For all the fuss about the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation, the Diamondbacks still are mulling a scenario in which they would carry only four starters into the regular season opener April 4, manager Bob Melvin said Friday.
It would only be a temporary move, but it could result in an extra reliever or a 15th position player breaking camp with the team.
With an off day April 7, the D-Backs would not need to use a fifth starter until April 12, so they could give the winner of that competition a start at Class AAA Tucson in the first week to keep him sharp.
All of the apparent contenders for the fifth spot — Brad Halsey, Michael Gosling, Oscar Villarreal, Tony Pena — have options remaining, so the move would be easy.
The D-Backs could then add a seventh arm to the bullpen in order to spread out the workload in the early stages of the season.
"Typically early in the season you try to keep their pitch counts below 110 or whatever,’’ Melvin said.
"Obviously, we have some (starters) who throw some pitches, so April is the time you could’’ keep an extra reliever, Melvin said. "We’ll just see like we feel where we are.’’
Brian Bruney, a candidate for a relief role, got his first save of the spring in a 6-4 victory over the Cubs on Friday, striking out the first batter he faced in the ninth inning with a two-strike breaking ball the D-Backs want to see him use more.
"He’s going to have to throw a breaking ball for a strike, and he’s going to have to throw it in some off counts,’’ Melvin said.
Non-roster invitees Jose Jimenez, Juan Acevedo and Donovan Osborne also are among the candidates for a crowded bullpen.
SHORT HOPS: Right-hander Tony Pena’s mechanics were much better in his second spring outing Friday, pitching coach Mark Davis said, after some more fine-tuning in an effort to keep him from throwing across his body.
Scott Hairston and older brother Jerry chatted before the game Friday. "He’s been through the hardest test, his first year in the big leagues,’’ said Jerry, obtained as part of the Sammy Sosa trade with Baltimore. Scott Hairston has spent most of his time in the outfield this spring.
AT A GLANCE
D-Backs 6, Cubs 4
Notable pitching: Russ Ortiz gave up both his runs after retiring the first two batters in the first, saying he was generally pleased except for a breaking ball Aramis Ramirez hit for an RBI double.
Jose Valverde and Kevin Tolar — signed out of the Cubs’ system over the winter — had a strikeout apiece while pitching a 1-2-3 inning in relief. Notable hitting: Royce Clayton had two doubles and a single, both of his doubles to right field.
Luis Gonzalez got his first hit, a sixth-inning single, in his 10th spring at-bat.
Koyie Hill came within a few feet of his second spring home run when he doubled off the top of the wall in leftcenter.
Chad Tracy drove in his first run of the spring with a single in the third inning.
Padres at D-Backs
What: The D-Backs conclude the stretch of nine of their first 11 games at Tucson Electric Park at 1 p.m. today when the Padres make their only visit to Tucson.
TV/radio: None/KTAR (620 AM)
Pitchers: Arizona — Brandon Webb, Michael Gosling, Donovan Osborne, Brandon Lyon, Randy Choate, Mike Koplove; San Diego — Adam Eaton, Randy Williams, Scott Linebrink
Records: San Diego 4-6, Arizona 5-5
Tickets: (866) 672-1343