Delgado states case for rotation with first shutout

PHOENIX — Randall Delgado was good in his first seven starts for the Diamondbacks this season. On Friday, he was pretty close to perfect, demonstrating what good stuff and better command can do.

Delgado gave up three hits in a walk in his first career shutout, and the D-backs let him enjoy it along the way by building a seven-run lead in the first four innings before taking a 10-0 victory over the Padres at Chase Field.

It was their most complete game of the season — 17 hits, sparking defense and a dominant Delgado, and the crowd was on its feet and cheering as Delgado got through the ninth.

“I’m so happy right now,” said Delgado, who had already heard from family and friends minutes after the game.

Delgado was the runner-up in the competition for the fifth spot in the starting rotation this spring, and he returned a new man when injuries and a suspension created an  opening in mid-June.

Pitching coach Mike Parrott and roving pitching coordinator Mel Stottlemyre Jr. tweaked Delgado’s mechanics and shortened his delivery a tad, and part of the adjustment involved a mental shift. Delgado always has had good stuff, and he learned a bit more about trusting it.

It is general manager Kevin Towers’ mantra– throw strikes and, more times than not, good things will follow. He has, and they have.

Delgado has not given up more than three earned runs in his eight starts since joining the rotation June 18, and the shutout dropped his ERA to 2.85.

“When he was in spring training, I think he was kind of more of a thrower,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.

“I think he bought into the whole gotta-throw-strikes thing. I know he went down to Triple-A and worked on his mechanics and kinda cleaning it up a little bit. His arm was a little longer, his action, he kind of jumped at the (hitter). He was trying to throw a little harder.”

Delgado still hit 94 mph and 95 mph on the radar gun Friday, but his main selling point was strike one. He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 31 batters he faced and only twice got to three-ball counts. He needed only 100 pitches, and 70 were strikes.

“Now, he is being more aggressive,” catcher Wil Nieves said. “He has good stuff, he was just too passive on the mound. Now, he is attacking the strike zone. I’m happy for him. he has great stuff. He just needed that little push so he can look a little bit mean on the mound.”

While Cody Ross homered, Martin Prado and Cliff Pennington had three hits apiece and four other starters — including Delgado — had two hits for the D-backs, the Padres got only four runners on base, and none got past second.

Everth Cabrera singled to open the game, Chase Headley doubled with one out in the fourth and Chris Denorfia singled with two outs in the ninth.

The D-backs’ defense helped Delgado get the shutout in his 32nd career start. After Yonder Alonso walked in the seventh, Gerardo Parra made a leaping catch at the right-field fence on a ball hit by Will Venable that would have either hit off the fence or gone over, saving at least one run and ending the frame. And shortstop Didi Gregorius made a diving catch of an Alonso line drive behind second base for the final out of the game.

But most of it was Delgado, who joined Brandon McCarthy and Patrick Corbin as D-backs starters with a complete game this season. He spotted his fastball and mixed in a changeup, getting all three of his strikeouts on the change.

“The key is to try to throws strikes, keep the ball down and not worry too much about what can happen,” said Delgado, a native of Panama. “It is a process. A slow one. You try to learn and put it in practice and keep on fighting for the win. I am just trying to hear what the coaches said and keep focused on throwing strikes.”

Gibson mentioned last week that Degaldo could be a candidate to move to the bullpen when McCarthy and Trevor Cahill are able to return from their rehab stints, perhaps as early as the first week of August.

A performance like Delgado had Friday certainly will factor into the discussion, but Gibson was not ready to go there.

“A lot can happen between then and now, but he’s thrown the ball great,” Gibson said.

“I would like to think that we are going to put our best guys out there.”

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