Experienced mindset: Zac Gallen and the spring training balance when facing division rivals

Mar 12, 2024, 5:30 PM

Zac Gallen...

Zac Gallen #23 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches during the spring training game against the San Diego Padres at Peoria Sports Complex on March 12, 2024 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

(Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

PEORIA — Arizona Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen got through Tuesday’s game against the San Diego Padres largely sticking to two pitches while not showing too much to a National League West rival in spring training.

Division foes of Arizona have seen their fair share of Gallen, so what can they take away from a mid-March game, anyway?

“Habits, tendencies, what the pitch shapes are looking like,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “They may remember what it looked like last year, but adjustments may have been made. So I think there’s an advantage from withholding the guys if you can when you’re gonna play that close.”

San Diego started regulars Xander Bogaerts, Fernando Tatis Jr., Jake Cronenworth, Manny Machado and Ha-Seong Kim.

The D-backs don’t play the Padres until May, plus Tuesday was only Gallen’s second start of spring training. Had the Diamondbacks and Padres been lined up for Opening Day, Gallen may not have seen the field at Peoria Sports Complex to avoid exposure, Lovullo said. There’s tons of video, even from these games to study, but standing in the box is different.

As Gallen continues to build up his pitch count, the right-hander went in focused on his curveball and stuck with it and his fastball. He sprinkled in a couple changeups but was pretty deliberate.

Gallen got through his three up-downs and delivered 45 pitches, which was the goal.

“Obviously a little different when you’re facing a team in your division, you want to get the work in but you don’t want to give away too much of your hand,” Gallen said.

“I felt okay with the where the curveball was at. Fastball, I wasn’t too thrilled, I was pulling it and making it cut and just wasn’t able to command it really well. Spring training, it’s a work in progress.”

You can’t only pitch on the back fields to get ready for the regular season, and this is where he landed with only two more starts until the real thing.

“I think there’s pros to it in learning different spots in counts and sequences where I can start to use a certain pitch that I might not have thought before,” Gallen said.

He forced a couple swings and misses with the curveball but allowed two earned runs through 2.2 innings. The runs came from a two-run shot by Padres top prospect Jackson Merrill, but Gallen was more focused on the two-out walk that led to Merrill’s at-bat more than the blast.

He was removed with two outs in the second inning but reentered for the third and essentially recorded four straight outs (error on shortstop Elvis Andrus), anyway.

Delivery, getting ahead, feeling the ball coming out of his hand right and getting out heathy are priorities more than results or even velocity at this point in spring, he explained.

Milestone for Corbin Martin

For right-hander Corbin Martin, Tuesday was a long time coming. The 28-year-old had not pitched in a game for the Diamondbacks for one year to the date during spring training, as he went on the injured list with a torn right lat tendon and missed the entire 2023 season.

He had pitched in live batting practice this spring, but he made another step toward returning to major league innings by facing an opponent.

“It’s a great moment for this organization to get him back out there and an especially great moment for Corbin Martin,” Lovullo said. “(Catcher) Tucker Barnhart was very complimentary of his stuff. It’s just a great moment, two big-time injuries where he’s missed a year of time. I congratulate him.”

Martin got through a scoreless inning with a strikeout, allowing one hit on a cue-ball double down the third-base line from Jurickson Profar.

Lovullo said pregame he was not sure if Martin would be ready to go for Opening Day, although he shot down the idea of Martin being a long reliever at this point.

Spring training notes

– Jake McCarthy had a big day at the plate with two hits, including a two-tun triple to right field, and a stolen base. It had been a slow start for McCarthy in games this spring, but he put two hard-hit balls in play.

– The D-backs will value versatility with the backup infield spot(s), and Lovullo said he’s had conversations with Emmanuel Rivera, Jace Peterson and Blaze Alexander about figuring out how to handle multiple spots. “They’re like, ‘I’ll do everything I can to help this team win a baseball game.’ Impressive answers.”

– Blake Walston threw two scoreless innings in his first in-game action since Feb. 26. He had been throwing on the back fields.

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