SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The biggest innings of Monday's spring D-backs action came on a back diamond at Salt River Fields, where Zack Godley, the projected fifth starter, threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings of two-hit ball.
He was facing Minor Leaguers, but the results on the scoreboard weren't the focus for Godley's mid-March start. Even his eight strikeouts and no walks were secondary to the 69 pitches he threw as he builds his arm strength for his first start in April.
"I got behind on a couple guys, but for the most part I worked ahead like I wanted to," Godley said. "The biggest thing is going out there and building up the innings and the pitch count and getting to where I need to be to start the season."
He was throwing to Minor Leaguers, so his outing could be controlled to ensure he threw the number of pitches the D-backs wanted him to throw along with the corresponding ups and downs between innings. For example, he pitched in five traditional innings, but since he got more efficient as he went along, in both his fourth and fifth innings pitched he stayed out to record a fourth out so he would stay on target with the number of pitches thrown each inning.
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"'Every pitch was working,'" manager Torey Lovullo said, relaying what he'd heard from pitching coach Mike Butcher. "'Overmatching. Landing pitches.' All those things that you want to hear. I saw three of the five innings, and they were very good. I guess the last two were even better. That's what we want our guys to do. Even though they go down and perform on [Field] D1 against some Minor League players, they still bring their 'A' game. That's hard to do, and he came out and executed, which was good to see."
Godley echoed Butcher's sentiment about the effectiveness of his pitches, putting particular emphasis on his changeup and sinker, saying "I feel better about my other pitches right now than I did all of last year."
Part of his focus in the outing was to work on his changeup, a pitch he's had in his tool kit but hasn't used as much in the past.
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"I was just continuing to throw it and continuing to get a feel for it," Godley said. "You can ask any pitcher in baseball, that's the biggest feel pitch there is. Getting a feel for that and getting confidence in that is one of my main goals."
Right-handed relief candidate Kris Medlen started against the Rockies once Godley was pulled from facing the division rivals to pitch on the back field instead. Medlen threw two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out one.
"He threw the ball extremely well," Lovullo said. "We reversed our plans a little bit, and on a moment's notice he took the ball and gave us two solid innings. Nice outing for him."
Medlen's ticket to the Major League roster would come in long relief at this point, so the D-backs are using him primarily in two-inning increments.
"We've told him that he's going to come in here and compete for a bullpen spot and if it doesn't work out that way, we'll stretch him out and make him one of our depth starters [at Triple-A]," Lovullo said. "Right now he's in competition to win a spot in the bullpen."
Other possible long men who could otherwise be "depth starters" include Braden Shipley, Michael Blazek, and Rule 5 pick Albert Suarez.
"Those are our length options in the bullpen, but they're competing," Lovullo said. "It's a lot of fun to watch. The spirit of competition brings out the best in people, and that's where we're at right now."
The D-backs are off Tuesday, and Lovullo has made sure every player and staff member are away from Salt River Fields -- with one exception.
"Shelby Miller will be throwing his first bullpen tomorrow," Lovullo said. "He's going to throw a little bit as part of his schedule, part of his routine."
Miller is working his way back from Tommy John surgery performed last May and is not expected back until summer.
Reliever Jimmie Sherfy is also working his way back -- from early spring shoulder fatigue -- and will pitch in a back-field game on Wednesday. If all goes well, he can stay on track to be ready for Opening Day.
Following Tuesday's off-day, the D-backs will host the Reds for a 1:10 p.m. game at Salt River Fields on Wednesday. Zack Greinke will start the game, and closer candidate Yoshihisa Hirano is also scheduled to pitch. The game can be seen on MLB.TV or MLB Network and heard on an audio webcast.