Diamondbacks' Torey Lovullo confident Zack Greinke won't be out long

Diamondbacks' Torey Lovullo confident Zack Greinke won't be out long

Right-hander Zack Greinke’s next step as he works his way back from a right groin strain remains unclear. What seems more evident, however, is that Greinke’s injury does not appear to be particularly significant.

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said that if Greinke misses his Opening Day start, he doesn’t think he’ll miss much more beyond that. That is to say, he might not even miss a full turn through the rotation.

“I can honestly say,” Lovullo said, “my feeling is – and the feeling I’m getting from listening to conversations is – that he’s going to have a full season of 32 starts.”

As to how the club will rearrange its rotation, Lovullo wouldn’t say specifically, but he sounded willing to disrupt the other starters’ current five-day schedules in order to line things up the way he wants it.

“We still feel like we have a lot of time,” Lovullo said. “Two full cycles through. We have a lot of time to readjust. It might inconvenience some guys by a day or two, but I think it could be a complete reload and a total change.

“We don’t want to disrupt guys, but we will. We’ll do what’s best for the team and the matchups. Not just the opening three or four games, but beyond that. We’ll look at the whole picture.”

Greinke left his start on Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds after just one inning after feeling tightness in his groin.

MORE: Diamondbacks’ David Peralta feeling stronger, ready for season

Staying away

Lovullo was asked this week about a common spring-training sight: coaches sitting outside the dugout during games. He said it comes down to coaches needing their privacy.

“We’re having some really detailed conversations about performance, about guys, about the shape of pitches, the types of swings,” Lovullo said. “Things you want to keep to yourselves among coaches that you don’t necessarily want to have players exposed to. When you have close to 50 or 60 players inside of a dugout, there’s very little space to have those types of conversations.

“We just take it out there. You know, 50 percent of the time we might not be talking about that, but we’ve got to have an area where it’s safe and we’re able to have open dialogue and great conversations about what we’re seeing a player do. This is really a time for evaluation.”

MORE: Chase Field adds two super-popular restaurants during 2018 season

Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.

Zack Greinke Could Miss Opening Day with Groin Injury, Torey Lovullo Says

Zack Greinke Could Miss Opening Day with Groin Injury, Torey Lovullo Says

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) throws against the Colorado Rockies during the second inning of the National League wild-card playoff baseball game, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke is in danger of missing the team’s Opening Day game against the Colorado Rockies on March 29 due to a groin injury.

According to Nick Piecoro of AZCentral.com, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said he doesn’t want to rush Greinke back into action: “He’s going to have to get ahead of it and be well ahead of it before he puts himself in [position to start Opening Day]. My mindset is to not have him play catch-up for one day during the season. We want to make sure he’s strong from Day 1 until the end of the season.”

Greinke exited Wednesday’s start against the Cincinnati Reds after just one inning due to right groin tightness.

Lovullo categorized the injury as “minimal.”

Last season was Greinke’s second with Arizona after signing a six-year, $206.5 million deal in free agency, and he put up All-Star-worthy numbers.

The 34-year-old went 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.07 WHIP to go along with 215 strikeouts in 202.1 innings pitched.

Greinke has been an All-Star in three of the past four seasons, and he is a four-time All-Star overall.

He won the American League Cy Young Award with the Kansas City Royals in 2009 and finished second in the NL Cy Young voting in 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers after going 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA.

Greinke was a driving force behind helping the Diamondbacks reach the playoffs last season for the first time since 2011.

If Greinke isn’t ready to go on Opening Day, 2017 All-Star Robbie Ray is the top candidate to replace him.

Zack Greinke probably won’t be ready for Opening Day

Zack Greinke probably won’t be ready for Opening Day

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo strongly suggested that starter Zack Greinke will not be ready for Opening Day.

Greinke left Wednesday’s start with right groin tightness. He was able to play catch yesterday, but he won’t throw his usual bullpen session tomorrow or make his scheduled start Monday. Lovullo said that it’s not worth trying to press his recovery simply to make Opening Day:

“My mind-set is to not have him play catch-up [just] for one day during the season. We want to make sure he’s strong from Day 1 until the end of the season.”

Makes sense to me. It’s probably worth noting too that Greinke’s velocity, which had been down for a couple of starts, crept back up again before he left the game on Wednesday. There’s a chance that he was dealing with some dead arm and it’s not unreasonable to think that a skipped start and a bit of time off of his routine will help liven it back up again. Which is to say that, assuming his groin issue is not serious, it could be something of a blessing in disguise.

With Greinke on the shelf, Robbie Ray will likely start on Opening Day on March 29. Which is a nice reward for Ray, who pitched lights-out last year.

Diamondbacks' David Peralta feeling stronger, ready for season

Diamondbacks' David Peralta feeling stronger, ready for season

Sitting at his locker on Thursday morning, David Peralta turned his right palm upward and clenched his fist. The difference, he says, is tangible. And it’s the reason he can envision this year being far more productive for him than last.

“I know what I can do,” Peralta said. “And I can be better.”

In his mind, it all comes down to the strength in his right wrist. More than a year and a half ago, Peralta underwent surgery that involved moving a tendon back into place. The procedure ended his 2016 season. It also cut into his offseason.

“After my surgery, it was tough for me to get ready for the season,” Peralta said. “I couldn’t work out and I started swinging late. I’m not making any excuses. That’s just the way it is. It’s a process.”

BICKLEY: David Peralta’s journey to Diamondbacks serves as inspiration

Throughout last season, Peralta could feel a noticeable difference in the strength of his two hands. The right one was far weaker. There were mornings he would wake up with a sore wrist. The club’s training staff told him to stay patient.

“It’s normal when you come out of surgery,” he said. “You’re going to feel that way, but then the next year you’re going to feel great. That’s how it is. I feel really good. I feel healthy. I know when I’m healthy I can do a lot of damage and help the team a lot.”

So far this spring, the results support his belief. Peralta roped a pair of doubles on Wednesday afternoon against the Cincinnati Reds. He pulled one inside the first-base line. The other one-hopped the wall in right-center field.

Through 28 at-bats in the Cactus League, Peralta is hitting .500 with three doubles, a homer, a walk and three strikeouts.

He says he made a small adjustment to his swing that might also help explain the early results. Instead of holding his hands up near his shoulder, he’s brought them down closer to his chest. He likes the way it feels so far.

“I’m trying to elevate it – not trying to hit the ball in the air, but more line drives,” Peralta said. “That’s the type of hitter I am, gap-to-gap line drives. It’s working for me well.”

It’s not like Peralta is coming off a bad season. Last year, he hit .293 with 14 homers. But his numbers were down compared with 2015, his last fully healthy season. That year, he hit .312 with an on-base-plus-slugging (.893) that was nearly 100 points higher than last year’s (.796).

MORE: Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke looking doubtful for Opening Day

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Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Takeaways: Zack Greinke stressing people out again

Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Takeaways: Zack Greinke stressing people out again

Over the last week, one player in particular has dominated my Twitter mentions.

People can’t help but worry about Zack Greinke.

Absent all context, it would appear justified. His fastball sat in the mid-80s in a start against minor-leaguers last week, and asked if it was normal afterward.

“Yeah, it happens every year,” Greinke said. “But I mean every year I’m nervous that it might or might not come by the time it needs to.”  

If he’s nervous, shouldn’t we be? Well … you have to know the source. 

Thinky like Greinke

It’s Zack Greinke — a certifiable Eeyore. Yeah, I’m sure he does worry the velocity won’t come back, just like I worry every time the circulation gets cut off in my arm and I wake up to a limp, lifeless limb that amputation is the only cure. It’s not rational, knowing the science behind it, and even just based on personal experience, I have no reason to believe it’s true. But nonetheless, in those 20 seconds it takes to regain the feeling, my mind goes to the darkest possible place. Maybe you’ve never experienced that particular dread, but I believe it’s fueled by a universal truth: Until you actually see something happen, you’re going on faith that it will, and that’s difficult for most people to do.

But most people, particularly in the sporting world, are better at faking it. Any time you hear anyone say “trust the process,” you can be sure that person has at times doubted the process. It’s just that it’s not terribly helpful to acknowledge or entertain that doubt. So to hear someone do it, particularly in an environment where self-confidence runs amok, short-circuits our sensibilities.

But again, it’s Zack Greinke, who has shown time and time again that he doesn’t process these things like most athletes do. He’s honest in a way that forces us to grapple with our own dishonesty or even to reexamine what it means to be honest. So yeah, he has doubts, but I suspect they’re the kind of doubts most of us instinctively know to compartmentalize just to get through the day.

What makes me so confident? Well, even if you’re not buying the Greinke-being-Greinke theory, there’s also the fact that he put us through this same ordeal last spring. His velocity came around then, just like it always has, but yes, in the interest of full transparency, we can never say for sure it will until it does.

Funny thing is his second start Wednesday against the Reds, in which he was sitting in the low 90s in the first inning, might have put everyone’s mind at ease if he wasn’t limited to just the one inning because of a groin injury.

And what of that?

“It seems pretty small at the moment, so hopefully not a long-term thing,” Greinke said, and his manager Torey Luvollo agreed.

Coming from the most honest man in baseball, I believe it. From where I sit, Greinke still looks like one of the safest of a dying breed of 200-inning aces, especially with the new safety net of the humidor at his home park.

Paxton is back

You know whose drop in velocity this spring hasn’t gotten much attention, probably because he had the good sense not to voice his most fundamental levels of concern? James Paxton, whose success depends a little more on velocity. A jump to the 97-to-100-mph range a couple years ago is what put him in the ace conversation in Fantasy, but for his first three spring starts, he sat in the low 90s and was pummeled to the tune of a 14.85 ERA.

The excuse from the Mariners, ye men of faith, was that his long and lanky delivery needed more time than most to get in sync. And apparently, that’s true, because he was throwing 96-97 in Wednesday’s start against the Giants in which he struck out seven over 4 2/3 two-run innings.

Draft with confidence.

Testing their Braun

If you needed a reminder Ryan Braun is still someone the Brewers should want in their lineup, the 34-year-old hit two home runs, including a grand slam, Wednesday against the White Sox.

Why the need for the reminder? Well, things aren’t playing out entirely as hoped in Brewers camp. Braun was manning first base Wednesday, so they haven’t completely abandoned that plan. But he recently expressed that he’s not remotely comfortable at the position, which has opened manager Craig Counsell’s mind to playing him in right field.

Why only now? Well, presumably Counsell was hoping Braun would really take to first base so he could reserve right field for Domingo Santana. But the Brewers do have a pretty good option at first base in Eric Thames, so it’s possible Braun’s discomfort with the position could make Santana the odd man out more often than not.

Santana is certainly still draftable in mixed leagues, but it’s time to lower him in the rankings.

Carpenter breaks out the hammer

Matt Carpenter got his first start at first base Wednesday, giving even more reason to believe his balky back won’t hold him out for the start of the season, especially since he also got his first hit, a home run.

The irony is it came a day after he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was done “selling [his] soul for home runs.” Carpenter indeed put the ball in the air more than ever last year, continuing a four-year trend, and it would have put him within shouting distance of 30 homers if he had been a little healthier.

But he also hit just .241 despite mostly high-quality contact.

“I’m not going to hit 50. So why am I selling out for 50? That’s not who I am. I am not a .240 hitter. It kind of opened my eyes that I want to go back to being that guy,” Carpenter said. “I want to be the guy who can hit .300 with 50-plus doubles and 15 homers. Maybe 20.”

Obviously, we like seeing players hit more home runs in Fantasy, but Carpenter’s most impactful year was 2013, when he hit .318 with just 11 home runs (to go along with 55 doubles) and an .873 OPS in 626 at-bats.

The environment was quite a bit different then. I would suspect a healthy Carpenter could hit 20 home runs by accident in today’s environment. And these days, there are enough .260-hitting, 30-homer guys that the .300-hitting, 20-homer guy might actually be a better fit for some Rotisserie teams. I don’t think his stated goal is altogether a negative development.


Remember Preston Tucker? The older brother of Astros prospect Kyle Tucker himself made a splash for the Astros in 2015, hitting 13 home runs in 300 at-bats. But according to MLB.com, he tried to play through a bum shoulder thereafter, finally giving into surgery at the end of 2016.

His immediate return last year didn’t go so well at Triple-A, but he seems to have regained his old form this spring. With a double and a home run Wednesday, his batting average is up to .364, and he has struck out only once in 33 at-bats.

“This was the best offseason I think I’ve ever had,” Tucker said. “I wasn’t up [with Houston] in September, so I had the whole offseason to get stronger. This is the best my body has ever felt.”

He’s the Braves’ leading candidate to start in left field until Ronald Acuna is ready to debut, and if he carries this form into the regular season, it’s not crazy to think he could overtake Nick Markakis thereafter.

D-backs' Robbie Ray throws strong outing with Opening Day a possibility

D-backs' Robbie Ray throws strong outing with Opening Day a possibility

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray sits in the dugout during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

MESA, Ariz. — The Diamondbacks haven’t publicly said what their plans are for a starting pitcher on Opening Day, but as of Thursday, Robbie Ray could take the bump in that first game against Colorado.

On Wednesday at lunchtime, it would have been logical to assume that D-backs ace Zack Greinke would be the Opening Day starter. He finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2017, posting a 3.20 ERA with a 17-7 record.

But after Greinke exited Wednesday’s game early with groin tightness, Robbie Ray enters the Opening Day conversation.

“We’ve walked through some candidates,” manager Torey Lovullo said of who might start if Greinke isn’t ready. “We haven’t quite gotten to that point yet. We think we have a really good group of guys — we have four other guys that would deserve the ball. Yeah, I mean Robbie’s name would be at the top of the list and we’re still walking through that.”

In the process of getting ready, Ray made his fourth start of the spring on Thursday against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa and tossed five innings. He gave up four hits, two runs (both earned), walking none and striking out four. The two runs he gave up came on a two-run home run to Jason Heyward on a fastball left over the middle of the plate.

“Felt good. I was able to get to five innings,” Ray said. “I felt like the third, fourth and fifth inning, timing started to get really good and everything was coming out good after those first couple innings. It just took me a little bit to find it, but it felt really good.

Ray threw a 1-2-3 inning in the first and fourth frames and reached at least 94 miles per hour. He noted that he threw more curveballs last year than in 2016, and said that pitch was “on” for him on Thursday.

A successful Robbie Ray would be of great help to the D-backs, who saw Ray emerge as their clear No. 2 starter in 2017, a season in which he made the NL All-Star team. Ray went 15-5, pitching to a career-best 2.89 ERA and striking out 218 batters over 162 innings pitched. He also finished seventh in Cy Young voting.

And now, he may be tasked with getting the D-backs off on the right foot on March 29.

“I’m just going about my business everyday, honestly,” Ray said. “Just trying to build my arm strength up, build everything, get ready for the season. Whatever falls into place happens. It’s not a decision that I make and I’m not really going to worry about it.”

Ray didn’t seem concerned with changing his plan for the spring in consideration of possibly starting Opening Day.

“I just do what I’m told around here,” he said. “We get together and if that time comes and they make a decision, I’ll be ready for it. I’m still just kind of going and doing my thing. I mean, five innings — I don’t know how many pitches I threw — but really it would only take probably one more [start] to get six, six-plus [innings]. Strength-wise, my body feels ready to go. So whatever they tell me to do, I’m going to do it.”


–Chris Owings played third base on Thursday, and reps at that position are likely to come for catcher John Ryan Murphy, too, Lovullo said.

“I feel like it’s gone pretty well for not playing there since I was like 13 years old,” Owings said. “I felt really comfortable once I got out there and got settled in and got that ball hit at me.”

Owings played at shortstop, second base, left field and right field for the D-backs last year, and played in center the year before that.

–Lovullo is “not yet” ready to name a closer.

“We haven’t gotten that far yet,” he said. “We talked about continuing the process and allowing them to perform. Some time here in the next several days we’re going to probably get down to that part of our roster, but we haven’t gotten there yet.”