D-backs’ Australia trip great … until games started
PHOENIX — Oh the way to the first game in Sydney, the Diamondbacks’ bus broke down. And then the wheels fell off.
The excursion to Australia was a fun, enlightening experience until the baseball started.
While the D-backs lost two games to the Dodgers and did not look particularly good doing it, president/CEO Derrick Hall said he would jump at another chance to open the season overseas. The Diamondbacks explored New Zealand on one of their earlier missions, and an Australian official last week suggested the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which can seat 100,000.
"It was an important trip for Major League Baseball, and we were pleased to play such a vital role in it," said Hall, who returned with the D-backs’ traveling party about mid-day Sunday. "The spreading of goodwill for Major League Baseball, the expansion of our brand globally, were both priorities.
"Unfortunately we came out on the wrong side of the games. If we were to do it all over again, there is not much we would have done differently. It’s too bad we didn’t bring home at least one win, because everyone had a terrific time. We wanted our players to enjoy their trip there."
The Diamondbacks, the designated home team, scored only one run in the first 17 innings of 3-1 and 7-5 losses to the Dodgers and committed four errors in the two games at the Sydney Crocket Ground, but there were bright spots. Left-hander Wade Miley struck out eight in five innings while stepping into the Opening Day start in place of injured ace Patrick Corbin. Left fielder Mark Trumbo hit his first D-backs home run and had three RBI in the second game, and his homer was driven into a stiff breeze that kept scoring down during the series. The bullpen that started slowly last season gave up only one earned run in nine innings, with Addison Reed being named the closer during the trip.
The week-early start of spring training and the 17-hour flight to Sydney had less to do with the two losses than the Dodgers’ two starting pitchers, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hall said.
"We faced two really tough pitchers. At the end of the day, I don’t think the results had anything to do with the trip. We were prepared for those games. We started early," Hall said.
Back home and after two days to recuperate, the D-backs face more decisions before their Chase Field opener March 31 against the Giants, the first game of a four-game series.
They are not counting on having Corbin, who saw Dr. James Andrews in Alabama on Monday for a second opinion on his elbow injury and is a candidate for Tommy John surgery if Andrews confirms the initial diagnosis of a partial UCL tear.
The Diamondbacks have several options in the starting rotation, but it appears most likely that they will shift right-hander Randall Delgado from the bullpen to join Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and Bronson Arroyo in the rotation and return top prospect Archie Bradley to the minor leagues for more seasoning. Arroyo’s early back injury appears no longer to be an issue, as he pitched in a minor league game Monday.
An NL East scout said last week that while he considered Bradley a top-of-the-rotation starter in the making, his fastball command is not where it needs to be to face major league hitters. A stop at Class AAA Reno would enable Bradley, 21, to polish that up. Bradley, after all, is less than three years removed from high school after being the No. 7 pick in the 2011 draft. Bo Schultz, also on the 25-man roster in Australia because Corbin, McCarthy and Arroyo stayed home, could figure into the mix, although it appears more likely that he will take his mid-90s sinking fastball to Reno, at least for the time being.
"Looking at our depth, it makes me appreciate even more what we did this offseason," Hall said. "Establishing Randall Delgado as an adequate replacement (last year), we saw what he could do in a starting role last year. Adding Bronson Arroyo will certainly help. We have to remember, last year at this time, we weren’t even sure that Patrick was going to be on our roster. Someone else will step up this year. We’ll see who that is."
Moving Delgado into the rotation also would lessen the logjam in the bullpen, although the D-backs still have too many arms for spots available. Reed, J.J. Putz, Brad Ziegler, David Hernandez, Will Harris, Josh Collmenter, Oliver Perez and Joe Thatcher all have proven major league resumes, and seven of them will be kept. With Delgado in the rotation, only one would have to go.
We have to remember, last year at this time, we weren’t even sure that Patrick was going to be on our roster. Someone else will step up this year. We’ll see who that is.
D-backs president/CEO Derrick Hall
The Diamondbacks still have a decision to make at shortstop. Chris Owings appears to be the leading candidate, and both he and Didi Gregorius started a game in Australia. Gregorius continues to be the subject of trade speculation, with FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi tweeting Monday that Pittsburgh could be a landing spot. A D-backs official said Monday that no trade is imminent. One of the two shortstops will be optioned to Reno if no deal is done before the start of the season.
Tony Campana appears to have secured a roster spot — he was the fourth outfielder on the Australia trip — and the D-backs have one more reserve opening until Cody Ross returns from his hip injury. Ross is eligible to return April 4. The D-backs could keep both shortstops for several more days, or they could keep all three catchers.
Ross’ injury is not the only one the D-backs are keeping tabs on. Manager Kirk Gibson had an MRI on his left knee Monday and could be a candidate for surgery after tweaking the knee before the trip.