D-backs to start Owings at shortstop, add Delgado to rotation
Chris Owings is the starting shortstop. Tuffy Gosewisch is the reserve catcher.
Ryan Rowland-Smith will make his return to the majors after a three-year absence as a third left-hander in the bullpen, one of 13 pitchers on the roster.
Catcher Henry Blanco will have first dibs on the seventh major league coaching position after Gosewisch was named Miguel Montero’s backup, although Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said Blanco will be free to explore other opportunities if teams are interested. If Blanco stays, Mark Grace will remain a coach in the minor league system instead of moving to the major league side.
The loss of ace Patrick Corbin and eighth-inning reliever David Hernandez played into the D-backs’ decision on roster composition, especially as far as Owings being chosen over Didi Gregorius, who will be optioned to Class AAA Reno along with right-hander Bo Schultz.
"I think we viewed (Owings’) bat a little bit ahead of Didi at this point in time, and I think because of the injuries we had to the pitching staff, we are going to have to score runs to win games," Towers said. "Not knocking our starting pitching staff. Hopefully they can put a lot of goose eggs up there. … Having his bat in the lineup, there is power there, it is quick. We decided to go in our eyes with the guy we thought was a better offensive player."
Tony Campana will be the only backup outfielder while Cody Ross recovers from his left hip injury. Ross is eligible to be activated from the disabled list April 4, although a mid-April return seems more likely. The D-backs are likely to revert to having 12 pitchers and 13 position players when Ross returns.
I think because of the injuries we had to the pitching staff, we are going to have to score runs to win games.
Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers
The Diamondbacks have never before carried three left-handed relievers. They play 16 games in the first 17 days, and Towers said he wanted a full bullpen after the recent loss of Hernandez to a torn elbow ligament.
"We felt it was better to have the extra arm. He has over three years as major league experience," Towers said of Rowland-Smith, who last pitched in the majors with the Mariners in 2010. "Kind of view him and (Josh) Collmenter as long men. If one left-hander was down for day, we’d have two lefties."
Schultz, who was on the 25-man roster in Australia, showed well as a starter after being moved there permanently at Class AA Mobile last season, and the D-backs plan to keep him in that role at Class AAA Reno, where he will join Archie Bradley at the top of the rotation.
"We feel he’s better as a starter. With the injuries we’ve had to our starters, him and Archie are probably six and seven" in the pecking order, Towers said.
Owings said he learned he had made the team during the middle of the Diamondbacks’ 9-8 loss to the Cubs on Saturday.
"I was about to go up and hit, and (manager Kirk Gibson) just came up and told me, ‘Just relax and play,’" Owings said.
Whether it meant much or not, Owings was in a hitting group early in spring that included veteran starters Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and Martin Prado.
"It definitely gets you locked in, working out with those guys, hitting with them," Owings said. "You see the way they go through their routines. "It’s not just trying to hit home runs in B.P.; it’s trying to hit the ball in the gaps, working on putting the ball the other way."
Gregorius was the starting shortstop much of last season after being recalled from Class AAA Reno on April 16, a day after second baseman Aaron Hill was placed on the disabled list with a fractured left hand that sidelined him for 10 weeks. Cliff Pennington moved from shortstop to second, and Gregorius hit .252 with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 103 games.
Gosewisch, a former Arizona State player, made his major league debut with the D-backs on Aug. 1, 2013, after spending seven-plus years in the minors.
"I don’t know if I can express how happy I am," Gosewisch said. "I felt I was always ready to accept this role. I felt this spring was my first opportunity to win this job, realistically. I always stayed ready. I always thought I could play at this level. I feel I’ve definitely earned it."
Gosewisch is considered a strong defender, and he threw out 51.1 percent of runners attempting steal on him in four months at Class AAA Reno last season.
"We do a good job of holding runners here," Gosewisch said. "The pitchers do a real good job of giving catchers a chance. It gives us some opportunity to throw a guy out. If the pitcher doesn’t give us a chance, there is not much we can do. If they give us enough time, it is on us to make a quality throw. I think that has been the biggest key."
Like Blanco, Gosewisch is a staff-first catcher.
"I try to make that the No. 1 priority, handling those guys, taking care of them, making sure they know I’m out there for them," Gosewisch said. "It’s my job to make them better. If they are good, as a team we are going to be good."