Cristian Mena Excellent in Aces Debut

Mena showcased why the Diamondbacks traded for him in the offseason.
Arizona Diamondbacks Cristian Mena during photo day at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 21, 2024.
Arizona Diamondbacks Cristian Mena during photo day at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 21, 2024. / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

Cristian Mena made his first start with Triple-A Reno. The right-hander was acquired in an offseason trade from the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Dominic Fletcher. In his first start with Triple-A Reno, Mena struck out six in five scoreless innings.

His fastball was in the 92-94 MPH range, and nine of his 10 whiffs came on his curveball and slider. Mena is on the Diamondbacks' 40-man roster, although with just five career starts in Triple-A is probably not a rotation candidate for the first half of the season. Nick Piecoro published an article last month about Mena seeing an uptick in velocity, so it will be interesting to see what that looks like when the weather warms up later in the season.

Randal Grichuk continues to make progress in his rehab assignment. He got in five at-bats, collecting two hits and a home run, and played seven innings in center field. Grichuk was placed on the 10-day IL with a back date of March 25th, meaning he could return as early as the series in Atlanta where the D-backs will face two left-handed starters.

Adrian Del Castillo made his first start behind the plate this season, but had a big day swinging the bat. Del Castillo finished a triple shy of the cycle. Four of the five balls he put into play were 97 MPH or harder, including three over 102 MPH. Tucker Barnhart is currently slated as the D-backs backup catcher and Jose Herrera as a depth piece, but Del Castillo could be a backup/DH option for the team in future seasons as a bat-first catcher. He'll likely be added to the 40-man roster in the offseason.

Outfielder Jorge Barrosa was 2-for-8 with a double to begin the season. He hit a two-run double in the 4th inning that hit the third base bag. He was called up Monday to replace the injured Alek Thomas and doubled in his first major league at bat.

Pavin Smith was 3-for-6, all singles. In two games so far, the left-handed hitting first baseman has reached in six of his first 11 plate appearances and driven in a run. The D-backs think highly of his bat, as he was one of the final roster cuts this spring and will likely see an opportunity to contribute later in the season.

Michael McDermott