D-backs future is here in Ahmed and others
SAN DIEGO — The Diamondbacks are learning more about their future every day, probably the best way to play it since the present has not been much fun.
The latest injection of young talent came Sunday, when shortstop Nick Ahmed was summoned from the minor leagues as a likely short-term replacement for Chris Owings, who became the 12th D-back to hit the disabled list this season.
The D-backs put Ahmed into the lineup immediately, their standard operating procedure with newcomers this season. They did the same with left fielder David Peralta when he came up at the start of the month, and center fielder Ender Inciarte has played every day since coming back returning from the 7-day concussion list.
Ahmed chipped in immediately as well, going 1 for 3 with a single as rookie right-hander Mike Bolsinger, another in-season addition, made his second straight quality start in a 2-1 loss to San Diego.
The D-backs (35-49) took two out of three games from the Padres and before Sunday’s loss were percentage points out of fourth place for the first time since April 1.
The series victory was a step forward, but evaluating the system has become the greater priority as the D-backs look forward, with deals certain to come by the July 31 trade deadline.
Immersion is word of the season.
"It was good for ‘Goldy,’" General Manager Kevin Towers said of Paul Goldschmidt’s Aug. 2, 2011 promotion. "’C.O.’ last year in September. Even if it’s two weeks or three weeks. Bolsinger, it was good for him. They play in spring training games, but until you get up here and kind of live it, you really don’t know. When they go down and come back the next time, they’re not as much in awe. They kind of know what to expect and they know what they need to work on.
"When they’re up here, they’re going to find your holes, and then you have to make the necessary adjustments to be able to survive and stay up here."
Injuries have created unwanted but extra evaluation time, and the D-backs will be better for it.
They believe they will have Patrick Corbin back in the rotation and David Hernandez and Matt Reynolds back in the bullpen next season after Tommy John surgeries, giving the pitching staff a boost..
At the same time, they have concerns about the long-term health of Bronson Arroyo, their best pitcher this season when he was healthy. Experience gained by Bolsinger and Chase Anderson this season should help, although they will treat both with caution.
Manager Kirk Gibson already said he will closely monitor Anderson, who because of injury pitched only 87 innings in 2013.
Relievers Matt Stites and Evan Marshall, who had scoreless appearances again Sunday and are future building blocks, joining Brad Ziegler and closer Addison Reed.
Like the bullpen, the infield is an area of strength. Ahmed, 24, is another in the line of top shortstop prospects in a system that was once weak at the position. His inclusion from Atlanta cinched the Justin Upton trade two winters ago. Ahmed is considered to be the best fielder in the system, high praise inasmuch as Didi Gregorius also is a top defender.
"An ‘8’ fielder," Towers said of Ahmed, the highest grade on the scouting scale.
Ahmed progressed as a hitter in his first season at Triple-A. He was hitting .324 at with 20 doubles, two home runs and 36 RBIs at Reno, where he also had 10 stolen bases. He worked with Reno hitting coach Greg Gross to make a few mechanical tweaks, but said the most important part of his improvement was using his natural, wiry athleticism — he is 6-feet-2, 205 pounds — that has been a staple in the field and on the bases in the batter’s box.
"I never really tapped into that at the plate," Ahmed said. "This year it is the first time it (athleticism) is showing up at the plate, which is encouraging. I always knew I could do it. I always had the confidence to do it. I knew if I kept working hard every single day, kept improving, kept building on the success I had yesterday and learning from failures, I was going to get better."
The D-backs are likely to move a middle infielder at the trade deadline, and as Towers said late last week, "it would have to be a special deal" to include Ahmed, Gregorius or Owings. It might be easier for teams to pry away Aaron Hill or Martin Prado.
"It’s not to say anybody’s untouchable, but I think where we’re headed and looking at the way we’ve played with some of the young guys here, they’ve kind of energized our ballclub," Towers said.
"With youth comes energy, and they’re getting their feet wet here. We’re not in any type of rush to be moving any of our middle infielders right now. A lot will depend on what happens with the deadline and what happens this winter, if we’ll be able to create a spot for them. Only time will tell."
Miguel Montero is making a push for a deserved spot to the NL All-Star team. Montero leads major league catchers with 47 RBIs after singling in the first run Sunday, and he also has thrown out seven of the last 13 base runners attempting to steal on him. He has surpassed his RBI total (42) and equaled his home run total (11) from last season, when a back injury and a bad start factored in.
8 — walks to Paul Goldschmidt this weekend, setting a franchise record for walks in a series of any length. Luis Gonzalez (2002) had seven walks in a three-game series against the Dodgers and Adam Dunn (2008) had seven in a three-game set against San Diego.
Part of Trevor Cahill’s decision to accept his minor league option apparently included a guarantee that he will return to the majors this season. "There’s an actual time that, worst-case scenario, we bring him back. But it could be before that," general manager Kevin Towers said, refusing to get specific. Cahill has made three starts at Triple-A Reno, his most recent in a no-decision at Albuquerque on Friday, when he gave up seven hits and two runs in 5-2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two. The D-backs would like Cahill to develop more confidence in his fastball, which has a natural sink. "I’ve often said he could just throw 90 percent fastballs and be very successful as long as they’re strikes," Towers said. Cahill has given up seven runs in 13 innings with 14 strikeouts at Reno after making one appearance at High-A Visalia.