In reality, there is no mystery left in this scenario. The only “x-factor” surrounding the Diamondbacks’ fifth starter is the kind of distance manager Chip Hale manages to create.
Coming into the camp, lefty Robbie Ray, and right-handers Zack Godley, Archie Bradley and Tyler Wagner were considered the major players in the quest to gain this job. Slowly and methodically, Ray created separation, and when Bradley and Wagner were sent to the minors Monday, that left the deck pretty much cleared. Ray appeared to be the last man standing, but not quite.
Meeting with reporters prior to Monday night’s game at Salt River against Milwaukee, Hale said a decision on the fifth starter has not been made. Though Bradley and Wagner are now out of the picture, Hale cited Godley and Yoan Lopez as remaining contenders.
To be fair, this scenario seems hardly plausible. That’s because Godley was hit hard by the Dodgers in his last spring start, and yielded, over three appearances, 11 earned runs in 8.1 innings this spring. At the same time, it seems highly unlikely Lopez can make the jump from AA Mobile into the rotation. That’s where the 22-year-old Cuban-born right-hander went 1-6, and posted a 4.69 ERA in nine starts last season for the BayBears. That also includes surrendering 25 earned runs in 46 innings.
Of the cuts made Monday, the demotion of Bradley resonated on two levels. First, this pretty much anointed Ray as the fifth starter, and tells Hale and other decision-makers that Bradley’s road back to the big league could be filled with roadblocks.
“While Archie’s fast ball command was good, he needs to improve his secondary pitches,” Hale said. “This spring, he continues to throw the ball well, and this is the best I’ve seen him throw.”
The obvious follow-up question dealt with Ray, and Hale remained consistent. Since the first day of camp, he has been uncommitted relative to the fifth starter. Regarding Ray’s elevation to the fifth starter, Hale would only say, “when we make that decision, we’ll let you know.”
At this point, it is difficult not to appreciate what Ray accomplished thus far. In three starts against major league teams, Ray is 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA. In nine innings, he’s given up seven hits, walked three and fanned nine innings. At the start of spring training, Ray said the fifth starter spot was “my job to lose.” While Ray is next scheduled to go Wednesday at Salt River against the Giants, the left-hander, out of Brentwood, Tenn., remains confident.
“Coming into spring training, the key for me was to keep my pitch count down,” Ray said. “So far, I think I’ve done that. I like the way I’m commanding my pitches, and fine tuning things.”
About not named as the fifth starter, Ray takes a realistic approach. While he now seems to be the likely choice, the definitive word from Hale has not come.
“I can’t control that or think about that,” Ray said of the final judgment. “I’m not a decision-maker.”
THE MONDAY COUNT-DOWN
In addition to Bradley and Wagner each optioned, the Diamondbacks reduced their roster by three additional players. While Bradley and Wagner are both headed to AAA Reno, Arizona optioned lefty Keith Hessler and outfielder Gabriel Guererro to AA Mobile. At the same time, outfielder Zack Borenstein was assigned to the minor league camp.
AT SALT RIVER MONDAY NIGHT
Shortstop Nick Ahmed delivered a two-out single to left that scored Todd Glaesmann with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, and the Diamondbacks came-from-behind to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-2 Monday night. Catcher Brett Hayes led off the ninth with a walk, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Evan Marzilli. Joaquin Arias grounded to second and Glaesmann, pinch running for Hayes, moved to third. Ahmed then singled in the game winner.
The game was played before a sell-out crowd of 11,011, the sixth straight sell-out and seventh of the spring. The Diamondbacks expect sell-out crowds for their next three games at Salt River. On the schedule, they have six remaining spring games at Salt River.
ON THE INJURED FRONT
On Sunday, A. J. Pollock appeared in a AAA game, and went 1-for-2 with a walk and a bunt single. Still nursing a bruised right elbow, manager Chip Hale told reporters before Monday night’s game there is no timetable for Pollock’s return to the lineup. With two weeks before opening night, there is some speculation Pollock could start the season on the disabled list.
Catcher Chris Herrmann, recovering from a bruised hip, is expected back in the line-up by mid-week. Out for the last two weeks, Herrmann said that missing nearly half of spring training was not to his benefit. Herrmann remains locked in a battle with Tuffy Gosewisch as the backup catcher to starter Welington Castilllo.
For the next two days, the Diamondbacks face their National League West Division rival San Francisco Giants. Both games are slated for Salt River.
Here, look for the Diamondbacks to start right-hander Rubby De La Rosa and lefty Ty Blach for the Giants Tuesday night at 7:10 p.m. For Wednesday afternoon (1:10 p.m.), lefty Robbie Ray is scheduled to go for Arizona.