Tomas, O’Brien to play multiple positions for more at-bats
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When spring training games get underway next week, don’t be surprised when the Diamondbacks put third base experiment Yasmany Tomas in the outfield, or when catcher Peter O’Brien plays a little first base.
Neither moved should be looked at as a sign of what the D-backs think of each player’s defensive abilities.
Manager Chip Hale said those two moves will give the two promising offensive players more at-bats this spring. Because their ability to hit, after all, is why Arizona hopes Tomas can make a transition from the outfield to third, and O’Brien can make up ground behind the plate.
"We have these at-bats, especially early on, where guys are only going to get two, three at-bats and then get out of the game," Hale said. "With Tomas … we might put him in the outfield just to get him at-bats. He’s one we want to get a lot of at-bats. Same with Peter O’Brien."
It makes sense.
The team has been honest about its desire to give Tomas and O’Brien a shot to prove their offensive value. And it comes with a commitment to teach them their positions throughout spring training. The latter is a work in progress and perhaps meaningless if neither Tomas or O’Brien is ready to make on impact offensively.
On Saturday, Tomas took on high-intensity drills at third with mixed results. He started off shaky but came around, Hale said.
"At the start of it he was so focused on catching the ball he forgot he has to throw it over there and his throws were very erratic," Hale said. "By the end of it, he improved 100 percent on the throwing. So it was good to see. I think he’s coming along, he’s getting more confident in himself."
Recovering from the injury bug has been a big part of the Diamondbacks’ first week of spring work. Avoiding another bite is key for the season ahead.
It appears the D-backs have done so thus far despite a scare when pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, a likely starter, was pulled from the mound Saturday because of a cramp-like injury near his right rib cage.
"It doesn’t hurt right now," Hellickson said afterward. "I wanted to shut it down when I felt it, didn’t want to make it worse. We did a bunch of tests and all that and nothing bothered it. Just going to treat it."
Hale said Hellickson felt the problem in warm-ups, but the pitcher went through most of practice and said he only had two pitches of a batting practice left when he was shut down. As it stands, the injury doesn’t appear to be serious.
"Tomorrow will be a big day to see when he comes in," Hale said. "The trainers feel like he’s going to stay on time."
— With games beginning next week, Hale said not to expect the rust to be shaken off the D-backs pitching staff with only a few batting practice sessions to prepare. However, the team’s third-ranked prospect, Aaron Blair, stood out on Saturday and Hale likes his "down-hill" throwing style.
— Cuban pitcher Yoan Lopez had issue finding the strike zone but when dialed in proved tough for hitters on Saturday, Hale said. The key for Lopez: getting ahead in the count so he can use his change-up and breaking ball.
— Relievers Addison Reed and Matt Stites have been shelved precautionarily because of soreness in their throwing arms. They could take the mound soon, Hale said.