Nelson earns No. 5 spot and more roster takeaways

March 26th, 2023

PHOENIX -- The D-backs’ Opening Day roster became clearer Sunday when the team made six roster moves, optioning and to Triple-A Reno and reassigning , , and to Minor League camp.

Let’s get right to what it all means.

Both and made the team
General manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo raised the possibility that both right-handers could make the team a few days ago, and that is indeed what happened.

Nelson will be the No. 5 starter, with Jameson initially pitching out of the bullpen.

“[Nelson] pitched very well for us last year,” Hazen said about what separated the two. “So when the games mattered and they were real, he did a really good job. We've thought he's gotten better as we've gone through the spring. Early it was a little rocky, but we felt like he kept making continual improvements, and this is going to be his opportunity and hopefully he runs with it.”

Jameson, though, was also impressive and earned a spot.

“Knowing where the pitch counts [for starters] is going to be, [it] felt like having a long guy in the ‘pen that could give us some length was of some benefit,” Hazen said. “Look, we felt like he was one of our 13 best pitchers, and at the end of the day, we just made that decision.”

Jameson is a reliever for now
Just because he’s opening the season in the bullpen, don’t rule out the possibility that Jameson will start this year or in the future. The D-backs will look to keep him stretched out early in the season, pitching multiple innings so that he can jump into the rotation if needed.

Jameson has the stuff to be a late-inning reliever, so it could turn out that he pitches so well in that role that he stays in it, like Archie Bradley did in 2017. But that remains to be seen.

“We are mindful of the stuff he brings to the table and what we are looking for in our 'pen, and he has the stuff to do that,” Hazen said. “He also has the stuff to do that as a starting pitcher.”

flat-out raked this spring
The D-backs like Smith a lot, and he was their only true backup first baseman. He also had a very nice spring, but Lewis’ performance was too good to ignore.

Another factor is that Arizona will see a number of left-handed starters early in the season, and Lewis allows them to use a right-handed batter in the designated hitter spot.

“He had an incredible spring,” Hazen said. “I think we're going to get a lot of lefties out of the chute based on how we think the rotations are lining up against us. I think [his] power element is something that we talked about not necessarily having, and he can represent that for us in a lot of ways.”

The backup catcher role is not set yet
The reassignment of Higgins would seem to mean that will fill the backup catcher role, but Hazen said there were still other “balls in the air.”

Hazen declined to say what that meant, but it could be that the D-backs may have interest in a catcher they know is on waivers or will be placed on waivers. Maybe a catcher will be designated for assignment and the club feels it could work out a deal for him.

Same goes for final bullpen spot
As of right now, the only two relievers still competing for a spot are right-handers and , and there’s one spot left in the bullpen, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be one of those two.

“There’s a lot going on externally at this time of year that we are still at least staying on top of,” Hazen said.