D-backs use Zack Godley as ‘opener’ in start vs. Braves, to his surprise

The Arizona Diamondbacks had a plan for Zack Godley.

The starting pitcher lost his rotation spot and was moved to the bullpen a couple weeks ago after putting up a 7.58 ERA in his first six starts. The next time through the rotation, the team looked to Taylor Clarke, who was called up from Reno, to make his first major league start.

But on Sunday, that spot in the rotation came up again, and Clarke was ineligible to be called back up for start No. 2. So after making two appearances out of the bullpen, Godley got to start in his old spot in the rotation. This time, his mission was short and sweet.

One time through the opposing Atlanta Braves lineup, and Godley was done.

“You saw Zack get removed after two innings. It was obviously by design,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “We’ve been talking about that for a while.”

Godley went two innings, allowing one run on four hits with two strikeouts on 40 pitches. After that, it was up to Jon Duplantier, who allowed three runs in three innings. The D-backs went on to lose the series finale, 5-3.

But Godley said after the game that he was not aware that he’d be an “opener” and only pitch an abbreviated start, instead of a large portion of the game.

“No. I was not,” he said. “I got out of here a little bit quick [on Saturday] because of the fireworks. [Lovullo] called me on my way home and told me, ‘Hey, you’ve got the ball tomorrow.’ And that was the way I took it and the way I went into the game. And then after the second inning, he came in and told me I was done. He told me if a bunt situation came up, I was going to bunt, but other than that, I was done.”

Godley did not bunt in the bottom of the second, and instead, fellow starting pitcher Zack Greinke pinch-hit in Godley’s place. Greinke got a base hit, by the way.

“I know you guys have been asking me about the opener,” Lovullo told the media. “We had some features, obviously, of an opener. But we wanted to go that route and utilize the best of Zack and the best of Jon, and then see where that landed us inside the game.

“I thought both guys did a pretty good job. I know Jon got nicked up for three runs, maybe a mistake or two on pitches in the zone where he got clipped, but overall I thought it was decent job by our pitchers, they did a pretty good job, especially asking them to do this, carry out this new thought.”

As for Godley, it was a step in the right direction for him to make another start and only allow a run — even if that start was so short. He lowered his ERA slightly, even if it is still at 7.32.

“I felt awesome,” he said. “Body felt good. I threw pitches where I wanted to. I threw the ball where I wanted to, honestly. Even that hit that Ender [Inciarte] got, I threw the ball right where I wanted to. He just put a good swing on it and the ball fell for a hit. Other than that, hopefully we can come back out and get back on track tomorrow.”

Lovullo did not say what the team would do the next time that rotation spot comes up.

“Everything that we’ve asked [Godley] to work on, he has,” Lovullo said. “I think he’s well under control when he’s on the mound. He’s driving pitches, the three pitches that he — well, he uses four, I know. But the three that we really focused on, he’s throwing well. So there have been a lot of improvements. And that’s not easy to do. Zack deserves a lot of credit for walking through some of the things that he’s gone through to get to this point.”