Extra outfielder A.J. Pollock ignores D-backs depth chart, focuses on getting better every day.
By TYLER LOCKMAN FS Arizona
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A.J. Pollock knows it sounds cliché, but the Diamondbacks outfielder can't think of any better way to put it. How does he handle waiting for his true chance in the majors with a thoroughly entrenched outfield in place already?
"You just keep your head down and try to get better every day," Pollock said. "I know that's what a lot of people say, but it's the truth."
Blocked from the majors by four other outfielders on the D-backs' depth chart, Pollock keeps himself prepared for his chance at an extended stay in the big leagues and refuses to worry about his place in the pecking order.
"I don't set the depth chart, I don't do any of that stuff, but I can try to get better every day," Pollock said. "If my name is called, I'll be ready for it."
There's a small chance Pollock opens the season with the D-backs. If Cody Ross can't get ready in time due to a leg injury that will sideline him for at least another week, Pollock would be the likely choice to slide into the fourth outfielder role, with Gerardo Parra moving into the starting lineup.
But even if that scenario does play out, Pollock would be in for a short stay barring outrageous production or another injury. He would soon be on his way back to Triple-A Reno, waiting for the call and playing every day as a key piece of organizational depth.
Pollock played 31 games with the D-backs over five stints last season. Once he was called up because Chris Young and Justin Upton were hurting and Geoff Blum went on the disabled list. Another time Pollock was up briefly because Jason Kubel went on the paternity list after the birth of his second daughter.
Pollock was the go-to guy when the D-backs needed an extra player, but going from Triple-A to the majors meant going from everyday action to a less predictable routine and uneven playing time.
"It was hard." Pollock said. "I knew that was going to be the situation, but at the same time I'd never done that. So when I was doing it it was kind of a learning experience."
In sporadic major league action, he hit .247 (20 for 81) with eight RBI, two home runs and a .315 on-base percentage. In Reno, he drove in 52 runs, stole 21 bases and posted a .369 OBP. He earned MVP honors in the Pacific Coast League playoffs and the Triple-A National Championship game.
All things considered, Pollock said last season was an eye-opener.
"Last year was a good wakeup call to how it really is up here," Pollock said. "Stuff happens real quick. Stuff opens up real quick. I realized that last year, and I think I'll be more ready for it this year."
Pollock would never wish for his chance at an extended opportunity in the majors to come because of a teammate's injury. But getting a taste of the big leagues has him wanting more.
"Once you get up there you want to stay up there," Pollock said. "That gets you going a little more."
Pollock can't predict when that time will come, but he's doing his best to get himself noticed when he's around.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson rattled off a list of Pollock's strengths Monday, including defense, base-stealing ability and a little power. His defensive ability is probably chief among those. Baseball America ranks him as the best defensive outfielder in the D-backs organization.
More than any specific strength, though, Pollock just fits the description of the kind of player the D-backs want on their roster these days.
"We want to make the rights plays and understand when to make the right plays," Gibson said. "He certainly fits that mold.
"We hope that he continues to make it hard for us. I would encourage that."
That's just what Pollock plans to do, and to do so he says he can't waste any energy worrying about how he stacks up on the depth chart. He doesn't get intimidated or frustrated by the team's outfield depth, either. He knows his chance will come, and he wants to earn it, much the way last year's teammate at Reno, Adam Eaton, has.
"I would never expect anything to be handed to me," Pollock said. "I think it's only good that you've got competition. It makes everyone better."
Gibson has been impressed by Pollock's performance this spring, even with Pollock limited until recently by an abdominal strain. At the very least, that should leave Pollock primed to play the same "first call" role he did last year, something Pollock says he's more ready for this time around.
"I understand it a lot better now and I'll be ready for it if it comes again," Pollock said. "Hopefully I can work my way so I'm not doing that role, so I'm just one of the guys."
Wade Miley was scratched Monday from a scheduled Tuesday start. Gibson said Miley has "dead arm," which basically means Miley's arm is tired. Miley won't throw for a couple days but is expected to miss only one start. Gibson said the team isn't worried right now about any injury and preferred to give Miley a break with three weeks before Opening Day than have him push through the tiredness.
Infielder Eric Chavez was scratched from the lineup Monday after being hit in the forehead by an errant groundball during a morning workout. Gibson said concussion protocols were being followed but Chavez was doing fine.