Elbow strain sidelines shortstop Gregorius

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Diamondbacks shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius has a “slight strain” of his right ulnar collateral ligament and could open the season on the disabled list, general manager Kevin Towers said Tuesday.

Gregorius, acquired in December from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer, was apparently playing long toss around Christmas while preparing for the World Baseball Classic when he felt discomfort in his right elbow. His adviser alerted the D-backs, who flew Gregorius to Arizona from Curacao, where he was training, to be examined.

D-backs team physician Dr. Michael Lee found what Towers described as a “slight strain of the UCL area.” Though UCL issues often require Tommy John surgery, Towers said Gregorius’ issue would not require surgery.

“If there’s going to be a strain, it’s the right area to have a strain,” Towers said. “Dr. Lee just felt it would be good to shut him down from swinging a bat or throwing for four to six weeks.”

Towers said the D-backs did not give Gregorius a physical exam before finalizing the trade with the Indians but insisted the injury occurred later in December as Gregorius prepared to play for Team Netherlands.

Towers said Gregorius has been shut down for about a month now and is about two weeks away from starting a throwing program and hitting off a tee. Lee told the D-backs that Gregorius could be ready by, or shortly after, the start of the regular season, although it’s increasingly likely that he’ll open the year in the minor leagues.

“Hopefully we can get him into some live games by the end of spring training,” Towers said.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson downplayed the seriousness of the injury after Tuesday’s workout.

“I talked to him today, and he feels great,” Gibson said. “It’s nothing that’s concerning at all.”

The D-backs expected Gregorius to compete with veterans Cliff Pennington and Willie Bloomquist at shortstop during spring camp, but Towers said it was most likely Gregorius would have begun the season in the minors regardless of the injury.

The D-backs like where Gregorius is defensively but believe he needs more seasoning as a hitter.

“We don’t view (Gregorius) as a bench player,” Towers said. “When he comes up here we want him to play. We’ve got a couple good veterans for this year that can handle the position.”