Diamondbacks: Greinke Ruled Out for Opening Day, Lovullo Weighing Options

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With just one week remaining until the Arizona Diamondbacks host the Colorado Rockies on March 29 at Chase Field to open up the 2018 season, manager Torey Lovullo has a decision to make.

Who will throw the first pitch?

Right-hander Zack Greinke, who has started the last two season openers, will not do the honors next Thursday night at 7:10 p.m. The 34-year-old Greinke has dealt with right groin tightness since pitching only one inning in his second start of spring training against the Cincinnati Reds on March 14.

Greinke did not make his scheduled start on Monday against the Los Angeles Angels, which would have put him on track to start the first game. Greinke threw a bullpen session on Sunday and said he felt good.

Instead of pitching against the Giants on Wednesday night, the D-Backs have elected to pitch Greinke in an intrasquad game on a backfield, where the team can dictate pitches and innings. Greinke hopes to last four innings and throw 60 pitches.

With Greinke ruled out, left-hander Robbie Ray seemed like a logical choice to make his first Opening Day start. But, as Zach Buchanan of The Athletic reported, Ray is scheduled to pitch on Sunday against the Rockies. As a result, the D-Backs would have to start him on short rest or forgo his final spring tuneup against Colorado.

After struggling with his command on Tuesday against the Angels, Ray told MLB.com he hopes to start one more time before the regular season.

“I should have one more (Cactus League) start, which will be perfect,” Ray said. “Be able to iron that stuff out and get ready for the season.”

Who Gets The Nod?

The question remains, who will start the D-Backs 21st season?

Before Tuesday’s game in Tempe, Lovullo told MLB.com he is considering many options.

“We’re still adjusting some things and walking through a lot of different scenarios,” he said. “We’re getting closer.”

Assuming that Ray will start the second game of the season on March 30 and Greinke will start the finale on March 31, right-hander Zack Godley is a prime candidate.

The 27-year-old Godley has allowed only four runs, all in his last start against the Reds last Sunday, in four starts this spring. In his 13.1 innings of work, Godley has struck out 15, walked six, and opponents are hitting .152 against him.

Godley set career highs in starts (26), innings (155), and strikeouts (165) last season, and he dominated at home. Opponents hit .198 against Goldey at Chase Field, the lowest mark in team history. He was also excellent on the road and when behind in the count.

Godley’s ceiling is really high and he is ideal for the D-Backs, a team that emphasizes the groundball, because of his nasty breaking ball.

Other Options

In theory, the D-Backs could decide to start Taijuan Walker instead of Godley. But Walker has struggled this spring, pitching to a 6.00 ERA in three Cactus League starts.

Left-hander Patrick Corbin is building up before the season begins and is slated to throw in an exhibition game on March 27 against the Cleveland Indians, so Opening Day is out of the question.

If the D-Backs decide to keep Ray on his regular schedule, look for Godley to get the ball.

Starting Pitching Depth

Starting pitching is huge for every team. Chances are, one or two starters will get injured at some point during the season.

The D-Backs were lucky in this regard last season, which is part of the reason why they had success, but you cannot bank on the health of five pitchers.

Depth has been characterized as a concern for the D-Backs this spring. But if Greinke misses extended time, the team is not without options.

Right-hander Matt Koch has thrown the ball well this spring, as has right-hander Braden Shipley. Both have yet to prove themselves at the big league level but have experience. Rule-5 pickup Albert Suarez showed flashes in parts of two years in the majors with the San Francisco Giants. Right-hander Kris Medlen, who signed with Arizona as a free agent in January, had pitched parts of seven seasons in the bigs before missing the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

In the farm system, Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener should start the season in Double-A and could help the team later in the season.

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