Friday, April 8, 2016

Hammel, Ray set to duel in desert

Robbie Ray, who won the No. 5 spot in the Diamondbacks rotation with a strong spring, will face the Cubs and Jason Hammel on Friday in the second game of this four-game series.
This will be the second time Ray will face the Cubs in his career. He took a loss Sept. 5 in Chicago, giving up two runs on four hits over five innings.
Hammel is eager to see if his offseason efforts paid off. The right-hander got some advice about his mental approach to the game, revised his diet, and tweaked his mechanics. In December, he met with pitching guru Tom House, who evaluated the mental and physical aspects of Hammel's game.
"He said, 'I don't know how you pitched this long because there's so much more in there and untapped potential in there and it's the simplest fix,'" Hammel said. "It was an eye opener."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon noticed a difference this spring.
"He was doing something different with his delivery, the way he set up, and he was doing pretty well with it overall," Maddon said. "Let's see how it plays right now. Stuff-wise, it's outstanding. The big thing with him is command -- if he's commanding the fastball [Friday], he'll have a great night. Period."
However, Hammel will not be matched with Kyle Schwarber, who had become his personal catcher this spring. Schwarber collided with Dexter Fowler in the second inning Thursday, and was evaluated for a sprained left ankle. Initial X-rays were negative, and he was to undergo an MRI on his left leg on Friday.
• The D-backs will wear their fifth different uniform combination on Friday, which is the home alternate teal with teal outline "A" cap. This year, the D-backs unveiled new uniforms that have eight different combinations.
• This is the Cubs' earliest series by calendar date to Chase Field since opening the 2005 season at the D-backs' home field. Chicago has homered in each of its last six games at Chase Field prior to Thursday's contest.

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