Diamondbacks Spring Training Notes: March 28, 2021
Four days remain until Opening Day. Here are updates from the last 24 hours of Arizona Diamondbacks spring training…
Nick Ahmed is starting to have some discomfort in the same knee after some backfield at-bats. The official notice is “right knee inflammation,” and he has received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection. As mentioned before, the backfield at-bats were by his own choice due to wanting more at-bats, not due to an injury. He’s going to continue “all baseball activities” in camp but will sit out exhibition games until he’s fully ready. The team is anticipating a “healthy Nick Ahmed” for Opening Day.
Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar were feeling under the weather Sunday and were sent home. It was not COVID-related. Catcher Carson Kelly backed up Stephen Vogt Sunday by plan, not by need. His thumb is “fine.”
Trayce Thompson had a great first couple of days in the spring, but overall he didn’t do enough to “get the job done” and earn a roster spot.
Position players are set. The only remaining spot up for grabs is in the bullpen. They could either recall a minor leaguer or make a free agent signing. What Lovullo is looking for is nothing special — someone who can “compete and get outs” and “do what it takes to help us win a baseball game.” In the meantime, they’ll allow the “really good internal candidates” to “get their outings and execute” and then the coaching staff will make their choice.
The team has not decided on a closer yet, and they might not at all. If they do, they want to make sure that player hears it first.
Madison Bumgarner (Opening Day)
Lovullo said that Widener “has been throwing the ball very, very well. We were looking for somebody (who) could step in there and give us a very capable outing. Taylor certainly deserves that opportunity.”
The deciding factor between Widener and Taylor Clarke was that Clarke has been “exceptional” in relief. Lovullo didn’t want to “give up that versatility.” Plus, they had been “stretching out” Widener for a starting role, so they continued down that road. They could have gone either way and ended up choosing Widener.
Widener found out Friday as he was leaving the complex that he’d be the #4 starter. He had just started towards home when pitching coach Matt Herges called him and asked him to come to Lovullo’s office.
Widener feels that his slider was the key this spring. He started landing it for a strike again, which built his confidence. “You can’t overpower everybody at this level. You have to pitch,” he said. He didn’t really tweak anything to get the pitch back online. The heat map showed that he kept throwing his slider below the zone. Since other teams see that, too, they knew to lay off, so he knew he had to fix that location problem.
He gets to make his first start in the same place he made his major league debut. Widener hadn’t thought about it before getting asked about this, but he’s excited that this time he’ll get to have family come watch him.
He called his parents first and swore them to secrecy, since the news wasn’t public yet. “I (didn’t) want to get in trouble already,” he said with a smile. His parents were “very excited” to hear the news, as one would expect. He also called his sister. When he called his wife, she was playing pickleball and couldn’t answer. He told her when she called him back.
Lovullo thought “Merrill (Kelly) was solid” in his outing in Sunday’s exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox. “Attacking, landing…. You get in the dugout, and it’s fun to watch.”
Reliever Chris Devenski is still fighting for his roster spot. Beyond that, the team still hasn’t fully settled on the back end of the bullpen. They are leaving open the possibility of going with matchups only and not having a full-time closer. He said definitively, however, that it will not be a “bullpen by committee.” It will be match-up based. However, if someone emerges as a “slam-dunk ninth inning” pitcher, Lovullo will strongly consider him for a full-time job.
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Nick Ahmed, Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, Carson Kelly, Stephen Vogt, Trayce Thompson, Madison Bumgarner, Merrill Kelly, Caleb Smith, Taylor Widener, Luke Weaver, Taylor Clarke, Taylor Widener, Matt Herges, Chris Devenski