Banda to start as Ray deals with concussion

Banda to start as Ray deals with concussion

PHOENIX -- With Robbie Ray still recovering from concussion symptoms, the D-backs will turn to Anthony Banda to start Thursday's series finale against the Dodgers at Chase Field.

The 23-year-old Banda picked up his first career win while filling in for Ray on Friday in San Francisco. Banda, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the D-backs' No. 4 prospect, threw six innings and struck out seven Giants while allowing one earned run in his second career start.

On Monday, Ray threw his first bullpen session since being struck in the head with a pitch on July 28. While there is no timetable for his return, manager Torey Lovullo said the lefty has been progressing.

"Robbie threw a 28-pitch bullpen yesterday and got on the mound and felt very good," Lovullo said before Tuesday's series opener against the Dodgers. "He came in today saying that things were just fine. I didn't get a chance to see him, but the conversations were very productive. Then he played catch again today, so the next step is to see how he is tomorrow and see when he's going to throw his next bullpen."

Lovullo said he has an idea of who will start Friday and Saturday during Arizona's home series with the Cubs, but the club is holding off an official announcement until Wednesday or Thursday.

Will one of those starts go to Ray?

"He is such a great self-evaluator and gives us such honest feedback that we feel like this process should go smoothly," Lovullo said. "If everything continues to stay as positive as it has been, we could possibly predict when he's going to get back on the mound. So we don't exactly know when that day is, but each day where he comes in and feels good, we just keep adding on."

Ahmed begins swinging

D-backs shortstop Nick Ahmed, who suffered a fractured hand after being hit with a pitch on June 27, was cleared to begin hitting and throwing on Monday.

"I think it's going well," Ahmed said. "We're on schedule -- we're slightly ahead of schedule. Everything feels good. There's no pain right now. We're just continuing to try to get that little bit of range of motion and continue to build the strength up."

Ahmed hit off a tee and took underhand flips Monday and Tuesday and is hopeful that he will be able to get back in the batting cage later in the week.

"I'm doing all kind of baseball activity now," Ahmed said. "So I'm just continuing to get that last bit of range of motion. It's just going to continue to build up. My legs are in good shape from running, and working out and taking ground balls, so everything's going to be coming pretty quickly."

Jarrid Denney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.