Arizona trying to bounce back from dismal 2014 season
PHOENIX (AP) Arizona's desert overhaul began last summer with the hire of Tony La Russa as chief baseball officer.
More hires followed: Dave Stewart as general manager, Joe Carter and De Jon Watson to front-office positions, Chip Hale as the new manager.
Now that the brain trust is in place, it's time to see what the new-look Diamondbacks can do on the field.
''I don't have a crystal ball. I just know we'll be competitive,'' La Russa said. ''I've said before, I'll be broken-hearted if we don't have a winning record this year.''
Arizona has fallen hard since winning the 2011 NL West crown, putting together a pair of .500 seasons before dropping to 64-98 a year ago, the worst record in baseball and second-worst in franchise history.
Some of it was injuries; the Diamondbacks lost three pitchers to Tommy John surgery and seemed to have every one of their top players get hurt at some point.
But La Russa and the rest of the front office also saw need for changes, which began during the trade deadline and continued during the offseason.
Gone are catcher Miguel Montero, third baseman Martin Prado, shortstop Didi Gregorius, along with pitchers Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy.
Even with the losses, Arizona's lineup should be potent.
A.J. Pollock, Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt are all healthy after missing games last season and David Peralta returns in right field after a solid rookie season. Arizona also picked up Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, who has potentially game-changing power.
But, as has been the case in the desert, pitching will be the big question
Arizona traded Miley to Boston and its opening day starter will be Josh Collmenter, an over-the-top-throwing right-hander who has bounced between the bullpen and the rotation during his four big-league seasons.
Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo were part of the rotation last season, but both underwent Tommy John surgery and aren't expected to return until at least midseason.
The Diamondbacks picked up right-hander Rubby De La Rosa in the Miley trade and right-hander Jeremy Hellickson in another deal with Tampa Bay. Both will start in a rotation that will include right-hander Chase Anderson and top prospect Archie Bradley after the Diamondbacks traded right-hander Trevor Cahill to Atlanta at the end of spring training.
Arizona also signed 21-year-old Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez, though he will start in Triple-A Reno.
For all the potential the Diamondbacks have with their bats, it won't matter much if the pitchers don't come through.
A few more things to look for from the 2015 Arizona Diamondbacks:
GOLDY SHINES: Goldschmidt was having another stellar season in 2014 when he was derailed by a broken hand at the start of August. Before his injury, the All-Star first baseman had become one of the best power hitters in the game and was runner-up in the NL MVP race in 2013, when he hit .302 with 26 homers and 125 RBIs. He felt good throughout spring training and expected to be back giving the Diamondbacks some consistent pop in the lineup.
REPLACING MONTERO: Arizona took a gamble during the offseason by trading Montero to the Chicago Cubs. A two-time All-Star, Montero was a steadying influence in the clubhouse and behind the plate, not to mention a power bat in the lineup. Now that he's gone, the Diamondbacks will turn to 31-year-old Tuffy Gosewisch, who has 179 career at-bats and didn't break into the majors until 2013 after eight years in the minors.
ADDING TOMAS: The Diamondbacks made a bit of an international splash by signing Tomas to a six-year, $68 million contract. The dilemma now is to figure out where to play him and how quickly he can adjust to playing in the big leagues. Arizona would like to play the 24-year-old at third base, but could move him to the outfield if he can't make the transition to a position he's never played. Tomas has plenty of raw ability and is young, so the Diamondbacks have high hopes for him - wherever he ends up playing.
HUDSON'S RETURN: Daniel Hudson was a consistent performer on Arizona's staff before having Tommy John surgery each of the past two seasons. He returned last September, pitching in the bullpen. The right-hander is expected to start the season in the bullpen, but could find a place back in the rotation if he remains healthy.