It's 'go' time for D-backs, who open camp super early
FEB 06, 2014 4:39p ET
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Australia is still 36 days and a 17-hour plane flight away, and the Diamondbacks' second straight 81-81 season has been long assigned to the "irrelevant" file.
When the D-backs pitchers and catchers checked in for physical exams Thursday, the present was all that mattered.
"You're done with the offseason, you're sick of your loved ones, you want to get out of your house," pitcher Brandon McCarthy said Thursday morning. "You want to get back into a competitive outlet. Now it turns real."
Manager Kirk Gibson said it another way.
"We're in 'go' mode right now," Gibson said.
The D-backs' pitchers and catchers will have their first workout at Salt River Fields on Friday, earlier than any previous season in order to get the pitchers up to speed for the trip to Sydney, Australia, that will include their first two regular-season games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It will be a night-day pair that will be played on the same day, March 22, on the US clock.
Gibson, as expected, was not ready to name his Opening Day starter 13 minutes into his first news conference of the season, but Patrick Corbin seems as good a candidate as any after his breakout 14-win season in 2013. That decision is for another day.
At this point, the D-backs do not appear to have many open roster spots, but there are some position groups that bear watching this spring.
Who plays shortstop?
Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings and Cliff Pennington are the candidates, and the spot seems wide open. Gregorius, a left-handed hitter, homered on the first pitch he saw last season and did the bulk of the work there after arriving in mid-April, although switch-hitter Pennington had two walk-off hits in the first two months of the season. Rookie Owings, a right-hander hitter, impressed in his September call-up after winning the Pacific Coast League MVP and Rookie of the Year awards and has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. The D-backs probably would like a starter to emerge, although a platoon could be a solution.
How will Mark Trumbo adjust to left field?
Trumbo brings the power bat the D-backs sought in the offseason after averaging 32 home runs and 94 RBI in his first three major league seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, but he played mostly first base and a little DH with the Angels while starting 73 games in left and 49 games in right. Trumbo -- who on Thursday agreed to a one-year, $4.8 million deal with Arizona to avoid arbitration -- was athletic enough to steal 18 bases in three seasons, and the D-backs believe that athleticism can translate into a more than representative left fielder.
Who will become the closer?
Newcomer Addison Reed seems to be the most logical candidate after his 69 saves in almost-two seasons as the Chicago White Sox's closer in 2012-13, but Gibson was not ready to commit Thursday, perhaps out of deference to the success J.J. Putz has had when healthy and the outstanding work Brad Ziegler did when called upon in the second half of last season. "My goal is to get them all back to the way they are capable of throwing the ball, and then we'll figure it out," Gibson said, including 2011 fill-in closer David Hernandez among a quartet of candidates. "We're going to take our time." At the same time, Reed seems the most logical candidate to emerge.
When will Cody Ross be ready?
Ross suffered the Bo Jackson injury -- a fractured and dislocated hip -- on Aug. 4 and missed the rest of the season, but his progress during rehab has the D-backs amazed. Ross is taking batting practice and jogged in the outfield grass, Gibson said, adding that he would not be surprised if Ross is ready for the start of the regular season -- if not the two games in Australia, then the first series in the US that begins March 31 against San Francisco. It is unclear how the outfield will shake out when Ross returns, but he can play all three spots and should receive plenty of at-bats when he returns. Center field seems the most logical spot, but the D-backs also could use Ross and A.J. Pollock in the lineup against tough left-handers to give Gerardo Parra a rest.
How will the rotation shake out?
The top five starters from 2013 return, but the D-backs are committed to giving top prospect Archie Bradley a long look after impressive minor league season in which he was 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 152 innings, mostly at Double-A Mobile. But Bradley, 21, will not be rushed, and if he needs another few months in the minors, the club is fine with that. It worked for St. Louis right-hander Michael Wacha last seasons. The D-backs also are perusing the remains of the free-agent market and are reported to have a meeting set up with steady, reliable right-hander Bronson Arroyo.