Postseason roster questions loom for D-backs

Postseason roster questions loom for D-backs

PHOENIX -- As they crept closer and closer to clinching a National League Wild Card spot, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo asked his coaching staff to not discuss possible roster decisions for the playoffs. Instead, he told them to write down their ideas and thoughts and put them off to the side to talk about at a later date.

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That time has arrived.

Arizona has clinched home-field advantage for the NL Wild Card Game, so its focus is now on how to stack its roster for that game as well as what would happen should the D-backs win it and advance to the NL Division Series.

The rosters reset for each round, so the one for the NL Wild Card Game will look vastly different than one for the NLDS should Arizona make it that far.

With that in mind, here's a look at five questions the D-backs face in setting their roster for the NL Wild Card Game and beyond:

1. How will the Wild Card roster be constructed?
Teams typically carry just two starting pitchers for the Wild Card Game -- the pitcher set to start the game as well as one other in case the scheduled starter gets sick, hurt or gets knocked out of the game early.

That would leave the D-backs with three extra slots to play with, meaning they could keep some extra bench players. Chris Owings, who is recovering from a fractured finger, could be kept strictly to pinch-run.

2. Who gets left out of the rotation?
The D-backs will likely need just four starters for the postseason and the question is which one of their five starters will get bumped.

Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray are locks. Left-hander Patrick Corbin would seem to be almost a sure bet given not just his performance, but also the fact that the Dodgers, whom the D-backs would likely play in the NLDS, have struggled against lefties this year. That would seem to leave a choice between Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley, with one of the factors being who is seen as best being able to pitch out of the bullpen.

Walker K's three in 2nd inning

3. Will Jeff Mathis return?
Mathis suffered a fractured right hand in late August, but he was such a valued part of the team that he was asked to travel on road trips to help with game planning with the catchers. If he receives medical clearance, Lovullo said he would likely start behind the plate in the NL Wild Card Game since he and Greinke had worked so well together during the season prior to the injury.

Even if Mathis' hand limits him at the plate, his defense and game calling is so valued by the organization and so important in the postseason that he would likely still find his way into the lineup at least when Greinke pitches.

4. Will Owings be healthy enough to play?
The team had held out hope that Owings would be able to have started taking some live batting practice, but his fracture has not completely healed yet making it uncertain as to whether he would be healthy or sharp enough to hit during the first couple rounds of the postseason.

Owings on potential return

With the extra room for position players on the roster for the NL Wild Card Game, Owings could be kept as a pinch-runner. It's unlikely that in future series when more starting pitchers are kept that there would be room for strictly a pinch-runner, but it's also possible that he will be able to swing the bat by then, in which case he would be a candidate for the NLDS roster.

5. Big role for Sherfy?
Right-hander Jimmie Sherfy has not allowed a run in his first 11 appearances (spanning 10 1/3 innings) since being called up from Triple-A Reno. The rookie has been one of Arizona's best relievers outside of closer Fernando Rodney and setup man Archie Bradley.

Sherfy retires LeMahieu for win

Still, Sherfy doesn't have a long track record, so would the D-backs feel confident using him in big roles during the postseason?

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.