Injury slows Diamondbacks’ personality makeover

The Arizona Diamondbacks underwent a personality change in the

offseason.

After a lot of talk, they finally traded Justin Upton, sending

the 25-year-old outfielder to the Atlanta Braves, acquiring Martin

Prado in the process.

The Diamondbacks gave up on that magnificent yet inconsistent

talent in a bid to transform the team into a scrappy, tough,

aggressive unit that relies more on contact hitting than home runs,

coupled with a solid rotation and a substantially beefed up

bullpen.

Unfortunately for Arizona, an injury has slowed the rebuilding

plans.

One of the most important components is speedy rookie Adam

Eaton, the center fielder and leadoff batter who had a tremendous

spring until a slight ligament tear in his throwing arm left him

sidelined for the first six to eight weeks of the season.

”I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was a blow,” general

manager Kevin Towers said. ”I mean, he’s kind of an igniter. We

kind of feed off his energy and the way he plays the game. A good

part of putting this team together was with him in mind.”

Kirk Gibson, in his third full season as manager, said he hadn’t

decided how he will adjust his batting order, with no obvious

choice to replace Eaton at the top, especially with a leading

candidate, Willie Bloomquist, expected to start the season on the

disabled list after sustaining an oblique strain in spring training

just five days before opening day.

But Gibson still likes the overall makeup of the team, even as

he downplays the suggestion that it matches his tenacious,

old-school personality.

”I think we’re very versatile, just a real heady team,” he

said, ”very engaged in the process of what it takes to win a World

Series. All the stuff we’ve thrown at them, they’ve implanted it

very nicely. Now as the season starts we’ll have to remain on

task.”

Prado, stationed at third base, should combine well with second

baseman Aaron Hill. Both hit well for average and both also are

accustomed to batting second in the order. Hill will probably slide

to the No. 3 spot.

”I’ve always been a two-hole hitter, but whatever works for the

club,” Hill said. ”I mean, they bring in Martin and, I’m going to

let my guard down, but he’s probably a better two-hole hitter than

I am. So either way it works out. Both of us don’t really care.

It’s going to be fun the many ways we can manufacture runs

anyway.”

Hill won a Silver Slugger award last season, batting a

career-high .302 with 44 doubles, 26 home runs and 85 RBIs. In the

offseason, he signed a new contract that will earn him $40.5

million over the next four years. Prado, who hit .301 for Atlanta,

also got a new four-year, $40 million deal,

In addition to losing Eaton, Arizona probably will start the

season without new right fielder Cody Ross, sidelined with a calf

injury. Ross doesn’t expect to miss more than a few games, though.

Jason Kubel returns in left field, with A.J. Pollock probably in

center and Gerardo Parra in right.

First baseman Paul Goldschmidt and catcher Miguel Montero are

being counted on to drive in runs as the team looks to be

aggressive on the bases without the multitude of blunders that

plagued the Diamondbacks a year ago. New coach Steve Sax is partly

entrusted with finding a way to improve in that department.

With the versatile Bloomquist out, the shortstop job goes by

default to newly acquired Cliff Pennington while top prospect Didi

Grigorius, slowed by the same type of arm injury that Eaton has,

hones his skills at Triple-A Reno.

Ian Kennedy, who came on strong late last season to finish 15-12

after going 21-4 in Arizona’s NL West title run in 2011, will get

the opening day start Monday at home against St. Louis. A

slimmed-down Trevor Cahill will go second in the rotation. The

third day starter is Brandon McCarthy, who is coming back from a

horrific head injury, fracturing his skull and sustaining other

damage from a line drive while with the Oakland Athletics last

September.

Left-hander Wade Miley went 16-11 with a 3.92 ERA last season,

making the All-Star team and finishing second in NL rookie of the

year voting. He’s been slid back in the rotation after he was shut

down for a time with a dead arm in spring training. Randall

Delgado, who came in the Upton trade, competed with left-hander

Patrick Corbin for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Right-hander Heath Bell and lefties Tony Sipp and Matt Reynolds

add to what should be a strong bullpen that returns long-innings

reliever Josh Collmenter, sidearm specialist Brad Ziegler (who

induced groundball 21 double plays – most by a reliever since Doug

Sisk’s 21 in 1988), setup man David Hernandez and closer J.J.

Putz.

Veteran infielders Eric Chavez and Eric Hinske give the team

some experienced depth it lacked on the bench.

”Everyone talks about team chemistry and I know it’s a

cliche,” Hill said, ”but I’d much rather have a team full of guys

who get along, are ready to go every day, hard-nosed guys, than a

bunch of superstars. It’s going to be a fun team to be with, a fun

team to watch.”

Whether that’s enough to match the great pitching of San

Francisco and the wealth of talent and cash in Los Angeles in the

NL West remains to be seen.

Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx