Zac Gallen is as curious as anyone to see if he will be snapping off stellar curveballs in his season debut against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday afternoon.
The Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander has been sidelined with a hairline stress fracture in his pitching forearm, and discomfort caused by throwing breaking pitches led to the diagnosis.
He figures the mystery will be resolved at some point during the finale of the two-game set in Phoenix.
“I think (with any) injury, you’re not really sure what the deal is,” Gallen told reporters prior to Arizona’s 9-5 loss to the Athletics on Monday. “But the last few days, I’ve felt pretty good just ripping those (breaking balls) and feeling as close to game ready without actually getting a start.”
Gallen, who will be activated from the injured list prior to the Tuesday game, initially felt soreness in the forearm when he was jammed while batting against a pitching machine on March 10.
Two days later, he pitched 3 1/3 innings and repeatedly felt soreness while throwing curveballs. He experienced more issues while being rouged up in a start against the Texas Rangers on March 17 and then was scratched from his next start five days later.
Gallen underwent a battery of tests, including X-rays, a CT scan and an MRI exam. On March 24, he was diagnosed with the stress fracture and ruled out for the start of the season.
The Diamondbacks were encouraged that there was no ligament damage, and they are hoping that the 25-year-old is on the verge of developing into an ace.
The signs were evident last season as Gallen went 3-2 with a 2.75 ERA in 12 starts. He struck out 82 and walked 25 in 72 innings, and he placed ninth in National League Cy Young Award voting.
“I think it’s obvious what he means to this team and to this rotation,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said before Monday’s contest. “He is coming off an unbelievable 2020 where he continued to grow and learn, and he took that on to the offseason. We saw the same things take place the start of spring training.”
Gallen’s lone career outing against Oakland came last Aug. 17 when he gave up one run, three hits and one walk while striking out eight during a no-decision. The Athletics’ run came on a solo homer by Robbie Grossman, who is now with the Detroit Tigers.
Gallen will be trying to stymie a team that had 12 hits — including five doubles and a homer — in a series-opening victory on Monday. Oakland has won three straight game and four of five after opening the season with six straight defeats.
“We weren’t playing well to start the year,” Athletics second baseman Jed Lowrie said after driving in three runs Monday, “but this is a talented group. We faced some really tough teams to start the year, and it kind of gave us a wakeup call.”
Matt Chapman went 3-for-5 with a homer, and Ramon Laureano stole two bases. Laureano leads the majors with seven thefts.
Athletics manager Bob Melvin said that it is highly unlikely that first baseman Matt Olson will play Tuesday. Olson was plunked on the left thumb by a pitch in the top of the seventh inning and departed prior to the bottom of the eighth.
Melvin said Olson will be re-evaluated after Wednesday’s off-day.
Left-hander Jesus Luzardo will be on the mound for Oakland. He is 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings over two starts.
The 23-year-old gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings while losing to the Houston Astros on April 2. Five days later, he allowed two runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings during a no-decision against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Luzardo pitched superbly in his lone career start against Arizona as he allowed four hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a victory last Aug. 19. He struck out seven and walked two.
Arizona placed first baseman Christian Walker (oblique) on the 10-day injured list prior to Monday’s game and recalled infielder/outfielder Andrew Young from the alternate training site in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Lovullo also said the club agreed to a minor league deal with veteran outfielder Josh Reddick, who will report to Scottsdale.
–Field Level Media