The D-backs activated right-hander Taylor Widener from the injured list and optioned right-hander Joel Payamps to their alternate training site Sunday prior to the series finale against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Widener had been on the IL since Aug. 31 with a strained right rib cage.
Before the injury, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo had started to use Widener in higher-leverage situations, but he may opt to avoid doing that, at least for the rookie’s first appearance back.
“I had a couple discussions with him, I want to give him the softest landing that I possibly can after missing some time,” Lovullo said. “He was at a very, very good spot prior to the injury. So I know that he's very poised and ready to jump in as fast as you possibly can. I can't predict where, when or how [I use him], but I'm certainly excited about getting him back. He was turning into a really nice piece for us in that bullpen.”
Widener had been a starter in the Minor Leagues, but with a full rotation this year, Arizona included him on the Opening Day roster as a long man in the bullpen.
Given that Widener has shown the ability to pitch in a late-inning role and the fact that the team believes it has depth in its starting rotation, Lovullo was asked if the organization now saw Widener’s future in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation.
“I don't want to predict anything, I want to leave every option open,” Lovullo said. “But I know his versatility got him to the big leagues. This team right now, the way it's constructed, I see him as a guy that's going to get a lot of opportunity in the bullpen, but I never want to rule [starting] out. I know that it's probably in his blood to be a starter, but we'll figure out what the plan is moving forward here this offseason.”
Marte making progress
The D-backs are still hopeful that second baseman Ketel Marte will play again before the season ends next Sunday.
Marte has been on the injured list with left wrist inflammation since Sept. 9, and he once again took batting practice at the team’s alternate training site this weekend.
The plan is for Marte to play in a simulated game for the first time Monday and get two or three at-bats.
Lovullo praised Ron Gardenhire, who stepped down Saturday as manager of the Tigers and retired due to health issues. Gardenhire was Lovullo’s first bench coach with the D-backs in 2017, before he left to take the Tigers job in '18.
“I know that he's had an unbelievable run in this game,” Lovullo said. “He was an incredible mentor for me. I will forever cherish the year that we were together. And every time I'm in the dugout, there is a piece of him with me, whether it's conversation or a lesson, or just a simple laugh that we had together. I'll never forget that. An unbelievable career with so many great moments. He should be proud of what he did, and everybody here in Arizona certainly will remember the time that we spent together.”