Solomon 'happy to get opportunity' against M's

D-backs right-hander bidding for Opening Day roster spot in rotation or bullpen

March 26th, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- D-backs right-hander is ready to seize the moment. He made his first spring start against the Mariners on Saturday afternoon at Peoria Stadium -- just four days after his last appearance in a back-field game at Salt River Fields.

Through the alignment of weird weather and a logjam of starters’ schedules to juggle, Solomon has seen more “B” game action than Cactus League games, but he’s confident he can show his best on whatever hill the D-backs tell him to climb for the day.

Solomon, who yielded just one hit and two walks to go with two strikeouts over 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Arizona’s 4-1 win over Seattle, has posted a 1.35 ERA in three Cactus League outings spanning 6 2/3 innings. But he’s pitched at least eight innings on the back fields this spring.

“I'm trying not to think about it as much as possible and control what you can,” Solomon said of his approach to fighting for one of a few remaining roster spots in the final days of Spring Training. “I was really happy to get the opportunity to throw against a good team today and face some good hitters, and just try to do the best that I can. I had some good plays made behind me, so it's all I could really ask for.”

The D-backs are still waiting to name a fifth starter and a couple final bullpen pieces. Solomon could be in the mix for either one.

“I’m just going out there and doing my thing whenever I get the ball,” Solomon said. “I haven't really got a ton of information. Like any team, they play their cards close to their chest, and we just got to go out there and do whatever.”

Solomon was scheduled for about three innings on short rest against the Mariners.

“I tried to compete in the zone,” Solomon said. “Throw a decent amount of fastballs, just try to challenge the bat. The cutter is working pretty well to get them off that timing. I threw a couple good breaking balls. I really just tried the full mix and throw everything in the zone, and make them not be able to just sit on one pitch, any one count, or anything like that.”

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo showed his hand enough to reveal that the club is thinking of Solomon for a long role, so coming back on short rest to pitch two or three innings wasn’t an accident. Solomon, 26, has six big league games under his belt from a stint with the Astros in 2021, when he went 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA, along with 10 hits, eight walks and 10 strikeouts in 14 innings.

“There's consistency with the stuff,” Lovullo said of Solomon. “He pitches to spots, pitches to a game plan. I think there's an opportunity to see what he can do in certain situations and give us some length.”

With two Cactus League games and two exhibition contests at Chase Field before Opening Day, players on the bubble have limited opportunity left to make their cases. According to Lovullo, their best closing argument is going to be made on the field.

“Every moment we can get to evaluate these guys, when we're making these last tough decisions, is very critical,” Lovullo said. “We’re finding where we want to go every single day. We've got good players in this camp, and a lot of tough send-downs. We've had a lot of tough conversations, and I know that will continue until the very last minute here.”

Ryan Hendrix, 28, is another righty on the bubble who did his part to avoid a tough conversation on Saturday. Hendrix pitched the fourth, striking out the side and earning the win. It was his ninth Cactus League appearance, and he’s posted a 4.50 ERA in eight innings, while allowing just four hits and two walks with 14 strikeouts.

“It's been an absolutely positive impression,” Lovullo said of Hendrix. “He’s doing a good job of attacking the zone. He’s got a three-pitch mix. It’s one of those situations where you want to continue to give him opportunities so we can evaluate him. He had a great day today.”

Other players trying to make a good last impression included Pavin Smith, who started in right and went 0-for-3 to bring his Cactus League average to .300 (9-for-30) with a home run and four RBIs. Catcher José Herrera, who was 1-for-3 with an RBI, picked up just his second hit in 32 spring at-bats (.063).