Last week, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said his vote was for shortstop Nick Ahmed to go on a rehab assignment before returning from shoulder discomfort that sidelined him early in spring training.
But Friday afternoon at Chase Field, there Ahmed was, standing beside his locker and preparing to make the first start of his ninth big league season.
“It feels good, getting ready to go,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed received a cortisone shot a little under a month ago and started feeling relief a week later, setting the course for him to play extended spring training games at Salt River Fields. For the past week, that’s what he’s done, playing seven innings in the field each day and getting 42 at-bats, according to Lovullo.
“I just felt like I got what I needed,” Ahmed said. “The pitching, it wasn’t big league pitching over there, but I got enough at-bats to feel confident and ready to go.”
Ultimately, that workload was enough to activate Ahmed without a stint in Triple-A Reno. The veteran’s experience also influenced Lovullo and his staff’s decision to forego a rehab assignment.
“He wanted to return to this team and be the heart of it,” Lovullo said. “He was pounding the table, we listened to what he said. We listen to our athletes, some more than others, considering what they’re saying, what they’re going through. But Nick knows himself very well and we felt like it was the right call. ”
The corresponding move with Ahmed’s activation was to demote Yonny Hernandez, who the Diamondbacks traded for earlier this month. Hernandez struggled in 19 plate appearances, going 2-for-16 without any extra-base hits.
More notable than Hernandez’s demotion, though, was that top-100 prospect Geraldo Perdomo stayed with the big-league club. Perdomo has gotten on base at a .371 clip in 35 plate appearances but he’s only batting .120 and a seventh inning double against the Nationals on Thursday was his first extra-base hit of the year.
In that context, getting Perdomo more developmental at-bats in Triple-A would have been an understandable move, especially with Ahmed taking back the starting shortstop job. There are a few reasons, though, that the Diamondbacks opted to keep Perdomo in Arizona.
For one, Ahmed will be eased back in to the starting lineup rather than starting every day. The Diamondbacks have also started getting Perdomo more practice reps at third base, which he’s never played professionally, and second base, which he’s only played in 154 minor league innings.
Being able to play both of those spots will get the 22-year old in the lineup more with shortstop opportunities now at a premium.
“If Perdomo’s gonna be sitting on the bench in the big leagues, that’s not gonna do him any good for his development or his chance to help this big league team win baseball games,” Lovullo said. “But I think in us making the statement that we’re gonna keep him here, he’s gonna find himself on the field.”
With Ahmed back, the next piece of the puzzle for Arizona is getting offseason acquisition Jordan Luplow healthy. The outfielder, who’s posted an .829 OPS over the past three seasons, could be a boon to the Diamondbacks’ sputtering offense whenever he returns from an oblique strain suffered in spring training.
According to Lovullo, that could come as soon as next week.
“He’s feeling very good,” Lovullo said. “He had five at-bats, played five innings in the field (at extended spring training) today. … He’s in a real good spot. “
Infielder Josh Rojas is also working back from an oblique strain and is preparing to take at-bats off live pitching in the next couple of days, with games following soon after.
On the pitching side, relievers Luke Weaver and JB Bukauskas are both playing catch from up to 60 feet. Weaver is on the 10-day injured list with elbow inflammation, while Bukauskas is on the 60-day IL with a shoulder strain.
Right-hander Humberto Castellanos will start for Arizona on Saturday, filling the No. 5 spot in the Diamondbacks’ rotation for the second straight turn after he began the season in the bullpen. Castellanos was effective in four innings against the Mets last weekend, giving up one hit and no runs, although he did walk three and only struck out one.
“Casty’s throwing the ball well for us, we know what he’s able to do, he can land pitches in all different areas,” Lovullo said.
When asked if Castellanos is a permanent member of the rotation, though, Lovullo said, “No, I wouldn’t say that.”
Theo Mackie covers Arizona high school sports and Phoenix Rising FC. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @theo_mackie.