Owings could be D-backs CF on opening day

PHOENIX — In the wake of A.J. Pollock’s fractured elbow, the Diamondbacks could turn to infielder Chris Owings to man center field when they open the regular season on Monday.

Manager Chip Hale intimated as much Saturday, when Owings played nine innings in center in the team’s final exhibition game, a 4-2 victory over the Royals.

"It hurts to lose A.J.," Hale said. "But for the team, it’s the mantra of the next man up."

Socrates Brito played center during most of Pollock’s extended absence this spring. But Brito bats left-handed and with the D-backs facing lefty Jorge De La Rosa on Monday, Owings could roam center behind opening day starter Zack Grienke.

"If we feel like Chris and do it, he’ll probably be the guy out there," Hale said. "Brito would be out everyday center field but against a lefty, Chris matches up better."

Owings homered off Royals lefty Brian Duensing on Sunday.

The move to the outfield is one the D-backs pondered earlier this spring, when Pollock was nursing a sore right elbow, but didn’t examine further as Owings was competing for playing time in the middle infield. Owings still would play in the infield, in a utility role.

"It’s nothing that’s crazy new," said Owings, who estimated the last time he played the outfield he was 11 or 12 years old. "I’m just trying to get comfortable on some reads out there. That’s the biggest thing now."

Owings made a nice running grab in right-center field in the third inning to help Robbie Ray escape a bases-loaded, no-outs jam. Paul Goldschmidt called Owings the best athlete on the team.

"So if anyone can do it he can," Goldschmidt said.

Pollock was an infielder but was moved to the outfield in college at Notre Dame. He thought it was going to be a temporary move.

"Maybe he’ll be friendly and go back to middle infield when I come back," Pollock said of Owings.

"I think the guys stepping in for me are more than ready," Pollock said. "They’re going to have a good opportunity here."

Brito, 23, hit .300 for Double-A Mobile last season.

"He’s ready for this," Hale said. "We’re very fortunate to have guys go and play winter ball and play in a real high competition. He’s done that. He was rookie of the year in the Dominican League, so we know he can handle playing every day."

Hale also said the team was looking at veteran across the league who might be cut this weekend.

"But I’m happy with the 29 guys who are here and I think we can fill that spot," he said.

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