Diamondbacks insider Nick Piecoro and Jay Dieffenbach talk about the upcoming baseball season. The lineup appears to be solid. What about the pitching staff? Video: Cheryl Evans/azcentral sports
1 of 51
USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale breaks down the story lines to watch as baseball’s regular season begins.
USA TODAY Sports
2 of 51
azcentral sports’ Dan Bickley discusses the state of the Arizona Diamondbacks as Opening Day approaches.
3 of 51
Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller struggled with his fastball command Monday but says he’s ready for spring training to end. (Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports)
4 of 51
Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke gave up three runs in five-plus innings against the Chicago Cubs. He believes he is making progress toward Opening Day. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
5 of 51
USA TODAY Sports’ Jorge L. Ortiz breaks down the key headlines to watch during the final week of spring training.
USA TODAY Sports
6 of 51
USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale poses these questions that will be answered in the MLB regular season.
USA TODAY Sports
7 of 51
USA TODAY Sports’ Jorge L. Ortiz recaps the championship between USA and Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium.
USA TODAY Sports
8 of 51
Shot Clock: Why isn’t Paul Goldschmidt playing? Will Cardinals draft QB Mitchell Trubisky? Kurt Warner also had a Super Bowl jersey stolen? The Shot Clock tackles the burning topics in Arizona sports.
9 of 51
Diamondbacks left-hander Robbie Ray gave up two runs in five innings, walking one and striking out six, vs. the Royals on Tuesday. (Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports)
10 of 51
Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke gave up one run in five innings against the Netherlands on Saturday.
11 of 51
Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller struck out eight in 3 1/3 innings vs. the Mariners but wasn’t efficient with his pitches.
12 of 51
Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray gave up two earned runs — both on a first-inning homer — in four innings against the Brewers on Thursday.
13 of 51
Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke comments on his side session to minor leaguers at Salt River Fields on Mar. 13, 2017. By Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
14 of 51
Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin gave up three runs in 3 1/3 innings against the White Sox but came away sounding upbeat. Video: Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
15 of 51
Right-hander Taijuan Walker struck out eight in four scoreless innings for the Diamondbacks on Friday vs. the Brewers.
16 of 51
Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke’s fastball was in the upper-80s on Wednesday at Salt River Fields.
17 of 51
Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller lasted 2 2/3 innings against the A’s, giving up six runs, on Tuesday. Scott Bordow/azcentral sports
18 of 51
Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Taijuan Walker gave up just one hit in three scoreless innings against the White Sox on Sunday, Mar. 5, 2017. (Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports)
19 of 51
Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin, who is vying for a spot in the rotation, gave up two runs in three innings against the Padres on Saturday in Peoria.
20 of 51
Diamondbacks right-handed Shelby Miller talks about his impressive outing vs. the Cubs. Miller struck out six in three innings.
21 of 51
Diamondbacks right-hander Archie Bradley tossed three scoreless innings in his second start of spring training.
22 of 51
Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray was upbeat despite walking three in 1 1/3 innings on Wednesday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
23 of 51
USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale breaks down the story lines to follow as spring training heats up.
USA TODAY Sports
24 of 51
Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker talks about his outing on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers in Surprise. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
25 of 51
Here are some longtime favorites about America’s favorite pastime.
26 of 51
The MLB is changing up the intentional walk in an effort to improve the pace of play.
USA TODAY Sports
27 of 51
The Brewers by position: Bullpen
28 of 51
USA TODAY Sports has released its projected win totals for the 2017 MLB season.
USA TODAY Sports
29 of 51
USA TODAY Sports released its annual list of players to watch for in the upcoming season.
USA TODAY Sports
30 of 51
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke about his frustration with the MLBPA, which he said rebuffed the league’s efforts to make any of a number of rules changes at Tuesday’s Cactus League Media Day at the Biltmore. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
31 of 51
The Diamondbacks’ Ken Kendrick discusses the team’s lawsuit with the Maricopa County Stadium District over over Chase Field maintenance costs at spring-training camp on Friday.
32 of 51
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo discusses star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and his new team’s foundation at Cactus League Media Day at the Arizona Biltmore on Tuesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
33 of 51
The Diamondbacks had their photos taken on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 at Salt River Fields.
34 of 51
Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses how difficult it is to win back-to-back championships in the MLB on Tuesday at Cactus League Media Day at the Arizona Biltmore on Tuesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
35 of 51
Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses how to prepare for this season in regards to overworking and injuries after last season’s championship run at Cactus League Media Day at the Arizona Biltmore on Tuesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
36 of 51
The Arizona Diamondbacks hosted fans to celebrate the start of spring training and the 2017 season at D-Backs Fan Fest at Salt River Fields on Monday. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
37 of 51
Diamondbacks closer Fernando Rodney tosses a bullpen session at Salt River Fields.
38 of 51
There are several MLB teams looking for new stadiums, while at least two are happy with their old-school dwellings.
USA TODAY Sports
39 of 51
Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker throws his first official bullpen session of spring training at Salt River Fields on Tuesday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
40 of 51
Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller tosses his first bullpen of the spring at Salt River Fields on Tuesday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
41 of 51
Ron Gardenhire, Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach, annouced on Tuesday that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the team’s spring training complex at Salt River Fields. Manager Torey Lovullo also spoke. Video: Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
42 of 51
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo on what he sees in his team and pitcher Shelby Miller heading into the first days of spring training at Salt River Fields. Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
43 of 51
D-Backs pitcher Archie Bradley, sporting facial hair that he has not shaved since October 31st, reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale. (Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports)
44 of 51
D-Backs skipper Torey Lovullo press conference at spring training camp in Scottsdale. (Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports)
45 of 51
D-Backs pitcher Patrick Corbin reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale. (Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports)
46 of 51
Diamondbacks right-hander Archie Bradley talks about the excitement of getting spring training started, saying “I couldn’t sleep last night.” Video: Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
47 of 51
The Diamondbacks have faced tough seasons and payroll limitations, and it might cost them a beloved franchise player. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
48 of 51
Proliferation of young talent in the game provides an abundance of inexpensive options to stock a roster.
USA TODAY Sports
49 of 51
Are the Arizona Diamondbacks right to sue Maricopa County over Chase Field? Columnist E.J. Montini says no.
50 of 51
With the longest championship drought in American professional sports, the Cubs have seen a lot change since they last won the World Series, in 1908.
51 of 51
What is in store for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017?
Can the Chicago Cubs win it all, again?
Shot Clock: Questions surround D-Backs, Greinke
D-Backs’ Shelby Miller says he’s ready for the season
Zack Greinke on his spring start vs. Cubs
Key MLB story lines as spring training concludes
MLB’s regular season will answer these spring questions
USA wins its first World Baseball Classic title
USA Baseball, Trubisky to Cards, Kurt Warner’s stolen jersey
D-Backs’ Robbie Ray says he’s ready for start of season
Zack Greinke on his start vs. Netherlands
Shelby Miller strikes out 8 vs. Mariners
D-Backs’ Robbie Ray on spring start vs. Brewers
Zack Greinke comments on his throwing session
Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. White Sox
Taijuan Walker after latest dominant start for D-Backs
Zack Greinke on his diminished velocity in start vs. Mexico
Shelby Miller discusses latest start
D-Backs’ Taijuan Walker on his latest strong outing
D-Backs lefty Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. Padres
Shelby Miller on his outing vs. Cubs
Archie Bradley on strong outing vs. Padres
Robbie Ray on his spring training debut
Spring training story lines to watch
Taijuan Walker throws two innings in spring debut
Some things about Spring Training season just haven’t changed…
MLB changing intentional walks for 2017
Just the FAQs: Brewers at bullpen
Projecting the 2017 MLB season
MLB’s 100 Names to Know for 2017
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on rule changes, MLBPA cooperation
Diamondbacks’ Ken Kendrick discusses team’s lawsuit
D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo on Goldschmidt, team’s core
Behind the scenes at Diamondbacks Photo Day
Cubs’ Joe Maddon on why it’s difficult to repeat
Cubs’ Joe Maddon on this season’s preparation
A look at Diamondbacks Fan Fest 2017
Closer Fernando Rodney throws bullpen session
Baseball stadiums on the way out or in danger of extinction
Taijuan Walker throws bullpen session at Salt River Fields
Shelby Miller throws bullpen session at Salt River Fields
D-Backs bench coach Ron Gardenhire diagnosed with prostate cancer
D-Backs manager Lovullo on getting started, Shelby Miller
D-Backs pitcher Archie Bradley talks about his beard
D-Backs skipper Torey Lovullo press conference
D-Backs pitcher Patrick Corbin reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale
Diamondbacks’ pitcher Archie Bradley: “New year. New team. New everything. We’re excited.”
D-Backs near crossroads with Goldschmidt
The best MLB lineup realistic money can buy
Montini: Diamondbacks’ lawsuit is one big error
Cubs, coffee and cars: How things have changed since the North Siders last won the World Series
Right-hander Zack Greinke will deliver the first pitch of the Diamondbacks’ season on Sunday afternoon against the San Francisco Giants. It will be accompanied by glances upward, where the boards at Chase Field display velocity readings.
A year ago, Greinke was viewed as a sort of rotation savior upon his arrival in Arizona. The start of his second season with the Diamondbacks has a different feel. He is 33 years old and coming off a disappointing year, and his six-year, $206.5 million deal looks like it could become an albatross, if it isn’t one already.
And if that weren’t enough, there’s also the matter of the radar gun. Throughout spring training, Greinke exhibited fastball velocity two to three miles per hour below where it was at times last season.
It makes for an interesting storyline to the start of his 2017 season: Can he throw harder, perhaps aided by adrenaline from pitching in games that count? And if not, can he succeed despite the diminished velocity?
“You look at Zack, and he’s a pitcher,” Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Butcher said. “He’s always been able to spin the ball well. He’s always been able to change speeds really well. And he’s been able to locate well.
“More than anything else, it’s not as much about velocity with him as it is commanding the baseball. He knows how to pitch. That’s what we’re going to rely on, that he knows how to pitch. He’s proven that over the years. He’s been very, very good at it. I think he’s going to continue to go down that path.”
Butcher’s opinion doesn’t seem to be too different from many around the game. Greinke is renowned for his pitching IQ. He has never been overly reliant on his fastball, and, perhaps most important, he possesses good command and secondary pitches. Many seem to believe that if anyone is capable of adjusting, it’s him.
Right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who is making a comeback with the Cincinnati Reds this season, doesn’t know Greinke but said he believes from watching him pitch that he’ll be fine. That said, Arroyo says there are limitations to most pitchers’ potential dominance without an above-average fastball.
“The only thing I would say is, to put up a 2.50 ERA throwing 88 miles an hour vs. 93 is a totally different ballgame,” Arroyo said. “I’m not saying you can’t win 20. You can. You can still put up 24 quality starts. You can. But to put up a 2.50 ERA and do some of the things he’s done in his career, it’s much, much harder to do without that little extra velo.”
Arroyo would know. Never a hard thrower, his velocity has ticked down throughout his career, and he’s been able to have success with a fastball in the 87-88 mph range.
“There’s a little less margin for error when you really need to go to the well and get those two big punchouts,” Arroyo said. “Sometimes you won’t be able to get it because you just can’t overwhelm guys like you used to.”
Of the 2,503 pitches Greinke threw last season, 1,280 were fastballs. And of those fastballs, nearly half, 635, were 92 mph or harder. He threw four pitches at 95 mph, 29 at 94 mph, 165 at 93 mph.
According to data available from his six starts in spring training – three in the Cactus League, two against World Baseball Classic teams and one against Diamondbacks minor leaguers – Greinke never once threw a pitch that reached as high as 92 mph. He topped out just short, at 91.9 mph. His fastball in spring training mostly sat in the 89-90 mph range.
After his second spring start, Greinke called the velocity “not ideal,” and hoped he would add more as camp progressed. One start later, he told a reporter he wasn’t interested in discussing his velocity every time out.
Greinke’s results this season are important for the Diamondbacks on multiple fronts. For one, it’s hard to imagine them contending in the National League West without him returning to form. And if they don’t contend, the Diamondbacks might begin a rebuild of sorts; if he’s effective, trading Greinke might be possible, though the club would still likely have to eat a huge portion of his remaining salary.
Greinke is coming off a season in which his numbers fell off in most major categories, either when compared to his incredible 2015 season, to the previous three seasons or to his career averages entering the year. Perhaps most alarming was his home run rate; he gave up 1.3 homers per nine innings, which would have tied for the sixth-worst in the league if he had enough innings to qualify.
Whether he can improve on those numbers, with or without his fastball of old, remains an open question.
Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or nick.[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.
Giants at Diamondbacks
When: 1:10 p.m.
Where: Chase Field (Roof hotline: 602-462-6262).
Pitchers: Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke (13-7, 4.37)* vs. Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74)*.
TV/Radio: FSAZ, ESPN 2/KMVP-FM (98.7), KHOV-FM (105.1).
*Stats from 2016
Greinke struggled at Chase Field last season, posting a 4.81 ERA in 13 starts. … He threw well against the Giants, with a 3.28 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, going at least six innings in each of his four starts against them. … The Diamondbacks went 16-10 in his starts. … Bumgarner has a 2.80 ERA in 86 2/3 innings in his career at Chase Field. … He faced the Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Opening Day in 2015, giving up just one run in seven innings to earn the victory. … In 25 innings in the Cactus League, Bumgarner had a 2.52 ERA with five walks and 23 strikeouts.
Tuesday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks LHP Patrick Corbin (5-13, 5.15)* vs. Giants RHP Johnny Cueto (18-5, 2.79)*.
Wednesday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Taijuan Walker (8-11, 4.22)* vs. Giants LHP Matt Moore (13-12, 4.08)*.
Thursday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray (8-15, 4.90)* vs. Giants RHP Jeff Samardzija (12-11, 3.81)*.
San Francisco Giants
Giants update: The Giants are coming off a 2016 season that had an uneven feel to it, but they still managed to win 87 games, advance out of the wild card game and reach the division series, where they lost in four games to the Chicago Cubs. They’re bringing back mostly the same group of position players they’ve had in recent years, including C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence and SS Brandon Crawford, and have added RHP Mark Melancon as their closer, though the bullpen took a hit this spring with the loss of LHP Will Smith, who underwent Tommy John surgery and is done for the year. They’re going to continue to count on a strong starting staff, led by LHP Madison Bumgarner and RHP Johnny Cueto.