Here's what Lovullo is watching in Cactus League play

February 23rd, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The D-backs will open Cactus League play Friday afternoon against the Rockies at Salt River Fields beginning at 1:10 p.m. MST (watch free on MLB.TV).

Left-hander Tommy Henry will get the start for the D-backs instead of the previously listed Eduardo Rodriguez. Instead, Rodriguez will throw a live batting practice session Friday.

With the games getting underway, here are some things to be mindful of and watch for:

Starters will get limited playing time early on

Look for manager Torey Lovullo to put his starting infield in the lineup for Friday’s opener and then do the same with the outfielders on Saturday.

Players will not play full games right from the start, nor will they necessarily play back-to-back games, so rather than run all his regulars out there for the opener, he will spread it out.

Starting pitchers will get a couple of innings, while the positional players will get roughly two at-bats and/or four innings as they build their way up.

Don’t get caught up in results

Numbers won’t tell the story, especially early in Cactus League play, and it’s not what the key decision-makers are going to be looking at.

When it comes to the pitchers, Lovullo wants to see if they are repeating their deliveries, what the shape of their pitches looks like and how their command is.

When it comes to hitters, he will want to see if they’re getting their front foot down in time, whether they are keeping their hands back, what their bat path looks like and if they are taking the right approach at the plate.

For pitchers and hitters he knows well, Lovullo will watch to see if they’ve made any changes or adjustments during the offseason.

For the ones he knows less well, like newly-acquired players Joc Pederson and Eugenio Suárez, Lovullo is going to watch them a little closer to get a feel for what they look like in the box.

Enjoy watching some of the younger players

Especially early in camp, when starting pitchers only go two or three innings and positional players are playing half the game, fans will see some of the team’s better Minor League prospects.

That includes, obviously, players like Jordan Lawlar and Blaze Alexander, who are in camp, but, teams also bring over players from their Minor League camp to get some at-bats/innings.

Two players who fit that criteria that Lovullo said he is interested in seeing against Major League competition are outfielder Druw Jones, the team’s first-round pick in 2022 and shortstop Tommy Troy, the team’s top selection last year.

See how some players look at shortstop

The D-backs are looking for a shortstop to back up Geraldo Perdomo, and while both Lawlar and non-roster invite Kevin Newman have plenty of experience at the position, a couple of other candidates with less of a track record should be watched as well.

The team has talked about wanting to see what third baseman Emmanuel Rivera looks like there after playing the position in winter ball.

In addition, Jace Peterson, who has played primarily third and second base during his big league career, could also get a look at short.