D-backs set to play first game of spring against GCU

Contest against Antelopes part of 'Collegiate Baseball Series'

D-backs set to play first game of spring against GCU

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The D-backs and Grand Canyon University will face off on Wednesday at 1:10 p.m. MST at Salt River Fields in the first exhibition game of the MLB Spring Training season.

It may not count in the Cactus League standings, but the contest against the Antelopes has some meaning to the D-backs.

"We're excited about tomorrow," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said following his team's workout Tuesday. "We're excited that we're putting on a uniform and getting in a dugout and playing live baseball."

Left-hander Anthony Banda, ranked as the D-backs' No. 2 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, will start for the D-backs. Banda, who is in his first big league camp, finished last season with Triple-A Reno.

Banda made a good impression last spring when he was called over from Minor League camp.

"I want to make it as normal as possible," Lovullo said of his team's approach to the exhibition. "Feel the dirt under their spikes and play a baseball game the way they know best."

With that in mind, the starting lineup should look familiar.

"The core group of guys are going to get an at-bat, maybe play a couple of innings," Lovullo said. "We're going to attack like it's a normal game and play it like we should. We have so many guys to rotate through and get on the field and break the ice, so I want to make sure I'm as fair as possible."

The GCU contest will present the first-year manager with the chance to work with his coaching staff in a game setting.

Establishing how the communication will go in the dugout is always an important rite of spring for a new manager. That will especially be important for new third-base coach Tony Perezchica, who will be receiving signs from Lovullo for the first time.

"I know the coaches have been talking about the moment tomorrow, and we're going to play it as hot and live as it normally would be," Lovullo said.

Lovullo on commitment to winning

In 2015, the D-backs committed to play one game each spring against an in-state college baseball opponent as part of a six-year "Collegiate Baseball Series."

Arizona State University was the team's opponent in 2015, and the Sun Devils will again play the D-backs next spring. Last spring, the D-backs played the University of Arizona -- and will do so again in 2019 -- while GCU will be the opponent this year and in 2020.

The D-backs will go back to drills and live batting practice Thursday and Friday before opening their Cactus League slate against the Rockies at Salt River Fields on Saturday.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.