Arizona Diamondbacks: Lovullo making final decisions on his bench

Mar 19, 2017; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed (13) grounds out during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed (13) grounds out during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Manager Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks will huddle with other club officials on final roster composition.

Here in the final week of spring training, decisions abound for manager Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks. This is the time where Lovullo huddles with the decision-makers and brain powers of the organization to finalize the 25-man roster, create defensive shifts, organize bullpen rotation and a plethora of other evaluations.

While a definite amount of discussion this spring centered around how Lovullo will populate his bullpen, composition of the bench remains equally critical. Before Sunday’s game with Cleveland at Salt River, Lovullo told Venom Strikes that the shortstop job remains undecided, and that represents a critical judgment in the overall process.

Luvollo’s choice here will dictate who his utility player in the infield will be as well as open other decisions on reserve outfielders. Overall, Lovullo explained to Venom Strikes that coming off the bench is the most challenging responsibility in the game.

"That’s the hardest job in baseball. There are a few criteria I’m using the determine who’s on the bench. It will be based on defensive strategy, versatility and the ability to get quality at-bats."

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If players are showcasing their talents before Lovullo and his staff in spring games, the manager further put several under a microscope. Beginning Monday and continuing for a few days, Lovullo will have position players in bunting drills on the Salt River backfields. Lovullo wants to see whether players can demonstrate the art of bunting for a base hit and possibly create separation among bench candidates.

For Monday, Jeremy Hazelbaker was cited as one player bunting on the backfields, and Lovullo indicated several would join.

In the meantime, Lovullo will likely carry 12 pitchers and would mean four bench spots would open. Among the candidates, Nick Ahmed, Kristopher Negron, Oscar Hernandez, Chris Owings, Reymond Fuentes, Ketel Marte, and Hazelbaker remain in camp. From these, Lovullo and other decision-makers will select four. That does not include Gregor Blanco, out with a strained oblique and his opening day status is uncertain.

Coming to camp as a non-roster player, Blanco would have to be added to the 40-man roster and then placed on the disabled list. If the Diamondbacks chose not to place him on the 40-man roster, Blanco becomes a free agent.

Ray tossed

For the second consecutive game involving Arizona, there was an ejection in a Diamondbacks game. On Saturday, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia was tossed for arguing a strike against Cameron Maybin. On Sunday, Arizona Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray was banished by plate umpire Bill Miller. Ray appeared in no mood to talk about the ejection and only had a brief comment to Venom Strikes.

"(Miller) will call balls and strikes as he sees fit. I have no comment on what happened."

Ray’s last outing before his initial season assignment against the San Francisco next week was uneventful. Allowing five runs in the first inning, including home runs to Michael Brantley (one on) and Chris Colabello (two on), both in the first, Ray finished with 81 pitches over his four innings of work. Through a laborious first inning, Ray tossed 29 pitches and did not approach his goal of low pitch counts per inning.

On the diamond, the Cleveland Indians defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks, 6-5 before 13,468, the ninth sellout of the spring at Salt River. Right-fielder David Peralta slammed his second home run of the spring and picked up two hits to lead the attack. Jeremey Hazelbaker also continued with a two-hit game. The loss evened the Diamondbacks spring slate at 13-13-1 with four pre-season games remaining.


On Monday, the Diamondbacks host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for their final spring game at Salt River. Right-hander Shelby Miller gets the start for Arizona and draws righty Jesse Chavez as his mound opponent.

Next: Greinke ready for opening day start

For Tuesday at Peoria, Zack Greinke gets his final tune-up before starting the season in a marquee matchup with Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, the Mariners’ opening day pitcher. The Diamondbacks are then off on Wednesday and conclude their spring slate with a pair of games against the Cleveland Indians, this Thursday and Friday nights in Chase Field.