Pitchers and catchers of the Arizona Diamondbacks report to camp Monday Feb.13.
Amid several unanswered questions, the Arizona Diamondbacks are about to convene at their Salt River training camp.
When pitchers and catchers assemble on Feb. 13 and begin workouts the following day, the starting rotation appears in a state of flux as does offensive production from a newly-assembled catching staff. Plus, there is uncertainty about the middle infield spots, and health questions surrounding important members of the outfield. Then, there’s always the dilemma of the bullpen.
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Add to this mix the new regime of general manager Mike Hazen and field manager Torey Lovullo. Subtract the importance and influence of Tony LaRussa as the club’s Chief Baseball Official, and puts the Hall of Fame manager into strictly a ceremonial role.
Last season under then-manager Chip Hale, the Diamondbacks dropped 10 games lower in the win-loss column than under Hale’s first season in 2015. That marked a decline in which Hale and then-general manager Dave Stewart lost their jobs and precipitated the advent of the Hazen-Lovullo team.
Aside from Hazen and Lovullo taking over baseball operations, the role of LaRussa greatly diminished.
As a result of having his hand in the signings of Zack Greinke ($206 million), Yasmany Tomas ($68 million) and pitcher Yoan Lopez ($16 million), La Russa’s input of nearly $300 million has little to show. Shoved to the background, La Russa’s role could be explained as more of a cheerleader. Throughout the upcoming spring training session, La Russa is expected to keep a low profile and have a limited presence amid the Salt River training facility.
If the Diamondbacks are to move through the National League West Division, the starting rotation should step forward. Greinke is expected to bounce back from a 13-7 season a year ago and Shelby Miller’s comeback from an under-achieving debut in Sedona Red last season will likely be one of the high-profile stories of the spring.
From a defensive standpoint, veterans Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta bring strong skills behind the plate. Don’t expect much from an offensive vantage and there will likely be a decline from the 2016 productive bat of Welington Castillo.
In the infield, the double play combination has to be settled. Lovullo will have the next six weeks to see if Nick Ahmed returns at shortstop and ascertain the adjustment of Brandon Drury to be the full-time, Arizona second baseman.
Then again, the health of returning left fielder David Peralta and centerfielder A. J. Pollock will be closely monitored. Both are coming off injuries which kept each on the disabled list for most of the season. Their durability will come under the microscope as will their production.