Worst-case scenario: Greinke starts 3rd game

Ace (right groin tightness) improving, but could be pushed back a couple days

March 16th, 2018

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Zack Greinke watch remains a moving target, but Friday's news was good and getting better. Manager Torey Lovullo reported that Greinke continues to improve after leaving Wednesday's game early with right groin tightness.

With an eye on the calendar and the potential impact of juggling the rotation, Lovullo expects the D-backs to commit to a plan over the weekend based on what -- if any -- delay Greinke experiences moving forward.

"There's a possibility it could [stay on schedule]," Lovullo said regarding Greinke's bullpen session and subsequent starts. "We're planning two different strategies right now. One includes Zack, and one does not."

At present, the feeling among Lovullo and the medical staff is that the worst-case scenario would be for Greinke to get pushed back a couple days in the rotation, perhaps making his first start in the D-backs' third game of the regular season.

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"I think he's going to have a full season, 32 starts," Lovullo said. "I'm being optimistic that it's going to be on the very high side, that he's not going to miss any time, [at the most] push back a day or two."

Pitch perfect

With the division-rival Dodgers at Salt River Fields on Friday, No. 3 starter  pitched in a Triple-A game against the Cubs, avoiding overfamiliarity with Los Angeles' hitters. He threw 75 pitches over 4 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits and one walk while striking out eight.

Matt Koch got the Cactus League start in his place, earning the decision in a 4-1 win over the Dodgers at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Koch made a good impression, throwing three scoreless innings of two-hit ball and working so efficiently that he ended up 11 under his 45-pitch target.

"Whenever he takes the ball, he does a very good job of attacking the strike zone," Lovullo said. "He was filling it up with strikes today. He wasn't backing down from contact. It was a really clean outing."

It was the D-backs' ninth win in their last 11 games, and the first three runs came in a big third inning with A.J. Pollock and plating the runs in a two-hit, two-walk rally.

"The pitchers are setting the tone, which is a strategy we used last year," Lovullo said. "We were able to get grounded offensively. We got some big hits and scored some key runs at the right time."

Catching on

Projected starting catcher Alex Avila -- in Friday's lineup as the designated hitter -- grounded out twice and struck out once, making him 1-for-18 (.056) in Cactus League play. Avila hit .264 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs in 112 games with the Tigers and Cubs last year.

"It just looks like his timing is a little off and he's working his way into it," Lovullo said. "I know veteran players have a method to what they want to get to. He's probably not so concerned about it. I think he wants to just get his legs under him and get a feel for the barrel, which he's doing right now."

Medical tent

In other injury news, right-hander is scheduled to make his first Cactus League appearance on Sunday against the Reds. Sherfy, the organization's No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline, experienced shoulder fatigue early in camp and has been making steady progress toward getting back on track and competing for a bullpen job.

"The medical team feels strongly that if things progress the way they should and he hits his landmarks, that he could be ready for Opening Day," Lovullo said. "He has to go out and compete to earn that spot. There are a couple things that we need to see before we just decide that he's made the team."

is improving as well, according to Lovullo, but he has not started a throwing program. He is unlikely to be up to speed by Opening Day.

Brad Boxberger pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the win against the Cubs on Thursday, marking his third scoreless outing in four spring appearances. It was his third game since missing two weeks of Cactus League action as he paced himself in his preparation for the season's start.

"I think Boxberger will be ready," Lovullo said. "He threw the ball extremely well yesterday. It was aggressive stuff, and he said he felt fantastic."

Up next

The D-backs host the Padres on St. Patrick's Day, with right-hander Ryan Atkinson toeing the rubber for the 1:10 p.m. MT tilt at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (listen live on Gameday Audio). Lefty will miss the division rivals, but the D-backs' fourth starter will pitch in a "B" game at the training complex, along with closer candidate and veteran left-hander .