TUCSON - The Diamondbacks took another step toward thinning the competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation by optioning Tony Pena to minor league camp Friday.
The D-Backs announced the move after Pena gave up a run in his inning against Colorado on Friday, but it had become apparent by his workload that he was on the outside looking in after entering camp as a long shot candidate for the rotation.
Michael Gosling, Brad Halsey and Oscar Villarreal are the remaining options for the No. 5 spot.
Halsey is scheduled to make his second start today against Seattle at Peoria, while Villarreal is to start against San Diego on Sunday in Yuma.
Manager Bob Melvin has said he would like to make a determination on Villarreal’s status — starter or reliever — by early next week, which adds extra meaning to his start Sunday.
"If he can pitch four or five innings and do it effectively and hold his mechanics, and his endurance is there and the ball is going where he wants it to, then we’ll look to stretch him out again,’’ said Melvin, who plans to watch that splitsquad game rather than the one in Tucson against Seattle.
Villarreal has given up six runs in 5 2/3 innings this spring but was at his best in his lone start March 14 against Colorado, giving up one run on two hits, one an infield dribbler.
Pena, 23, was three days late to camp because of a travel issue and gave up 12 hits in seven innings, walking three and striking out four.
He appeared rusty after pitching only seven games last season at Class AA El Paso before being forced to return to the Dominican Republic to address the issue of his identity. It was determined he had been pitching under the name of his cousin, Adriano Rosario, who is 30 months younger.
"He has one mechanical thing he needs to work on — sometimes he’s open, sometimes he’s closed,’’ Melvin said.
Melvin said he plans to renew acquaintances with the Seattle players he managed the last two years when the D-Backs play the Mariners today but otherwise considers it "another game on the schedule. I’m not even bringing Troy Glaus, for crying out loud. If I was trying overly hard he would be in there for nine innings.
"Just like any team where you know some people, you chat with them. And I know quite a few people over there.’’
The D-Backs also optioned pitchers Jason Bulger, Edgar Gonzalez, Bill Murphy and Adam Peterson to minor league camp, leaving them with 43 players in big league camp, counting shortstop Jerry Gil, who is likely to open the season on the disabled list.
Bulger will likely open the season as the closer at Class AAA Tucson, while Gonzalez — 0-9 with a 9.32 in 10 starts with the D-Backs last season — is expected to be in the Tucson starting rotation.
Neither Bulger nor hardthrower Peterson was given enough work to reach his normal mid-90s velocity this spring, Melvin said, but Bulger "really impressed me with throwing the breaking ball.’’
Peterson, obtained from Toronto for Shea Hillenbrand after the D-Backs found themselves stocked at both corner infield spots, needs to work on refining his slider, Melvin said.
Shawn Estes wore No. 57 in his start against Colorado on Friday but will wear No. 55 in the regular season after negotiating a deal with Brandon Webb, who held out for a watch and a spare tire cover for his Hummer. Estes, who has worn No. 55 his whole career, said he heard "nice number, meat,’’ when he faced his 2004 teammates in Colorado on Friday. . . . Melvin reiterated his commitment to Craig Counsell as his leadoff hitter, saying "I’d like to see that one work.’’ . . . Luis Gonzalez will be the designated hitter against Seattle today and play left field against San Diego in Yuma on Sunday. . . . Glaus, who will have today off, committed a throwing error in the fifth inning, one-hopping a throw to first, but threw a strike to first on the next play. He has five errors.
D-Backs vs. Mariners
What: Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin will face the Seattle team he managed for the past two seasons in the first game of a home-and-home series against the Mariners at 1:05 p.m. at the Peoria Sports Complex.
TV/radio: KTAR (620 AM)
Pitchers: Arizona — Brad Halsey, Greg Aquino, Brandon Lyon, Kevin Tolar. Seattle — Aaron Sele. Records: Arizona 9-9, Seattle 5-10 Tickets: (866) 672-1343
AT A GLANCE
Colorado 5, Arizona 2
Notable pitching: Shawn Estes gave up four runs in five innings but finished strong, buckling Todd Helton with a curveball for a called third strike with the bases loaded to end the fourth and striking out two in the fifth. . . . Mike Koplove and Jose Valverde had scoreless innings, although Valverde benefitted when catcher Kelly Stinnett caught a runner attempting to steal second and picked another off first.
Notable hitting: Sergio Santos had a double and drove in the D-Backs’ only run with a sacrifice fly. . . . Luis Terrero extended his hitting streak to six games with a double in the seventh. . . . Andy Green doubled in a run in the ninth.