Gallen sharp, pushing to make Opening Day rotation

March 31st, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Zac Gallen made his Cactus League debut in Wednesday's 9-2 win over the Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, and if the D-backs right-hander has his way, he's going to be part of the rotation come Opening Day.

Gallen has been behind the other pitchers this spring after a case of bursitis, but a 2 2/3-inning start in which he threw 36 pitches in the game and another nine in the bullpen afterward, has him feeling optimistic that he'll be able to take the ball toward the back end of the rotation come the start of the regular season.

He'll look to get four innings under his belt in five days, which would be his final tune-up of the spring, and should put him on track to throw five innings in his first regular season start.

"You don't want to start on the [injured list]," said Gallen, who opened on the IL last year. "I can speak from experience, so I don't like doing that. I tried to do everything I could to get ready, trying to stay on top of this thing, but also not trying to push it too much. I mean, I would love to not miss a start. Ultimately, they make the decision so it comes down to them, but I'll definitely press pretty hard not to miss a start."

Getting his work in
Merrill Kelly started Monday night in a Minor League game against the Rockies on the backfields at Salt River Fields.

"It was good," Kelly said. "The backfield games are a way different environment than the regular games. I feel like it’s definitely a time to -- if there’s something to work on -- that’s probably where you want to work on it rather than trying to get guys out like that in the main games. But it went well. A couple of walks [that] I wasn’t happy about, but it went fine."

Kelly worked hard this offseason on his changeup and had success throwing it in his first Cactus League start when he dominated the Giants.

"The changeup has been showing me a lot better than it was," Kelly said. "I’m trying to make sure it’s where I want it to be, not only with movement but location, too. I’m just trying it in different lanes, starting it in different places and [seeing] what I’ve got."

There was another type of pitch that Kelly worked on during his outing at the urging of pitching coach Brent Strom.

"I threw some elevated fastballs, which 'Strommy' has kind of been preaching to all us about," Kelly said. "So I’m messing around with that a little bit."

Luplow injury puts D-backs in bind
Outfielder Jordan Luplow's Grade 1 right oblique strain leaves the D-backs with a left-handed-heavy outfield.

While it's not a certainty that Luplow, a right-handed hitter, will open the year on the injured list, it certainly looks likely that he will.

Outfielders David Peralta, Daulton Varsho and Pavin Smith are all left-handed as are Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas, who are both candidates to make the team. One option the D-backs do have is Cooper Hummel, who can play left field and is a switch-hitter.

"We're going to have to be a little creative," manager Torey Lovullo said. "We're going to figure it out. We haven't gotten to that point yet, but we're going to be just fine. We've got a lot of good baseball players here and they're going to get the opportunity to step in and show us what they can do."

Up next
Luke Weaver will start for the D-backs on Thursday afternoon against the Padres at Salt River Fields. Weaver, who struggled a bit in his last outing (1 1/3 IP, 4 ER, 3 BB), will be making his second-to-last start of the spring.

Humberto Castellanos and Joe Mantiply are also slated to pitch for the D-backs while Blake Snell will start for the Padres.