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Greinke's Opening Day availability up in the air

D-backs 'continue to be cautious' with health of ace
MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- The good news for Zack Greinke is that the groin tightness that took him out of Wednesday's start after one inning appears minimal and is not raising significant health issues. The bad news for anyone who took Greinke in the Opening Day starter sweepstakes is that cutting short his scheduled five-inning Wednesday outing could well mean the D-backs ace is not on the hill when they start the season against the Rockies on March 29.

"Zack went through a throwing program today, and he actually said he felt good, but we're going to continue to be cautious through this whole process," manager Torey Lovullo said before Thursday's game with the Cubs. "We're going to push back his bullpen and just continue to walk through it with his feedback and see what the next step in the process is."

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MESA, Ariz. -- The good news for Zack Greinke is that the groin tightness that took him out of Wednesday's start after one inning appears minimal and is not raising significant health issues. The bad news for anyone who took Greinke in the Opening Day starter sweepstakes is that cutting short his scheduled five-inning Wednesday outing could well mean the D-backs ace is not on the hill when they start the season against the Rockies on March 29.

"Zack went through a throwing program today, and he actually said he felt good, but we're going to continue to be cautious through this whole process," manager Torey Lovullo said before Thursday's game with the Cubs. "We're going to push back his bullpen and just continue to walk through it with his feedback and see what the next step in the process is."

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While Lovullo wasn't ready to say that Greinke will not be his Opening Day starter, he did indicate that pushing any change in the schedule would mean rushing Greinke's preparation, and for Lovullo, that's not a likely option.

"If we push back the bullpen it's going to push back the start, which obviously at that point could change his status for Opening Day," Lovullo confirmed. "If it's a slim catch-up type of situation, I don't think we'd allow it to happen. My mindset is to not have him play catch-up one day during the season. I want to make sure that he's strong from Day 1 to the end of the season."

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Lovullo called it a "gray area" at present, as the club determines the impact of Greinke getting the work he needs before a regular-season start. The manager was adamant that it didn't make sense to adapt the schedule in any way that risks the integrity of Greinke's spring preparation plan.

"If he doesn't make his next start, it would be a little bit of a challenge [to get two more starts in before Opening Day]," Lovullo said. "On [his next start], whether he gets pushed back or not, to throw five innings and 60 pitches or 65 pitches -- we're going to be very cautious with that number. We're still evaluating what that number would be. That's kind of why we're in this gray zone."

Video: CIN@ARI: Greinke whiffs Votto in the 1st

Even if Greinke could stay on schedule, having thrown 19 pitches instead of a target in the 60s on Wednesday makes it nearly impossible for Greinke to get the preparation originally mapped out to prepare him for Opening Day. The question then shifts to whether he can make a start in the first turn through the rotation or whether he might start the season on the disabled list.

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The D-backs have given consideration to an alternative Opening Day starter, and Lovullo indicated that they have time to rearrange everyone's schedule to put their best rotation forward, rather than looking for the least-disruptive choice.

"We think we have a really good group of guys. We have four guys who would deserve the ball," Lovullo said. "Robbie [Ray]'s name would be at the top of the list.

"We've just decided to wait it out for a day or two, get some input from Zack, and once it's official that everything's been pushed back, starting with a bullpen, then we'll start to rearrange things on paper. We want to have the best candidate on Opening Day, and then the next-best candidate, and the best situation for Days 2, 3, 4 and 5. I don't like disturbing or rocking the boat, because I think guys are right in their rhythm, but in this case, I think we have enough time."

Ray ready to roll

Ray brought his "A" game to face the Cubs, allowing two runs on four hits and no walks over five innings.

"I felt like the third, fourth, and fifth innings, my timing started to get really good," Ray said. "Everything was coming out good after those first couple innings. It just took me a little bit to find it."

Ray noted he's about a start away from being season-ready if the rotation gets juggled.

"It would really only take probably one more [start] to get six-plus [innings]," Ray said. "Strength-wise, my body feels ready to go."

Come from behind

Ramon Flores and Christian Walker hit back-to-back homers to center and left-center, respectively, to tie and go ahead in the top of the ninth of the D-backs' 3-2 victory over the Cubs.

"The ninth inning is all the things we hope to see," Lovullo said. "It's fun for us to see Flores come up and attack the ball the way he did, and then Walker's, who's having a tremendous spring, come up and give us a lead. It was a good moment for us, the dugout was excited. It was a good one all the way around."

Up next

The D-backs return to Salt River Fields on Friday to host the Dodgers for a 1:10 p.m. tilt, which can be seen on MLB.TV. With a division rival across the diamond, No. 3 starter Taijuan Walker will be making his scheduled start in a "B" game on the back fields, while Matt Koch earns the Cactus League nod. The lineup should otherwise be close to the projected Opening Day lineup, as only two projected starters made the trip to Mesa on Thursday.

 

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Zack Greinke