The D-backs didn’t come away with a win Tuesday against the A’s, but they did get the services of right-hander Zac Gallen back, and that will have a far greater impact on their season going forward than the 7-5 loss at Chase Field.
The loss came after the D-backs led 5-0 following the third inning and 5-1 entering the seventh.
The story of the day, though, was that Gallen, who opened the year on the injured list after suffering a right forearm hairline stress fracture of the radial head during Spring Training, allowed only one run — a homer by Stephen Piscotty — and struck out eight batters over four innings.
It was an impressive result for someone who hasn’t pitched against Major League competition in a month, but most importantly, Gallen came out of it healthy.
“It’s a good moment for this team and this organization,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “You hear the news that he has a fracture in his arm, you obviously anticipate the worst. But Zac did a great job, our medical team did a great job, everybody around him did a great job of getting back on the field. For him to step into this environment and make pitches … it was good for all of us to see — especially him.”
Gallen suffered the fracture while swinging and getting jammed by a pitch in batting practice in early March. The only time he felt discomfort in the forearm was when he tried to throw his curveball.
So even though Gallen kept throwing while on the IL, the curve was the last pitch in his repertoire that he was allowed to test out.
As if to prove to himself that it wouldn’t be an issue, Gallen threw one in the first at-bat of the game Tuesday.
“As soon as the game started and I threw the first one, I just was like, ‘All right, you know, we’re back, like a normal game,'” he said. “Let’s just grip it and try and make a pitch.”
It didn’t seem like Gallen skipped a beat while doing what he’s done since the D-backs acquired him from the Marlins at the Trade Deadline in 2019 — he mixed his pitches, hit the corners and competed hard.
“It was awesome to see him back out there, and it reminded me of old times and Spring Training,” said catcher Carson Kelly, who hit a three-run homer in the second. “We’re just glad to have him back.”
Gallen is a perfectionist on the mound, so while it may have looked like he was at the top of his game, he nonetheless has some things he wants to work on, like his fastball command.
“I actually felt like I didn’t have the greatest command,” Gallen said. “There were some pitches that I missed spots that resulted in foul balls. You know, for me, foul balls are kind of annoying because it just makes the at-bat go on longer.”
With Gallen fresh off the IL, Lovullo was going to be cautious with how many pitches he allowed him to throw, and the target the team set was right around the 82 that he ended up with.
Gallen’s importance to Arizona’s rotation is hard to overstate. Since joining the D-backs, he has a 2.78 ERA in 21 starts. Heading into action Tuesday, the club’s rotation had a composite 5.91 ERA, which is the second worst in the National League.
“Zac Gallen has some unbelievable gifts,” Lovullo said. “And he’s never sitting still and always trying to get better, no matter what set of circumstances he is dealt. Nothing he does surprises me, and I obviously think the sky’s the limit for him. He should be proud of what he did. Last month, he fractured his arm, and now he’s out there competing on a very high level and looking very good.”
And for the D-backs, that’s a real bright spot on an otherwise frustrating day.