Diamondbacks Spring Training 2021 Notes: March 25-26

Diamondbacks spring training

Diamondbacks Spring Training Notes for Thursday, March 25

Six days remain until Opening Day. Here is what has happened over the last 48 hours of Diamondbacks spring training…

There has been a lot of growth in the game of Josh Rojas. That’s putting it mildly — he’s been the talk of the spring. “He’s a confident player,” said manager Torey Lovullo. One major step Rojas has taken is solidifying his ability to play shortstop. Lovullo — a retired infielder — believes strongly that if a player can get the footwork down for shortstop, he can play anywhere on the infield. The reason for that is that he feels shortstop is the most difficult infield position.

Asdrubal Cabrera has hit a couple of big homers from the left side of the plate. Part of why the team signed him was to improve their ability to hit lefties, but Cabrera has not faced many lefties yet this spring. It’s been a case of “that’s just the way it’s worked out,” since the Diamondbacks cannot control what pitcher their opponents choose to use. Lovullo is not worried, since he knows what Cabrera can do against lefties.

Ketel Marte is hitting the ball hard, but an important aspect of his batting that some might overlook is his pitch selection. It has already improved over the bizarre 2020 season. One reason might be that Marte was pressing too much in 2020. For example, his walk rate plummeted between 2019 and 2020. The coaching staff has talked with him about it quite a bit this spring. Lovullo has been pleased that Marte is taking borderline pitches that are inches off the plate. However, what Lovullo has liked even more is that, early in the count, Marte is taking strikes that are near the edge of the zone. This shows him that Marte is locked in on one pitch in one spot.

Injury Updates

Kole Calhoun took some live at-bats Thursday. He “looked very good” and felt no discomfort. The team will continue to get him rehabbed “within the template (set) by the medical team.” He has yet to run the bases, which is among the final steps in the recovery plan. Those other steps include sprinting out of the box after hitting a ball and lateral movement/cuts while playing the field.

Zac Gallen was doing ground-toss catch on Thursday. The team is doing everything they can to keep him in shape without adding any extra stress or any pain.

Diamondbacks Spring Training Notes for Friday, March 26

The reason Nick Ahmed didn’t play in the exhibition game Friday against the Cincinnati Reds was not injury-related. He wanted more at-bats, so he asked to play in the sim game instead. Taylor Clarke pitched five innings in that sim game and looked “very good” according to Lovullo. Clarke has “made improvements in every area of his game. He’s sharpened up his breaking ball” and his “fastball is more aggressive.” He as also “simplified” his game plan, something the coaching staff likes. With the injury to Zac Gallen, Clarke could be the fifth starter on a temporary basis and then be a long reliever/spot starter after Gallen returns. He also could permanently be the fifth starter. Both are still possibilities.

There might be an increase this season in the true “long reliever.” With the usage concerns team have, it is possible that relievers who can pitch three innings will see a return to prominence. We could even see an increase in the three-inning save. Many fans do not know that if a relief pitcher pitches the final three innings of a victory, he gets a save regardless of the score. (Caveat: He can only do this if he does not earn the “win” for the game.)

Madison Bumgarner

Madison Bumgarner was “able to get up and down six times,” in his words. He also “made some really good pitches.” All in all, Bumgarner was pleased. “I feel ready for the season,” he said after he left the game. He is planning to do “a bullpen or two” in the time remaining before Opening Day.

Bumgarner did not use any quick pitches, as it was not one of the goals of his outing Friday. He did, however, use his cutter a bit more often than usual. That was because it “hadn’t been quite as easy this year as it usually is.” After working on the pitch more, he feels good about where it is now.

Postgame Reflections from Torey Lovullo

Lovullo opened his postgame press conference by giving his condolences to the family of Minnesota Twins bench coach Mike Bell, who passed away earlier Friday after a bout with cancer. Bell was part of the Diamondbacks coaching and front office staff for 13 years. For nine of those, he was in charge of player development. Coincidentally, the Diamondbacks played the Reds on Friday. Mike’s older brother, David, is the manager of the Reds. As a result, “both teams played with very heavy hearts,” Lovullo said. “It was tough to get through the day, the game, (and the) afternoon. We’re trying to find strength in one another.”

Carson Kelly took a pitch off his hand after a signaling cross-up. He fought to stay in the game, according to Lovullo, but they removed him for evaluation. Thankfully, Kelly is uninjured.

Bumgarner was “very efficient in certain spots” despite leaving some pitches over the plate that got hammered. Lovullo feels that Bumgarner is ready to begin the regular season.

Lovullo will announce the Opening Day starter Sunday as well as “who will be falling in behind him.”

Main Photo
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Players/managers/coaches mentioned:

Josh Rojas, Torey Lovullo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ketel Marte, Kole Calhoun, Zac Gallen, Taylor Clarke, Madison Bumgarner, Mike Bell, David Bell, Carson Kelly

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