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D-backs feel fortunate with rotation stability

Banda makes MLB debut with Walker on paternity leave
MLB.com

PHOENIX -- For the most part this season, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo has had the luxury of rolling out the same starting rotation every week. Arizona entered Saturday boasting the second best team ERA (3.49) in the Majors and using just eight starting pitchers.

Saturday night, that number changed to nine as the D-backs' top prospect, left-hander Anthony Banda made his Major League debut. The 23-year-old started in place of Taijuan Walker, who is on paternity leave following the birth of his son on Friday.

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PHOENIX -- For the most part this season, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo has had the luxury of rolling out the same starting rotation every week. Arizona entered Saturday boasting the second best team ERA (3.49) in the Majors and using just eight starting pitchers.

Saturday night, that number changed to nine as the D-backs' top prospect, left-hander Anthony Banda made his Major League debut. The 23-year-old started in place of Taijuan Walker, who is on paternity leave following the birth of his son on Friday.

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Even with the Nationals -- who owned the third-best record in MLB entering Saturday -- in town, Lovullo said before the game he didn't think nerves would be an issue for Banda.

"I feel like he is a little bit beyond his years," Lovullo said. "He's a very mature kid. He's got great mound presence. ... We read the game reports, we talk to the Triple-A staff. We know exactly what he's capable of doing based on the experiences that he's had in Triple-A."

Banda is 7-5 with a 5.08 ERA in 18 starts with Triple-A Reno this season. He gave up seven runs in five innings Monday in his last outing.

"I know that he gave up several runs and the line score didn't look great," Lovullo said. "But according to the game reports and some of the things that I was hearing directly from the player-development staff, they said that he's been throwing the ball very well, and that's what we trust."

The D-backs acquired Banda from the Brewers in 2014, after Milwaukee took him in the 10th round of the 2012 Draft out of San Jacinto College. He was listed as the No. 68 prospect in baseball in Baseball America's Midseason Top 100 Prospects.

With the exception of Shelby Miller, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April, the D-backs have mostly managed to avoid attrition in their starting rotation. Since Zack Godley jumped into Miller's spot in the rotation on April 24, the quintet of Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Godley, Walker and Patrick Corbin have started all but seven of the D-backs' games.

"I think lineup continuity in any way will help out a team," Lovullo said. "I think the eight starters beforehand have done a great job of being reliable and dependable. That's one of the reasons we're having a successful year. We're thankful because that means we're taking care of ourselves and guys are not getting injured. I know some teams are not as fortunate as us. It's a credit to the guys for what they're doing."

Goldy gets day off; J.D. still out
Even D-backs All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt needs a day off every once in a while. He was not in the lineup Saturday but could be available to pinch-hit or appear as a defensive replacement, according to Lovullo. Daniel Descalso started at first base and batted fifth.

"Just on off-day for Goldy," Lovullo said. "I feel like it was the right thing. Long time for him; he went to the All-Star Game and didn't have the four days that everybody else had off. I know that in discussing it with him, he always wants to be in there. It's one of the decisions that I had to make where I said 'Take the day off and be ready for a Sunday day game.'"

Lovullo slotted catcher Chris Iannetta into No. 4 in the lineup. Iannetta, who was slashing .230/.310/.496 in 44 games, last batted cleanup in 2011 while playing for the Rockies.

"I was just looking for a big right-handed bat that could protect Jake Lamb," Lovullo said. "Chris can impact the game with one swing of the bat."

Recently acquired left fielder J.D. Martinez was out for a third consecutive game. He was plunked on the left hand Wednesday in the slugger's first game with the D-backs.

Jarrid Denney is a reporter for MLB.com.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Anthony Banda, Patrick Corbin, Zack Godley, Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker