D-backs still mull roster options

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Decisions, decisions.

A week closer to the regular season, the Diamondbacks still mull the two moves that will have trickle down effects on the rest of the roster:

Where will Yasmany Tomas open the season — third base, left field or the minor leagues? Will Daniel Hudson fit best in the rotation or the bullpen?

Once those questions are answered, everything else falls into place. Manager Chip Hale said he hopes to clear it up by late next week. The D-backs will conduct another round of cuts Sunday and again next weekend, likely April 3.

In the meantime, a look at the possibilities:

The D-backs could field one of the best offensive lineups in the division, if not the league. Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo are two of the handful of National League hitters who reasonably could be expected to hit 30 homers. Goldschmidt had a career-high 36 in 2013, and Trumbo averaged 32 homers a year with the Angels in 2011-13 before he missed 11 weeks last season with injury. A.J. Pollock and Chris Owings bring above-average offensive to their positions, and Tomas would be another possible 20-homer bat if he hits as the scouting reports indicate. Tomas recently tweaked his approach to get back to the way he hit in Cuba, and his long home run to right-center field against the Dodgers on Tuesday was promising.

A willing worker, Tomas’ defense at third still needs polishing, and Hale talked about the possibility of using Tomas both at third base and left field this season. Tomas, 24, played mostly in the outfield in Cuba, and the D-backs do not feel he would need much time out there this spring to get comfortable. At the same time, the roster fit is less tidy if Tomas moves off third base. The D-backs are outfield-rich as it is, with David Peralta, Ender Inciarte and Cody Ross ticketed as left fielders/bench bats to go with starters Pollock and Trumbo. It would be hard to find enough time for all six, especially after the strong spring showings of Inciarte and Peralta and the return to health of Ross.

Even when they signed Tomas to his $68.5 million deal, the D-backs held out the possibility he could be best served to get some minor league experience, and that still seems an option. At this point, the D-backs are a better defensive team without him, and defense seems a priority with the new leadership group. Southern League MVP Jake Lamb would play third in this scenario, and his addition would bring another left-handed bat into a primarily right-handed lineup.

CARDINALS CORNER

The D-backs’ best defensive infield would include Nick Ahmed at shortstop. He is 25, and Hale said he will play every day at some level this season. It seems a good a chance as any it will be in major leagues. He showed off his arm against the Angels on Friday, throwing out a runner at home as the relay man. If Ahmed opens at shortstop, Owings will play second base, where he ended last season, inasmuch as the D-backs have said Owings will start at one of the two spots. That would leave Hill as a situational player at second and third, and a proven bat off the bench along with handyman Cliff Pennington. If Ahmed starts in the minors, a roster spot could open for a third catcher, such as Jordan Pacheco, who also can play first, second and third. Gerald Laird, Blake Lalli and Pacheco are the catcher candidates behind Tuffy Gosewisch.

With Rubby De La Rosa in, the D-backs are down to two openings. Chase Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Daniel Hudson seemingly are just ahead of Robbie Ray, Archie Bradley and Allen Webster for the final spots. The D-backs believe in Hudson, who won 16 games and 2011 and has top of the rotation stuff when healthy, and said he will be involved in determining his a role this season. "It’s a newer, kinder baseball than it was when I played," Hale said. Cahill showed well in a minor league game Thursday — throwing 94 mph and inducing bad swings on his slider — and the business of baseball, he will make $12 million this season, all but dictates he will be in the rotation. Anderson could be the odd man out despite a nine wins in 2014 and a strong spring. The D-backs have set a soft limit of 85 pitches per outing for Hudson, so if he is in the rotation, they almost certainly would carry two long relievers. Randall Delgado, Vidal Nuno and almost any of the starting candidates who do not make the rotation could be in the mix there. Bradley would continue as a starter in the minors.

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