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D-backs eager for Summer Camp games

@SteveGilbertMLB
July 3, 2020

PHOENIX -- The D-backs got their Summer Camp underway Friday at both Chase Field and the team’s Spring Training facility at Salt River Fields. “I forgot how much I crave this,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “Just the banter, the jokes, even the compliments. It’s nice to hear people talk

PHOENIX -- The D-backs got their Summer Camp underway Friday at both Chase Field and the team’s Spring Training facility at Salt River Fields.

“I forgot how much I crave this,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “Just the banter, the jokes, even the compliments. It’s nice to hear people talk about, 'Your swing looks good,' just to be back in the baseball vibe again, it’s exciting.”

While the first few days will consist of batting practice and bullpen sessions, intrasquad game action is expected to come soon, because there are only about three weeks before Opening Day, slated for July 23 or 24.

“We’re going to ramp up into activity pretty quickly,” D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said. “My sense is that we’re going to start playing games here in short order.”

The D-backs will bring players over from Salt River Fields when needed for intrasquad games, and the team is also hopeful that it will get to play a few exhibition games against another Major League team before regular-season play begins.

“We’re still finalizing what that could look like,” Hazen said of exhibition games.

Arizona pitchers have apparently kept themselves sharp during the layoff and will be ramped up quicker than a typical Spring Training, which lasts six-plus weeks.

“We do have some pitchers who have been throwing at a very intense clip that are probably pretty game ready,” Hazen said. “Not for long [stints], but maybe a few innings.”

Right-hander Merrill Kelly faced hitters for three “innings” on Friday, throwing 50 total pitches.

“Stuff came out very, very crisp,” manager Torey Lovullo said.

Bumgarner among those not yet cleared
Hazen said the club has not had any additional players test positive for COVID-19. But he estimated there were about 8-10 players who didn't participate Friday because they have not yet received their test results.

Lovullo said left-hander Madison Bumgarner and outfielders David Peralta and Kole Calhoun were among the players not yet cleared.

“I’m not exactly sure,” Lovullo said on when the players would all be there. “I know in the coming days. Hopefully, we’ll get all that clearance for everybody between the two camps.”

Veteran right-hander Mike Leake announced last week that he has elected not to play this year. Hazen said no other players or staff members have informed the organization that they intend not to play.

Battle for final rotation spot
With Leake’s decision not to play, the D-backs have an open rotation spot behind Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen.

Lovullo was asked if Kelly and lefty Alex Young were the main contenders for the spot.

“I think those are the early targets,” Lovullo said. “But we’ve got other guys that are going to come in and compete. So, it’s not a foregone conclusion.”

Jon Duplantier, Taylor Clarke and Taylor Widener are among the other starters in camp.

Injury updates
Duplantier experienced some elbow discomfort in April and had an MRI as well as a platelet-rich plasma injection.

Asked if Duplantier was still an option to pitch in the big leagues this year, Hazen said, “Yes, but we’ll see how he does when we get started.”

Prized prospect Corbin Martin, who was acquired last July in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Astros, has not had any setbacks in his rehab from Tommy John surgery.

“Corbin Martin is moving along in his progression nicely,” Hazen said. “So he’ll be getting ramped up into activity.”

Quick start is key
With only 60 games scheduled in the regular season, Hazen said the teams that get off to good starts will have a huge advantage, so the D-backs must make the most of their next three weeks.

“You’ll hear me talk in April or May of a given season and downplay any run of success or poor performance,” Hazen said. “And I’m not sure we’re going to be in a position to do that and still fully be able to compete. I think getting off to a good start is going to be critical. So these days are going to be important for that.”

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.