ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald to start season on injured list with oblique injury

Mar 25, 2024, 5:21 PM | Updated: 7:59 pm

Paul Sewald...

Paul Sewald #38 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on prior to Game One of the Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on October 16, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo announced three days before Opening Day that closer Paul Sewald will start the year on the injured list.

Sewald suffered a Grade 2 left oblique strain, and while Lovullo did not give a specific timetable, he said Sewald’s return will be in terms of weeks and not days.

Sewald said he felt a little sore at home after pitching last Monday, but he didn’t think much of it at first.

“I was throwing harder, moving faster and came in the next day almost not even going to tell the training staff because I was like it’s really low grade,” Sewald said. “But I felt like I might as well and they said, ‘Okay, that’s no big deal. You just won’t pitch on Wednesday. But after the off day, you should feel fine.'”

Sewald said he felt normal for the next three days until his next outing on Saturday.

“While I was pitching on Saturday, it just really didn’t feel good and kind of got to the point where I was like, ‘This seems like something to be concerned about.'”

He woke up Sunday to discomfort and had an MRI, showing the strain.

“Disappointing. Frustration. This is the first time in my career I’ve been on the IL,” Sewald said. “To miss so many days is gonna be disappointing. But it’s better than in the middle of the season or in September. I guess that’s how I’m trying to look at it.”

The news comes on the heels of starter Eduardo Rodriguez sustaining a lat strain last week that will keep him out of the rotation to start the year, giving the D-backs adversity so close to Opening Day.

The Diamondbacks added Sewald at the trade deadline last summer from the Seattle Mariners for infielders Josh Rojas and Ryan Bliss, as well as outfielder Dominic Canzone. Sewald stepped into the ninth-inning role and helped establish roles within a Diamondbacks bullpen that had gone closer-by-committee for much of the season without consistent success.

The bullpen in September and October was a great strength for Arizona, and much of the credit has gone to players knowing when they’ll be called on.

Sewald threw eight scoreless innings and picked up six saves during Arizona’s run to the World Series, although he was bit by the long ball in the Fall Classic. He has one year left under team control and set some high goals for himself, including becoming a first-time All-Star.

He added a changeup this offseason to give himself a third option outside the fastball-sweeper combo.

“We got an army of hungry pitchers sitting down there in that bullpen,” Lovullo said. They’ve been tested at the highest level and they’ve gone out there and executed at the highest level at the most critical times.”

Sewald said he will not be ready during the D-backs’ first road trip from April 5-10 and likely not on the ensuing home stand from April 12-17.

“It’s not going to be on the 16th day of the 15-day IL,” Sewald said.

Who will be the Diamondbacks’ closer without Paul Sewald?

Lovullo did not name an interim closer by name, but he said there is a very logical choice. Kevin Ginkel took that mantel momentarily last season before the Sewald trade and was the setup man down the stretch. Ryan Thompson also carved out a role in the back end with a stellar September.

He alluded to starting the year gong by matchups, but the injury information was still fresh.

“In Paul’s absence, I want somebody to step into that role,” Lovullo said. “But I don’t want to drop that on somebody out of nowhere and wonder if they can handle it. I want to let this this evolve.

“I don’t want to make that decision and then have to back out of it. I want to let something evolve and go in that direction. I know the front office sees it the same way.”

Lovullo said Ginkel will be considered, saying the right-hander has reached a certain standard. Ginkel broke out last season with a 2.48 ERA and his first four career saves.

Sewald showed full confidence in Ginkel and the the group as a whole, saying he hopes to rejoin a first-place team that will add its closer back.

“I don’t know if Torey had said that (Ginkel) was gonna close or anything, but if that’s him, I think Diamondbacks fans are gonna be just fine in the ninth inning,” Sewald said.

Will Randal Grichuk be ready for Opening Day?

Lovullo said he believes Randal Grichuk — a veteran outfielder who signed this offseason after ankle surgery — could get himself ready for Opening Day as solely a designated hitter.

But the manager said that may not be in the best interest of either Grichuk or the club.

“With everything we’ve been walking through with some of the injuries … we’re in the mindset rather than force things, let’s slow play it a little bit and make sure the athlete is ready to go and compete on every level as fast as he can as hard as he can,” Lovullo said.

“To me, that means just having a DH and not giving somebody a chance to play on the other side of the baseball wouldn’t be fair to him or the team. I think we started to change our thoughts about getting him on the field in a game and getting him a normal flow to be as fair to Randal as possible.”

Lovullo said if this were the NLCS, Grichuk could grab a bat. But to have as dynamic a team as possible, they’d want him to be able to field.

Grichuk underwent surgery for bone spurs in his right ankle and missed all of Cactus League play.

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