Also, a flare-up of Nick Ahmed’s knee issues.
Diamondbacks rotation announced
To absolutely no-one’s surprise, especially after the injury to Zac Gallen, Madison Bumgarner will be Arizona’s Opening Day starter against Yu Darvish and the Padres in San Diego on Thursday. Torey Lovullo announced this during today’s pre-game media call (the game isn’t being broadcast locally, so there’ll be no Gameday Thread). He also set up the rest of the starting rotation, with Bumgarner being followed by Merrill Kelly, Caleb Smith Taylor Widener and Luke Weaver, who gets the joy of opening his season at Coors Field. Widener apparently takes Gallen’s spot as a starter, while he recovers from the hairline fracture in his forearm.
Lovullo said the decision was prompted in part because of Taylor Clarke’s versatility and ability to work out of the bullpen and offer length there. He stressed that both pitchers have been throwing well this spring, but he feels this configuration offers the best option. Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar are late scratches today. According to Lovullo, both simply weren’t feeling well – not COVID related – and were sent home. However, Carson Kelly’s hand is doing fine after taking a pitch on it earlier in the week; Stephen Vogt starting today is not indicative of any problems.
Torey Lovullo audio [or link]
This morning, the Diamondbacks made 4 roster moves and have 28 players in camp.
Optioned to Triple-A Reno:
- RHP Jon Duplantier
Reassigned to Minor League camp:
- LHP Joe Mantiply
- RHP Anthony Swarzak
- OF Trayce Thompson
These are all pitchers we might see during the season. Swarzak was probably the biggest surprise, in that he lasted to what’s basically the final round of cuts, allowing one run over five innings with a K:BB of 6:3. Mantiply’s numbers have looked good: one run in 7.1 innings, with a 9:1 K:BB. But what I’ve seen of him hasn’t looked convincing. Thompson started off as red-hot, but as pitchers caught up, his numbers have imploded, and the K’s mounted. Lovullo spoke about Duplantier earlier in the week, and he will now get stretched out as a starter, heading towards the start of the AAA season in Reno, currently scheduled to begin on May 6th.
Opening Day roster
“But, Jim,” I hear the more observant among you asking, “If there are still 28 players in camp, why is this the final round of cuts?” Good question, and I’m glad you asked. As Steve Gilbert noticed, that’s because those 28 still include Gallen, Tyler Clippard and Kole Calhoun, all of whom will apparently start the season on the Injured List. Oddly, at time of writing, the official D-backs roster still lists Humberto Mejía, who was optioned on March 12.
However it doesn’t include Chris Devenski, the only non-roster reliever who has not already been re-assigned to minor league camp. I think he will very likely make the Opening Day roster, having had a solid spring. Devenski has thrown six scoreless innings, giving up just two hits, with a K:BB of 5:3. The walks are a little concerning, but he has a very good major-league record (225 appearances and an ERA+ of 125). Admittedly, his numbers last year were unimpressive, but that was over even fewer MLB innings than he has thrown this spring. Even if we don’t get 2017 All-Star Devenski, 2018 or 2019 Devenski would be adequate, being about league average ERA+.
Given his inclusion in place of Mejia, and subtracting the wounded, that leaves 25 active players, as listed below with their numbers.
- Madison Bumgarner 40
- Taylor Clarke 45
- Merrill Kelly 29
- Caleb Smith 31
- Luke Weaver 24
- Stefan Crichton 58
- Chris Devenski 32
- Kevin Ginkel 37
- Yoan López 50
- Joakim Soria 48
- Taylor Widener 57
- Alex Young 49
- Carson Kelly 18
- Stephen Vogt 21
- Nick Ahmed 13
- Asdrúbal Cabrera 14
- Eduardo Escobar 5
- Ketel Marte 4
- Wyatt Mathisen 27
- Josh Rojas 10
- Pavin Smith 26
- Josh VanMeter 19
- Christian Walker 53
- Tim Locastro 16
- David Peralta 6
One thing to keep an eye on, is the Ahmed situation. He hasn’t been in a Cactus League game since Wednesday. He was a late scratch on Friday, according to Lovullo because Nick wanted to get additional at-bats in a backfield game. But he wasn’t in the line-up today either. Lovullo said Nick has had a flare-up of the right knee inflammation which caused him to miss time earlier in spring training. He had a PRP injection, and Lovullo said he would be available for Opening Day, and he’s doing all baseball related activities except for appearing in a game. Still, even if Lovullo’s confidence proves merited, there is still one spot left to be filled on the roster – almost certainly a reliever, based on the above.
This could be done by recalling a player previously optioned or re-assigned. If the latter i.e. a player not already on the 40-man roster, a spot there would need to be opened. But Gallen or Clippard can go onto the 60-day IL, to do so. One thing to note is that, as for now, the only left-hander in the D-backs bullpen for Opening Day would be Alex Young. In fact, he’s the only left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster. Among the potential candidates outside of there are Mantiply or Miguel Aguilar – as noted, space would have to be freed, but that’s not an issue. It would seem a bit weird though, to re-assign Mantiply on Sunday and recall him on Wednesday, unless there’s some kind of contract shenanigans which such a move would work around. And speaking of contract shenanigans…
If the team wants to stay within the 40-man roster, then there’s always the nuclear option of unleashing the Bukauskas. I think I just want to stare at the spring training line he put up for a moment or two:
J.B. Bukauskas: 5.2 IP, 0 H. 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP
Yes, of the 17 batters he faced this spring, none reached base and 12 struck out. But, I’d likely rather have 2027 J.B. than the 2021 version, and if a few weeks “seasoning” in AAA means we get another year of his services, so be it. That’s the way the roster game is played for now, and it would be silly of the D-backs to do it any other way.
Torey Lovullo largely wouldn’t be drawn on the question of who might get the final spot, so we’ll see what the team does over the remaining days.