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Lovullo expects Nakaushiro in bigs this year

D-backs manager praised Japanese left-hander, who is now in Minor League camp
Special to MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Yuhei Nakaushiro was among the D-backs' first cuts on Sunday morning, but as manager Tory Lovullo and pitching coach Mike Butcher said, he also could be among the first promotions during the regular season.

Nakaushiro, who climbed four levels last season after the D-backs signed him to a Minor League contract just before Spring Training, allowed one run in three appearances and has been followed by a small contingent of Japanese media this spring.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Yuhei Nakaushiro was among the D-backs' first cuts on Sunday morning, but as manager Tory Lovullo and pitching coach Mike Butcher said, he also could be among the first promotions during the regular season.

Nakaushiro, who climbed four levels last season after the D-backs signed him to a Minor League contract just before Spring Training, allowed one run in three appearances and has been followed by a small contingent of Japanese media this spring.

"Yuhei opened a lot of eyes last year," Butcher said. "The thing we're looking for from him to take that next step is really kind of focus on his command, especially fastball command."

• D-backs Spring Training: Schedule | Information | Tickets

Nakaushiro was sent to Minor League camp with fellow lefty Josh Taylor and right-handers Miller Diaz and Joey Krehbiel.

"The evaluation process has started," Lovullo said. "This is how Spring Training goes. You have to work down your roster."

Lovullo does not expect to have seen the last of Nakaushiro, who posted a 1.23 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 29 1/3 between Rookie ball, Class A, Class A Advanced and Triple-A last season. He made 30 total appearances.

"Instead of putting pressure on himself [in big league camp] and every third day getting a look, we felt like he could go down to player development," Lovullo said. "The last thing we said to him is that he's very close.

"We will see him at some point during the year. We know that. We feel very comfortable with that."

Nakaushiro was noticeably nervous -- and later admitted as such -- in his first appearance Feb. 25, when he threw more balls than strikes yet still managed a 1-2-3 inning. He then walked a pair and gave up a run against the White Sox on Wednesday, before he set down the Padres in order with two strikeouts on Saturday.

"We saw him settle down yesterday and there's more of that to come," Butcher said. "Once he harnesses that emotion and takes the emotion out of it and channels it the good way then we're see the best out of him."

Worth noting

• With just two holdovers -- Chris Herrmann and Oscar Hernandez -- among the six catchers in camp, Lovullo is attempting to give each a chance to work with each possibly starting pitcher and reliever in a game situation.

"That's my main objective. That's where I'm at right now, trying to piece that together," Lovullo said. "It's not exactly a perfect science. It gets challenging at times. To bake them together perfectly right now is not my top priority. It's mostly about them getting comfortable with each other."

• Lovullo plans to keep in touch with the five players -- Paul Goldschmidt (USA), Fernando Rodney (Dominican Republic), Silvino Bracho (Venezuela), Daniel Descalso (Italy) and Reymond Fuentes (Puerto Rico) -- leaving this week to play in the World Baseball Classic.

"My intentions are to reach out to the players and let the know, win or lose, how proud we are of them," Lovullo said. "Playing for your country, there's a lot to be said for that. They're going to be right in the thick of some real exciting moments that the world is going to be watched, and we're going to be watching, too."

Minor leaguers Zac Borenstein (Israel) and Miguel Aguilar (Mexico) also will play in the WBC.

Chris Gabel is a contributor to MLB.com.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Yuhei Nakaushiro