Gallen determined to 'pull my weight' in Game 1 nod

Lovullo tabs Kelly, Pfaadt for Games 2 and 3, remains mum on roster decisions

October 27th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- There will be no surprises on the mound for the D-backs for the first three games of the 2023 World Series.

Staff ace will get the start in Game 1 against the Rangers on Friday night, followed by Merrill Kelly in Game 2 and rookie Brandon Pfaadt in Game 3. Manager Torey Lovullo hasn't yet decided on a plan for Game 4, as the D-backs follow the script they used in their National League Championship Series victory over the Phillies.

"The starting rotation will follow the same pattern," Lovullo said on the eve of the Fall Classic. "I don't want to be secretive about it. It will be Gallen, Merrill, Pfaadt, and we'll figure out what's going on on Day 4."

Gallen has established himself as one of the best starting pitchers in Major League Baseball over the past two seasons, though he's coming off a rocky NLCS. The righty took the loss in each of his two starts against Philadelphia, posting a 7.36 ERA over 11 innings. He allowed as many home runs (five) as he had strikeouts, while also walking four batters.

"I said it after the two [NLCS] starts, just a lack of execution, really," Gallen said. "No secret, I feel like I didn't help the guys that much. So I'm looking to try and pull my weight this time around."

There is little doubt within the D-backs' clubhouse that Gallen will do exactly that, especially among his fellow starters.

"Having Zac in Game 1 is huge," Kelly said. "He's been our horse for the last couple years. Obviously, I'm sure the postseason hasn't gone as well as he would have liked it to so far, but that's the beauty of baseball: He gets to go out again in Game 1 and try to wipe that slate clean."

As for Kelly, he plans to soak in everything he can from Game 1 -- both on and off the field -- to help him in Saturday's Game 2. 

"Just the fact that I'm able to kind of be here, be in the stadium, feel the vibe of the crowd, feel the energy and kind of be able to get my feet on the ground before I have to go out and actually pitch," Kelly said. "I would have to imagine that comes in handy."

Roster construction
Lovullo wasn't ready to tip his hand on Arizona's 26-man World Series roster, which needs to be finalized by 10 a.m. CT on Friday.

After carrying 14 position players and 12 pitchers in the best-of-five NL Division Series, the D-backs pivoted to an even split of 13 apiece in the best-of-seven NLCS. Lovullo, however, was set to meet with the front office on Thursday afternoon to decide whether that extra pitcher was necessary this time around.

"We're going to talk about some of the characteristics of our lineup, what we want to do, how we want to manipulate different things," Lovullo said, "and have as much leverage as possible through some of the ideas that we're having as the game is moving along."

For the NLCS, the D-backs added rookie right-hander Slade Cecconi in place of infielder Jace Peterson, who went 0-for-1 in their NLDS victory over the Dodgers. Arizona used all 13 pitchers on the roster in the NLCS, though it's certainly feasible they could have gotten by with 12.

Ryne Nelson pitched just two-thirds of an inning in the club's 10-0 loss in Game 2 in his lone appearance of the series. Cecconi pitched two scoreless innings, one apiece in mop-up duty in Games 2 and 5.

With off-days after Games 2 and 5 (if necessary), and an entire offseason to recover, it's not out of the question that the D-backs could opt to navigate the next week with 13 pitchers.

"I don't know what we're going to do at this point," Lovullo said. "It really comes down to an extra pitcher or an extra position player."

Though only two D-backs have World Series experience -- Evan Longoria (2008 Rays) and Ryan Thompson (‘20 Rays) -- don’t expect anyone in Arizona’s dugout to be intimidated on the big stage.

“The great thing about what we've done this postseason is we've gone through L.A. and we've gone through Philly -- two of the more difficult places to play anywhere in the league,” Longoria said. “So I don't see how we could experience anything more here than we did in either of those two places.”

Still, Globe Life Field figures to be up to the challenge for Game 1 -- and for Kelly’s Game 2 start.

“That atmosphere in Philly is maybe unmatched throughout the league,” Kelly said. “Their fans' reputations obviously precede themselves. So if we were able to get through there, I don't think there's much you could throw at us at this point that would catch us off guard.”