PHOENIX -- When the D-backs mapped out their starting lineup prior to the 2021 season, it looked quite different from the one that took the field for Saturday’s game against the Nationals. Injuries continue to take a toll on Arizona, and right now, tough news is arriving on a near everyday basis.
On Saturday, the D-backs learned they’d be losing their hottest bat, as well as bullpen depth.
Arizona placed catcher Carson Kelly on the 10-day injured list due to a tuft fracture in his left big toe. Right-hander J.B. Bukauskas (right elbow flexor strain) also went on the 10-day IL, while righty Chris Devenski (right UCL sprain) was placed on the 60-day IL. The D-backs recalled infielder Domingo Leyba, right-hander Yoan López and left-hander Joe Mantiply from Triple-A Reno to fill those roster spots.
Kelly is batting .338/.491/.613 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 28 games this season. He joins a long list of key Arizona players currently sidelined with injuries, a list that includes outfielders Ketel Marte (right hamstring strain) and Kole Calhoun (left hamstring surgery); infielders Christian Walker (right oblique soreness) and Asdrúbal Cabrera (right hamstring strain); and right-handers Zac Gallen (right UCL sprain) and Taylor Widener (right groin strain).
“It’s unfortunate, you never want to see guys get hurt and it just sucks that it’s kind of all happened at the same time,” Kelly said. “But over the course of a long season, it’s a tester. It’s a tester for our guys and our team and what we’re made of. So it’s going to be a battle going forward, but I have faith in our guys and our team to get us back to where we were at.”
Kelly fouled a ball off his left big toe in the first inning on Thursday, but he stayed in the rest of the game. He didn’t play Friday as the D-backs continued to evaluate him, which then led to the decision to put him on the IL.
But Lovullo and Kelly are both optimistic that Kelly may not be on the injured list longer than the minimum 10 days, with Lovullo anticipating a “quick turnaround.” Still, it’s another missing piece to the D-backs’ lineup as the team endures a tough stretch, having lost nine of its past 11 games entering Saturday.
“It’s definitely going to impact us, I don’t want to downplay that,” Lovullo said. “Carson is an extremely important piece of what we do every single day here. It wasn’t the news that I was hoping for, but we’ve got to overcome this adversity.”
While Kelly is out, Daulton Varsho will get time behind the plate to spell Stephen Vogt. Varsho has mostly played the outfield during his brief time in the big leagues, but he caught 59 innings last season and has 1,471 innings of Minor League experience behind the plate. He also played two innings behind the plate on Friday and started there Saturday.
Calhoun was transferred to the 60-day IL among Arizona’s series of roster moves.
On the mend
• After throwing a 30-pitch bullpen session on Saturday, Widener is scheduled to make a Triple-A rehab start on Tuesday. The right-hander, who previously threw a 51-pitch simulated game on Thursday, will throw about 75 pitches for Reno.
Could Widener be ready to rejoin the D-backs’ rotation after that outing?
“We’ve got to get him through that start, see how he feels, but anything is on the table,” Lovullo said. “I feel comfortable thinking that if we can get him into that 90-pitch range for his big league return, we’ll be in good shape.”
• Marte played six innings in a game against Rockies players at the D-backs’ alternate training site at Salt River Fields on Saturday. After the center fielder is evaluated, he’s likely to be heading to Reno for a rehab assignment, as long as he’s ready to take that next step.
Lovullo watched Marte play on Saturday and came away “very encouraged.”
“He looked very good,” Lovullo said. “Each time I’m there, he gets two or three hits, so I can evaluate what he’s looking like running the bases, the stride length, the power. It’s all coming along very, very nicely.”
• Cabrera said his strained right hamstring has been feeling better, and he is hopeful that he won’t need surgery. The 35-year-old infielder said he was told from the doctors that he could potentially miss at least four weeks.
“I feel better, I started feeling better today, so I hope to come back soon,” Cabrera said.