ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks’ Eduardo Rodriguez exits spring training start with lat issue

Mar 19, 2024, 7:23 PM | Updated: 9:21 pm

Eduardo Rodriguez...

Eduardo Rodriguez warms up before an Arizona Diamondbacks spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. (Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

(Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

MESA — Arizona Diamondbacks left-handed starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez exited his outing early against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday at Sloan Park with apparent discomfort.

The Diamondbacks soon after announced he was removed with left lat tightness.

Rodriguez warmed up for his second inning and appeared to grimace after a pitch. Manager Torey Lovullo, pitching coach Brent Strom and training staff went to the mound, and Rodriguez walked off the field with head trainer Ryan DiPanfilo.

Andrew Saalfrank entered the game, while Rodriguez sat in the dugout for a half-inning before heading back to the clubhouse.

“Anytime you take a starting pitcher off the mound, there’s a certain level of concern,” Lovullo said postgame. “I’ve been much more concerned in other situations, so I’m gonna hold off and say minimal for right now. So I’m gonna remain optimistic, I think, hopefully, we’ll get more information tomorrow.”

Lovullo asked shortstop Elvis Andrus what Rodriguez had said before they went to check on him, and Andrus told him he complained about having some back tightness they later deciphered was his lat.

The veteran threw a scoreless first inning with 16 pitches, including a strikeout of Cody Bellinger looking. Lovullo said Rodriguez would 100% have been taken out of a regular season game with what he felt.

“I’ve learned some hard lessons along the way,” Lovullo said. “I sent Taijuan Walker back out at Dodger Stadium after he said he felt a little strange in his right elbow. Anytime anybody says there’s something wrong with that portion of their body, they’re coming out of the game for me now.”

Tuesday was Rodriguez’s fourth start of Cactus League after signing a four-year, $80 million contract at the winter meetings, a significant investment to bolster the D-backs’ rotation. He is lined up to start Arizona’s third game of the regular season against the Colorado Rockies after Zac Gallen on Opening Day and Merrill Kelly. That is 11 days away from the time of Rodriguez’s injury.

The D-backs’ internal starting pitching depth stems from the fifth starter competition, with Ryne Nelson, Tommy Henry and Bryce Jarvis battling for one rotation spot. Slade Cecconi was optioned to Triple-A Reno along with Blake Walston on Monday.

Dominoes from Randal Grichuk’s injury status

There remain hurdles for outfielder Randal Grichuk to clear before he takes the field, and with Opening Day coming next week he is running out of time.

Grichuk signed with Arizona a month removed from ankle surgery for bone spurs. Lovullo maintained it is possible Grichuk could be ready to start the regular season, but that is far from certain.

“I know he’s working extremely hard,” Lovullo said pregame Tuesday. “He’s progressing very nicely, progressing with everything that we expected in a way we expected him to. But I got to hit the pause button there. I don’t know what the status is. We want him to be ready for Opening Day, we’re just not sure about that right now.”

The wait-and-see nature of the recovery pushing up against the season opener impacts the Diamondbacks’ ability to map out the bench. Grichuk being ready would make 10 position player locks with three spots to figure out.

Lovullo said they don’t want to rush Grichuk back where he could be limited.

“He’s a good player and we need him, but we need all of him,” Lovullo said. “If he’s not ready, I don’t know what that means. We haven’t yet gotten to those final few tough decisions we need to make. His status will have a large impact on what happens with a couple of names.”

Outfielder Jake McCarthy is outside that initial group but has turned it on after a slow start. He is 7-for-14 in his last five games. Jorge Barrosa was optioned to Triple-A Reno but is a switch-hitting option and a plus defensive outfielder.

On the dirt, Pavin Smith is in the mix as a backup first baseman (no longer getting outfield reps), while versatile infielders Emmanuel Rivera, Jace Peterson, Blaze Alexander, Kevin Newman and Andrus also compete for roster spots.

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