Ahmed (knee) expected to be set for opener

Marte, Escobar scratched due to illness; D-backs make roster moves

March 28th, 2021

PHOENIX -- D-backs shortstop continues to battle soreness in his right knee and has not played in a game since taking a number of at-bats on a backfield Friday, though manager Torey Lovullo said he is confident Ahmed will be ready for Opening Day.

Ahmed received a platelet-rich plasma injection to deal with what he recently told reporters was patella tendinitis.

"We are anticipating a healthy Nick Ahmed on Opening Day," Lovullo said. "So what happens between now and that time -- he's going to continue to work with the medical team, he's going to keep continue all baseball activities. We're just not going to allow him to jump into a game until everybody's comfortable. That might be Opening Day, but we know how hard Nick works. We know that he is always prepared. And even though he might miss a couple more games, we feel confident knowing he'll be right there at his peak performance when the season opens."

Center fielder Ketel Marte and third baseman Eduardo Escobar were both scratched from the lineup for Sunday's 7-4 loss to the White Sox due to illness.

Lovullo said neither player had COVID-19-related symptoms and they are expected back soon.

Roster moves
In getting closer to setting their Opening Day roster, the D-backs made a series of moves Sunday.

Right-hander Jon Duplantier was optioned to Triple-A Reno, while righty Anthony Swarzak, lefty Joe Mantiply and outfielder Trayce Thompson were reassigned to Minor League camp.

Closer or closers
Lovullo declined to name a set closer Sunday and indicated that he may go into the season playing matchups at the end of games with pitchers like Joakim Soria and Stefan Crichton.

"We don't have somebody who is a slam-dunk closer," Lovullo said.

Lovullo left open the possibility of someone stepping up early in the season and grabbing that role.

Get back here
Taylor Widener had just left Salt River Fields and was headed home Friday when he got a phone call from pitching coach Matt Herges, who wanted Widener to return to the complex to meet with Lovullo.

Widener admitted to a "little bit of doubt" as to what Lovullo was going to tell him, but instead of bad news, he was told that not only was he going to make the Opening Day roster, but he was going to be a part of the starting rotation.

Widener, who will start the season's fourth game against the Padres at Petco Park on Sunday, beat out Taylor Clarke for the job. The rotation spot was available because right-hander Zac Gallen will open the year on the injured list with a hairline fracture of his right forearm.

Widener pitched in relief for the D-backs last year after spending most of his time coming up in the Minor Leagues as a starter.

"I'm very excited to get a chance to be in the rotation for us," Widener said. "I love the bullpen, but also love starting. I love the routine that I can get into [as a starter], and I know that I have my set days whenever I'm going to throw so I can set my workouts better. And it just gives you a little extra time to prepare and get your body feeling right."

Up next
The D-backs will take on the Cubs on Monday afternoon at Sloan Park at 12:05 p.m. MST, free on MLB.TV. Left-hander Caleb Smith will get the start for Arizona, with Crichton, Swarzak, Mantiply and Kevin Ginkel also slated to pitch. Righty Zach Davies will start for Chicago.