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Outlook: Chacin has secured a spot in the rotation

A bout with the flu put Joe Saunders on the shelf for more than a week in Spring Training, leaving him slightly behind. Aside from his illness, the left-hander also struggled in Spring Training, allowing 24 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings -- a whopping 12.46 ERA.

Regardless of those spring numbers, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said he still feels good sending Saunders to the mound Sunday in his club's series finale against the Rockies at 3:10 p.m. ET at Coors Field.

"The guy's on my team, he's a veteran, I feel great about it," Gibson said. "He was behind in his innings, but he got up around 100 pitches in his last outing. He's a veteran guy, it's not like he's a young guy and hasn't done it before. He'll be fine."

Saunders is beginning his first full season with the D-backs, who acquired him last July in the Dan Haren trade. He didn't make the impression he wanted to in 13 starts last year, going 3-7 with a 4.25 ERA.

This season, he wants to get off to a quick start and, despite his illness, feels healthy enough to do that after throwing 97 pitches in his last spring outing.

"Even as a hitter you want to get off to a good start, you don't want to go 0-for, and as a pitcher you don't want to give up any early runs," Saunders said. "You want to get off to a good start, and that's what I'm going to try to do [Sunday]."

Saunders could do that against the Rockies -- who will counter with Jhoulys Chacin (9-11, 3.28 ERA last season). In four career starts against Colorado, Saunders is 3-1 with a 3.09 ERA.

Roberts gets start, knocks out a hit

• After an outstanding Spring Training, Ryan Roberts earned a start in the season's second game, batting fifth and playing third. Roberts responded by going 2-for-4 with an RBI. Roberts, who hit .509 with a .603 on-base percentage in Cactus League action, was excited to see action so early. "It's good enough just to be here Opening Day," Roberts said. "To get a start this early is more than I could ask for, so it feels great and I'm ready, I can tell you that."

• Perhaps it was only because it was Opening Day, and Spring Training drills and speeches were still fresh, but Justin Upton set the tone for aggressive play Friday. On third with a ball hit to shortstop, Upton tried to score, running over Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta. Upton didn't score, but the standard of how the D-backs will play this season was set. "We have to go get after people," Upton said. "We're the type of team that has to grind for every win that we get. Plays like that are going to define a team, so to get one on Opening Day was nice."

  Tracy trying to split up playing time

• Like every manager, Jim Tracy is using the first few games of the season to give guys who deserve playing time just that. And, especially with players like Ryan Spilborghs and Jonathan Herrera, Tracy has plenty of options. "There's eight spots out there, and there's 13 pretty [darn] good position players sitting in that clubhouse, so we have to create opportunity for all of them," Tracy said. Regardless of how the roster shakes out on a day-to-day basis, Tracy has one goal. "Comfort levels for people are very, very important to me, because I firmly believe that the best in their abilities come out when you're approach them that way," he said.

• Ubaldo Jimenez's thumb is continuing to give the Rockies' ace trouble. Jimenez, who allowed six runs (five earned) in six innings Friday against the D-backs, suffered a cut to the cuticle on his pitching thumb. It was the same thumb that plagued him throughout Spring Training. Tracy said the club will take a wait-and-see approach with the injury. "If in fact it's to the point where you're going to see what you saw [Friday]," Tracy said, "then I won't sit here today and rule out the fact that we might be forced to back off."

Worth noting

With Saturday's 3-1 loss, the D-backs begin the season 1-1 for the ninth straight season. ... Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa left Friday's game with a blister on the middle finger of his left hand. He is listed as day to day. ... According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Friday's win by Arizona was the first in franchise history in which the winning run scored on an extra-inning wild pitch.

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