Diamondbacks announce starting rotation; Tommy Henry, Ryne Nelson make cut

Mar 26, 2024, 12:24 PM

Torey Lovullo, Tommy Henry...

Arizona Diamondbacks mound visit at spring training against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

(Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting rotation for Opening Day is set, manager Torey Lovullo said, with Ryne Nelson and Tommy Henry both making the cut after camp battles.

The order is as follows:

– Zac Gallen
– Merrill Kelly
– Tommy Henry
– Brandon Pfaadt
– Ryne Nelson

Gallen, Kelly and Pfaadt were set in their slots, but Eduardo Rodriguez suffered a left lat strain last week that opened up the third spot. Henry and Nelson were engaged in a spring training competition for the No. 5 job, along with Bryce Jarvis who will serve as the long man out of the bullpen.

Rodriguez’s injury leaves three homegrown pitchers in their mid 20s in the starting rotation, which was the case at points last year.

“I know that this group has been battle tested, Brandon Pfaadt was running as fast as anybody during the postseason and pacing himself out in front of everybody,” Lovullo said.

“Ryne Nelson almost won 10 baseball games last year and threw well in one of the World Series games. These guys have cut their teeth. I know Tommy was banged up towards the end of the year, but he had moments where he was pitching well, so they’re not first-year guys. They’ve gotten some really valuable experience. I think they’re ready for this next challenge.”

Henry started Arizona’s exhibition game on Monday with Pfaadt getting the ball Tuesday.

Gallen was pegged as the Opening Day starter for the second straight season, although last year was at Dodger Stadium and this time he’ll be in front of the home crowd Thursday against the Colorado Rockies.

Nelson will see an extended break between his last Cactus League appearance on Friday and the fifth game of the regular season, so Lovullo said he may face batters at Salt River Fields to stay sharp.

“I think we had an opportunity to maybe push and get Brandon out on a four-day cycle for a spin, but we sold out to the plan early in spring training to give the guys rest on the front side,” Lovullo said. “So, we had that chance but we didn’t want to push anybody. It was set up a certain way, we kept it and it ended up working for us.”

The order also keeps a left-hander in the middle of the rotation as Rodriguez would have been. Rodriguez was optimistic he would not miss an extended period of time after getting surprised by the MRI results.

Nelson had a stellar spring with a 2.66 ERA in 20.1 innings, picking up more whiffs and strikeouts (26) after spending most of the offseason working out at the team facilities. He held a 5.31 ERA as a rookie but had terrific spurts mixed in. His stuff has played up in spring.

“Last year during this time, I was grinding through some stuff and didn’t really feel like I had my best,” Nelson said after his start Friday. “I just felt a little bit on the defense and right now I feel like I’m attacking hitters and doing what I want out there and executing.”

Henry closed his spring on a high note with 9.1 scoreless innings, showing strong command with the fastball and a sinker he has been working on.

An elbow injury ended his 2023 at the end of July, but he was healthy entering spring training and working on lower-body adjustments.

“It’s the day that keeps you motivated on a Monday morning in December to keep working and get ready,” Henry said of Opening Day approaching.

Diamondbacks-Rockies probables

Thursday: RHP Zac Gallen vs. LHP Kyle Freeland

Friday: RHP Merrill Kelly vs. RHP Cal Quantrill

Saturday: LHP Tommy Henry vs. LHP Austin Gomber

Sunday: RHP Brandon Pfaadt vs. RHP Ryan Feltner

Nelson will make his season debut Monday against the visiting New York Yankees.

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