WASHINGTON — Pitcher Braden Shipley will be called up from Triple-A Reno to start on Thursday for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the first-place Washington Nationals in the rubber game of a three-game series.
Whether he stays in the rotation likely depends on how he fares against the Nationals, who scored 23 runs on Sunday against the New York Mets and led the National League in batting average through Tuesday, at .292.
“We’re going to just let him start and see where it takes us. As with anything in this game, performance is very, very valuable,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “We want him to perform. We’re gonna give him a good chance to go out there and perform. If he does his job, we’ll see where that takes us.”
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Arizona needs a new starter after Shelby Miller was lost for the season with an injury. Miller is slated to have Tommy John surgery May 10, according to Lovullo.
Archie Bradley was a candidate to replace him in the rotation; but, for now, Bradley will stay in the bullpen.
Shipley was drafted by Arizona in the first round in 2013 out of University of Nevada-Reno. He made his big league debut with the D-backs last year, going 4-5 with a 5.27 ERA in 13 games, including 11 starts. The right-hander has never faced the Nationals, who won 2-1 Wednesday as Jacob Turner pitched four innings out of the bullpen and gave up no runs and two hits.
“There are a lot of good hitters in this league,” Shipley said of facing Washington. “No matter who is in the box, you have to execute pitches and compete. That is all I am going to say about that.”
Shipley, the team’s top prospect before the 2016 season, is 3-1 with a 4.18 ERA in five starts with Reno in the Pacific Coast League. He said he has gained about 10 pounds since last season.
“I am ready for it and to help keep this team going. They got off to a good start,” Shipley said of the D-backs. “I am just excited to keep the momentum going. I have been throwing well. It is a little different pitching in the PCL with cold weather. I want to just go as deep as I can and give the team as many innings as I can. I am more confident; there is nothing to be afraid of.”
The game is slated to begin at 1:05 p.m. Thursday. There is rain in the forecast for the nation’s capital, though most predictions have the bad weather starting in the late afternoon or evening.
The starting pitcher for Washington will be Max Scherzer, who is 4-0 with a 2.65 ERA in five career starts against Arizona.
Arizona hitters have a .219 average and four homers against Scherzer. D-backs slugger Paul Goldschmidt is hitless in nine at-bats against Scherzer while Chris Owings is hitting .385 in 13 trips to the plate.
Shipley will face a Washington offense that entered Wednesday with a slugging average of .503, the best mark in the league.
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman was named the National League Player of the Month on Wednesday, two days after he was named Player of the Week. He had two hits Wednesday and drove in the winning run.
“I have to find a way to keep him healthy,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said. “He may exceed the numbers he ever had. That is a heck of an award.”
Despite the strong offense, the Washington bullpen continues to struggle.
Joe Blanton gave up his fifth homer Tuesday in a 6-3 loss to Arizona and fellow reliever Shawn Kelley has also given up five homers. Blanton has pitched 11 innings and has a 9.82 ERA.
“Right now they are not missing if he makes a mistake,” Baker said. “They are hitting it out of the park.”