D-backs face decisions as Trumbo nears return

Mark Trumbo has been hitting plenty of home runs in his rehab with Triple-A Reno.

PHOENIX — Outfield injuries forced the Diamondbacks to delve into their farm system earlier than planned this season, and they haven’t been disappointed.

Ender Inciarte has proven to be a more than capable defender in center field and a reliable option as the leadoff hitter. David Peralta had one of the best first months in franchise history.

As manager Kirk Gibson said, "You are seeing some talent in some guys that is encouraging for the future."

With health comes another issue.

How do the D-backs reconfigure when left fielder Mark Trumbo and center fielder A.J. Pollock return?

Trumbo could be back as early as Friday in San Francisco — and if not then, certainly on July 18 after the All-Star break. Pollock is expected back in mid-August.

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It is a good problem to have, even if it will force the D-backs’ into some difficult decisions, perhaps even a trade, with Gerardo Parra suddenly becoming their most moveable chip.

Trumbo has hit a home run in each of his three rehab games at Class Triple-A Reno, and it would seem almost impossible to keep him down on the farm much longer. He has been out with a stress fracture of his right foot since April 24, and the most recent plan was to keep him on a rehab assignment through the All-Star break in order to avoid idle time. That still might be the plan. Even with five homers in seven rehab games, including an initial stop in the Arizona League, the overriding issue remains his long-term health.

"We’ll talk to the medical people," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "No. 1, we have to make sure medically that they are comfortable with whatever we might do. If you get the ‘go’ on that, you try to determine whether he is ready and whether you want to bring him in."

Trumbo has been hitting like he is ready.

His return will force a revision of their lineup that has included three left-handed-hitting regulars — Peralta, Inciarte and Parra — since Pollock went down.

The D-backs have proven susceptible to left-handed pitchers this season. They are 7-14 against lefty starters, and opponents often use their left-handed relievers to create favorable matchups, especially against Parra and catcher Miguel Montero. Parra is hitting .192 against lefties. Montero is at .155. The return of Trumbo and Pollock will create more balance but shrink available time for the others.

"When Trumbo comes back, we’ll have to analyze how we want to divvy up the playing time. It could be challenging," Gibson said. "David has to continue to play. Ender has to continue to play. So we’ll have to make a decision whether it is here or somewhere else."

Peralta has played like an All-Star in his first five weeks since arriving from Double-A Mobile when Pollock was placed on the disabled list with a fractured fourth right metacarpal on May 31. Peralta set a franchise record with 40 hits in his first 32 games and has shown both power and speed while adjusting to the majors, with six doubles, three home runs and two stolen bases.

More important than numbers, the D-backs believe his swing path and quick hands are made for success in the majors. He has done nothing but hit since independent league scout Chris Carminucci recommended his signing last spring. Since joining the organization on July 3, 2013, Peralta is hitting a combined .323 with 38 doubles, 17 homers and 104 RBI in 536 at-bats with Visalia, Mobile and now Arizona. The results have been constant, even at the highest level. 

Inciarte plays center field as well as top defender Pollock and has the arm for right. He is perhaps the best fit in the leadoff spot for a team that has struggled to fill that role for years. Parra and Pollock were tried there, but Pollock, particularly, might be better used in a production spot when he returns. Inciarte had 43 and 46 stolen bases in his last two seasons in the minors.

Cody Ross has not regained full fluidity since his devastating hip injury 11 months ago, but he has hit .333 in the last month and is a career .295 hitter against lefties, enhancing his value. He is owed $9.5 million, including a 2016 option buyout, and would be difficult to move.

Parra has one more year or arbitration eligibility before becoming a free agent. He would earn somewhere in the $6.5 million range in 2015. Parra ranks No. 22 among major league right fielders with 25 RBI and No. 21 with five homers. If the D-backs come to the conclusion that they are better served with controllable youth, even a two-time Gold Glover such as Parra could become the odd man out.

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