DENVER - Dustin Nippert is a reliever now, and J.D. Durbin is the odd man out.
Nippert was told after pitching a scoreless inning Wednesday he will remain a Diamondback when the team purchases the contract of fifth starter Micah Owings, while Scottsdale’s Durbin was designated for assignment six days after joining the D-Backs off waivers from Minnesota.
“He told me to be ready to pitch tomorrow,” a smiling Nippert said after a postgame meeting with manager Bob Melvin. “I’ll take it from there.”
Nippert has been a starter virtually all of his minor league career, tying for the Pacific Coast League lead with 13 victories last season, but Melvin said Nippert has developed his secondary pitches to go with a 95 mph fastball while also improving his ability to hold runners.
Nippert threw curveballs and change-ups for strikes while giving up a single in the sixth Wednesday.
“We feel like Nippert has accomplished enough to stay here,” Melvin said. “He’s worked on the things he needed to work on during a very intense spring training where he was competing for a job, and that’s not a very easy thing to do.”
Nippert could be used as a long or short reliever temporarily, Melvin said, while remaining a candidate for the starting rotation in the future.
The D-Backs have 10 days to trade, waive or release Durbin, the Twins’ No. 2 choice in the 2000 draft. A team that claims him off waivers must keep him on their 25-man roster.
“I know I have the stuff. I have to get that confidence back,” said Durbin, who was 4-3 with a 2.33 ERA at Triple-A Rochester last season before missing the second half of the season with nerve damage in his right arm that still causes a tingling sensation.
“When I get to the big leagues, I don’t feel comfortable. It shouldn’t be that way. It should be the most exciting time. I’ll get back out there and hopefully find a home. Hopefully, I get to stay with this team.”
So far this spring Melvin has called Edgar Gonzalez an “assassin” and a “cat burglar” on the mound.
The man with the killer instinct will make his first start at Washington today after winning the No. 4 spot in the starting rotation with a strong spring.
“I’m ready,” Gonzalez said. “I’m going to keep working like in spring training.”
Gonzalez’s road to the opening-day roster has not been easy.
He was the youngest player in the major leagues when he was recalled for a 2003 start, and he was placed in a sink-or-swim situation when the D-Backs turned the second half of 2004 into an audition for some of their younger prospects, going 0-9 with a 9.32 ERA in 10 starts.
“Sometimes your first major league experience can stay with you for a little bit, but he’s overcome it. You can tell he’s matured,” Melvin said.
Carlos Quentin (left labrum) hit off a tee and took soft-toss Wednesday and Jeff DaVanon (shoulder, ankle) continued to progress. “There are still some issues with his left-handed hitting,” Melvin said of DaVanon. “Some days he’ll take (batting practice) and he’ll be a little bit sore the next day and back off.” The D-Backs have not announced a timetable for either one’s return. …
D-Backs TV announcer Daron Sutton will have a working reunion with his father, Hall of Fame pitcher Don, this weekend. Don Sutton is the new color commentator on Washington’s telecasts after spending most of his broadcasting career with the Braves. “I used to go to work with him when he was a player. I think I learned to understand the game, and how difficult it is,” Daron Sutton said.