Bats heat up in D-backs’ third-base competition

Yasmany Tomas, seen here taking a cut last week, had only two hits in his previous 16 at-bats before hitting a home run Tuesday.

Mark J. Rebilas/Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

MESA — A day out of the lineup seemed to refresh Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb. Both homered in an exhibition game Tuesday, Lamb hitting two. The competition at third base appears to be good for both, which makes it even better for the Diamondbacks.

The D-backs signed Tomas with the idea of giving him every chance at third base, but Lamb has made it clear that he will have something to say about it. Both have been used third base and as a DH this spring.

"That was a pretty good day for those third basemen," D-backs manager Chip Hale said after a 6-5 loss to Oakland at HoHoKam Stadium.

"It is great to see both guys swing the bat better."

The D-backs were looking for an uptick in Tomas’ offense, and he provided one, driving a 3-0 pitch onto the berm in right-center field in the second inning off Oakland right-hander Sonny Gray, the A’s probable Opening Day starter. Tomas had two hits in his previous 16 at-bats, a double and a triple.

Both of Lamb’s homers came off left-handers, Barry Zito in the sixth inning and Eric O’Flaherty in the eighth, after getting one hit in his first 10 at-bats this spring. Lamb hit all four of his major league homers against right-handers last season.

"It’s good to have those good swings," said Lamb, adding that he made a minor mechanical adjustment the other day. "I worked on keeping my weight back a little. Felt really comfortable out there. It’s nice to get it going a little bit."

Lamb used a scouting report from veteran Cody Ross to hit an 0-2 curveball for a homer against Zito, notorious for his big breaking ball.

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"Cody said it’s going to start at your face, and sure enough it started like it was going to hit me," Lamb said. "I stayed in there and let the hands work."

There seems to be a common perception that if Tomas wins the third base job, Lamb would more likely be sent to the minor leagues so he could play every day rather than get spot duty in the majors. That seems to be more speculation than fact, and it might help his chances that handyman Cliff Pennington can play all three infield positions. The D-backs are overly right-handed at the plate, too, and Lamb’s bat from the left side would help balance the roster, even if Tomas is the primary third baseman.

"Of all the guys in batting practice before we started playing games, he (Lamb) was one of the most impressive guys. He looks good up there," Hale said.

"I wouldn’t even start to evaluate it this early. We’ll let them all fight it out to the end and take the best 25. If (Lamb) is hitting like this, he’s got a pretty good chance to make this club. He’s a young guy with a nice career ahead of him, so we’ll see."

Hale said he would like to see Tomas’ concentration on defense improve. Tomas has made some good plays at third, such as last week when he back-handed a ball down the line and also made a bare-handed pick and throw on a bunt.

"I think he needs to be better than what we’ve seen. Mostly, just the focus," Hale said before the game. "I think the plays he’s not making is maybe because he is losing focus. He needs to know that every play at third base, every pitch, he has to be ready.

"The physical part of it, catching the ball and moving to the ball, he can do it. As big as he is, he’s shown the quick feet and he’s shown the ability to make certain plays. So now you say he made that one, why didn’t he make this one? Then you start to play the mental game. It won’t be tough. That’s his job. That’s our job. He’ll get it. He’s a quick learner. We don’t need him to be Gold Glove. We need him to catch the ball, make the routine play. The diving plays, that’s a bonus right now."

Lamb is taking it one game at a time.

"If you start worrying about that, it’s just going to stress you out," Lamb said. "I try to go out there and have good games and especially take good ‘ABs.’ I feel really comfortable at third base. Just have to keep doing that." 

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