “I was glad the stuff felt good. I was glad that for the most part, it was consistent. There’s still some areas I gotta tune up … but I was pretty happy with how this stuff was coming out.”

Henry said he was clear-headed, having already overcome the post-injury hurdle in October. He nearly worked his way back onto Arizona’s World Series roster as a reliever, but the D-backs kept their bullpen intact as was.

The 26-year-old went home to Michigan before returning to the Valley after New Year’s, and his offseason focus revolved around his lower body mechanics with the injury out of the way.

“Really focusing on my hips and starting up my front side in order to make my hand come out in a more consistent pattern,” Henry explained. “Today, small sample size, but I felt like the misses were small. I felt efficient, putting more of the stress in the big muscles, more in my shoulder rather than my elbow. I’m glad I’m healthy.”

Manager Torey Lovullo felt Henry was particularly locked in during his second inning, a 1-2-3 frame with a pair of strikeouts. His final pitch in the ballgame was a wicked curveball that broke to the low-inside corner to punch out Colorado top prospect Adael Amador swinging.

The fastball velocity was played up at an average of 92.6 mph compared to 90.7 mph last season. He worked five different pitches, including his new sinker once to Nolan Jones. A key Lovullo has mentioned this spring for Henry is fastball command and getting ahead.

“Tommy threw the baseball really well,” Lovullo said. “He gave us two quality innings. Looked like he worked into his velocity a little bit through, I think a 2-2 fastball in the second inning of work really got him locked in. After that, he started to really pound the zone with an aggressive heater, quality secondary stuff. So that’s what we’re looking for. Great outing for him.”

The D-backs will turn to Ryne Nelson on Saturday against the Rockies, as they get a look at those vying for the fifth spot early in spring games with regulars Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly pushed back given their 2023 workloads.

Blaze Alexander makes early case

The D-backs didn’t show much offense in the opener, losing 3-0 with 16 strikeouts and only five hits.

Alexander, an infield prospect who spent 2023 in Triple-A Reno, had two of those knocks. He legged out a double and roped a single, both to left field. He also somehow turned a 4-3 double play despite falling after fielding the ball at second base.

The Diamondbacks are looking for a backup shortstop to Geraldo Perdomo, and Alexander can play himself into the mix.

“He is here to compete,” Lovullo said. “Looked like he was hitting in counts, he had a high baseball IQ, while playing the entire game defensively he was positioning himself right, his ready position was spot on, made some really nice defensive plays. The at-bat that was more impressive to me was a 3-0 game, hits a 2-1 slider, a quality pitch, and just barreled that up.”

How did Eduardo Rodriguez look?

Starter Eduardo Rodriguez was initially announced to pitch Friday against Colorado, but the D-backs pivoted to Henry. Rodriguez is healthy and threw to six hitters on the back fields, including Corbin Carroll, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Alek Thomas and Jordan Lawlar.

“The reason why we decided to push Eduardo back here on the back field was partly his idea,” Lovullo said Friday. “He wanted a little bit more of a controlled environment. He felt good enough that you might want more pitches, might want less pitches … You can see that he was healthy.”

Nobody who faced Rodriguez on Friday barreled the veteran up, and he caught multiple hitters looking.

“He’s just so good at landing pitches,” Lovullo said. “He can drive pitches on both sides of the plate. I watched him throw two fastballs down and in to Corbin Carroll and pretty much dotted up. … He’s just really good at locating and figuring out when to and where to throw pitches.”

Spring training extras

– Outfielder Joc Pederson walked twice and saw 13 pitches in his D-backs debut, while third baseman Eugenio Suarez struck out in his first two at-bats in the uniform.

– Reliever Kevin Ginkel threw another bullpen as he works back from right elbow soreness.

– Carroll, Thomas and Gurriel will be in the lineup on Saturday.

– Lovullo said he does not believe outfielder Randal Grichuk is in jeopardy of missing Opening Day after he underwent right ankle surgery about a month ago. He does not know whether Grichuk will be ready to play in the outfield by then, that depends on how the veteran progresses over the next month.

– Pederson called first-base coach Dave McKay the G.O.A.T. of outfield and base running. “I got here a little earlier before spring training, so three weeks in with him and just getting back to getting good jumps and fine tuning that part of my game … He’s able to connect with different personalities and I think that’s step one to being able to translate his information.”

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