Beyond Rodney, D-backs 'pen to rely on matchups

April 2nd, 2017
Offseason acquisition Tom Wilhelmsen is likely an option for late-inning situations. (AP)

PHOENIX -- One thing is clear about the back end of the D-backs' bullpen: will do the closing.

"We all know Fernando Rodney is our closer," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "He's going to get the ninth inning every single time he is available."

While the standard operating procedure in recent years has been to designate seventh- and eighth-inning relievers, the game has been evolving into one that emphasizes more flexibility from the relievers.

"We're going to have back-end guys and front-end guys," Lovullo said. "And those back-end guys are going to get the ball and hand it off to Fernando Rodney, so there's really no clear definition as to who's going to get the eighth and who's going to get the seventh. Baseball has shown that the most valuable outs could be in the seventh inning. We're going to establish our matchups the best that we can."

Lovullo listed Tom Wilhelmsen and , who both made the team after being non-roster invitees to Spring Training, as right-handed back-end guys, though Wilhelmsen took over for Zack Greinke in the sixth inning of Sunday's 6-5 D-backs victory over the Giants.

Since he's stretched out as a starter, figures to be a multi-inning reliever initially.

Worth noting

• This is Lovullo's first Opening Day as a Major League manager -- his previous big league managing experience came toward the end of 2015 when he filled in for John Farrell with the Red Sox.

To commemorate the moment, he had around 75 family and friends in attendance.

"They're staying in a hotel here and then they're going to be busing in on a charter bus, in one big party group," Lovullo said before the game. "It's going to be an exciting time for them. If you hear a group up there that's a little out of control, it's probably my family."

Lovullo slept soundly Saturday night right up until 3 a.m.

"Then things started clicking on for me," Lovullo said. "I think my body, my mind, knew something was different about today. And when I consciously woke up and remembered that it was Opening Day, it was a little bit more of a restless sleep."

• Chris Owings will get the bulk of the starts at shortstop, but Lovullo will work to get Nick Ahmed at-bats as well.

One way of doing that is to have Owings play some right field to spell .