Arizona’s ace pitcher, star center fielder, slugging right fielder and two-time Gold Glove shortstop already are injured.
The team’s high-priced veteran starting pitcher has been ineffective. The reconstructed bullpen is down three arms at the moment.
Other than that, things are going just fine for the Diamondbacks seven games into the season.
In the long slog that is Major League Baseball’s 162-game schedule, panicking after a 2-5 start could be viewed as alarmist. But it’s hard to imagine things going much worse for a team that has the unenviable task of chasing the defending world champion Los Angeles Dodgers and loaded San Diego Padres in the NL West.
D-backs manager Torey Lovullo acknowledged the challenge. He also expressed optimism Arizona could overcome the substantial early adversity.
”The hits keep coming,” Lovullo said after an 8-0 loss to the Rockies on Wednesday. ”We budgeted for this. We’ve talked about these things. Good baseball teams have the depth to have the group that can fill in and hold down the fort and also allow some guys to emerge. It’s about adaptability. It’s about being mentally tough and being prepared.”
Still, the avalanche of injuries has been relentless: It started in spring training when right fielder Kole Calhoun had surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee. Calhoun led Arizona with 16 homers in last season’s pandemic-shortened season.
Later in March, veteran reliever Tyler Clippard was shut down with right shoulder soreness. A few days later the D-backs learned that their young star pitcher Zac Gallen had a hairline fracture in his throwing (right) arm after an injury in batting practice.
A couple days before the season, two-time Gold Glove shortstop Nick Ahmed revealed he was battling knee soreness. He tried to play through the pain but was put on the 10-day injured list.
Once the season started, reliever Joakim Soria strained his calf while covering first base and was put on the injured list. Another reliever – right-hander Chris Devenski – was put on the restricted list on Wednesday without explanation from the team.
Then – in maybe the biggest blow – star center fielder Ketel Marte pulled up in pain while grabbing his hamstring during Wednesday’s loss to the Rockies. Marte was put on the 10-day injured list and will likely will get an MRI when the team returns home. The 27-year-old was hitting .462 with two home runs in the first six games.
After the game, a weary Lovullo said the D-backs would consider their options for the newly vacant center field spot.
”We’re going to sit in my office and have that conversation and just throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks,” Lovullo said. ”Right now, it’s a little to raw. I don’t have a perfect answer for you.”
Tim Locastro took Marte’s spot for Thursday’s game against the Rockies – which the D-backs lost 7-3 – but it remains to be seen if it’s a permanent solution.
Another problem: left-hander Madison Bumgarner, signed to an $85 million, five-year deal before the 2020 season, continues to struggle. He’s given up 11 earned runs in nine innings in two starts this season after a career-worst 6.48 ERA last year.
If there’s a silver lining for the D-backs, it’s that Calhoun, Gallen, Ahmed and Soria are all expected to return within weeks and maybe even days. If Arizona can tread water in the standings until then, it’ll be a team steeped in overcoming challenges before the calendar turns to May.
If they can’t handle the adversity, well, it might be a long, hot summer in the desert.
As for Lovullo, he refused to feel sorry for himself or his team.
”When we get those players back, and we know who they are and we miss them, and they’re working their butts off to get back to us, we’re going to be that much better,” Lovullo said.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.
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