Campana, Tuiasosopo compete for reserve OF spots
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Diamondbacks’ regular lineup appears as constant as an Arizona summer, at least until Cody Ross returns.
The D-backs seem locked into a starting eight that will change only for the occasional day off or in the case of a particularly opportune matchup.
Openings remain for the second catcher and extra outfielders, and outfield candidate Tony Campana is not unlike many fans at this time in spring in trying to evaluate the situation.
"I think it is only human to wonder what they are thinking and what your role is going to be," Campana said. "I’m just looking forward to see what happens and play hard and play my game."
Campana and Matt Tuiasosopo are among the candidates, along with Alfredo Marte and Shelley Duncan, to back up starters Mark Trumbo, A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra until Ross returns in April.
Inasmuch as general manager Kevin Towers said the D-backs are likely to carry five outfielders on the opening day roster, two of that group almost certainly will be active for the season-opening series in Sydney, Australia, against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 22-23.
"There is an opportunity there, I think, from what it looks like," said Campana, who came to the D-backs about this time last spring. "You play hard every day and hopefully things work out. This is come good competition for that last spot, so I think no matter what we will be good."
Campana had his best game of the spring Thursday with two singles, two runs, a walk and a stolen base from the leadoff spot in an 8-8, 10-inning tie with Oakland. It was his game in a nutshell.
Campana spent most of 2013 with Triple-A Reno, but he hit .261 with eight stolen bases in 29 games with the D-backs. He is 62 of 69 in stolen bases in this three major league seasons (the first two with the Cubs), the best success rate in the major leagues since 2011.
Campana has a skill set none of the other applicants bring. He has what scouts rank as "80" speed, the better to steal bases with, and also is the one true center field among the group. Ross has played center field in the past, but seems more likely be play a corner spot when returns, which might mean Parra gets some games in center on days Pollock needs a break. Campana also hits left-handed, which could help balance a predominately right-handed hitting roster.
"You want to have some balance," manager Kirk Gibson said.
Tuiasosopo brings flexibility that Gibson prizes. Tuiasosopo played 61 major league games in left field, most last season with Detroit, and started at all four infield positions during his three previous seasons with Seattle. His ability to fill multiple roles is even more valuable in the National League, where double-switches are more prevalent.
"I’ve really noticed the versatility of that piece. It’s good," Gibson said of Tuiasosopo. "He can play third, first, either corner outfield spot and is very comfortable at doing so. He throws well. You don’t see any panic."
Tuiasosopo drove in a run with a groundout Thursday, his fourth RBI in seven games. He also stole second base earlier in the week. He hit .244 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in only 164 at-bats last season, his first in the big leagues since 2010.
Tuiasosopo played at Triple-A Tacoma in 2011 and Triple-A Buffalo in the Mets organization 2012, combining for 26 homers and 134 RBIs. The D-backs claimed Tuiasosopo off waivers from the Tigers on Nov. 1 and he admitted the move took him by surprise.
"I’ve gotten used to going from team to team. It’s a business. It was good to know that a team wanted you, and so my mind shifted to ‘all right, here we got, next step in the journey,’" Tuiasosopo said.
"Every time you change organizations there are nerves, new faces, new people. The bottom line is the game stays the same. The way you approach and your work ethic stays the same. That doesn’t change. Try not to get caught up in trying to please new people. Just do your work and things will take care of themselves. That’s been my approach. I always have had to come and compete and fight for a spot and show a front office what I can bring to help a team win a championship, so as far as coming into this camp, nothing has changed."