Nearly same D-backs report to camp seeking drastically different results
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Diamondbacks overhauled their front office and hired a new manager in the offseason, yet much of roster is back from the one that turned in a 69-win season a year ago.
That didn't dampen optimism as a new season officially began Monday with pitchers and catchers reporting to Salt River Fields.
"No one's really talked about it," pitcher Patrick Corbin said of last season. "They're all looking forward. We're still excited about the group of guys we have here. We think we a very talented team. If guys are doing what they're capable of doing, I think we're going to be a tough team to beat."
New manager Torey Lovullo isn't putting much stock in last season either. He comes in looking at the rosters as a blank canvas.
"Baseball is upon us," he said. "It's time for us to focus, it's time for us to get some work in and get ready for Opening Day.
"It's like starting your own business. There's a lot of things you're trying to put together, a lot of visions I've had. ... Those visions are coming together quickly. There's a lot of excitement. We want to start a new business and see how it runs."
The D-backs figure to use most of the same starting rotation that was the worst in baseball in 2016 -- other than the addition of right-hander Taijuan Walker, the biggest offseason move new GM Mike Hazen made this winter.
The lineup, too, appears very similar, outside of the departures of second baseman Jean Segura -- dealt in part to acquire Walker -- and catcher Welington Castillo. Offense, though, wasn't often what held back the D-backs.
That talent and ability that buoyed expectations last year is still there, D-backs players said.
"It's about putting it together and everybody working together," Robbie Ray said.
And don't buy into expectations, positive or otherwise.
"When you have outsiders starting to hype your team you start to believe it a little bit. It's fun," Archie Bradley said. "We played so good in spring last year and then things started to unravel (in the regular season), and it was kind of, 'OK, maybe that was a little too much.' And I think everyone is on the same page. No expectations; no media coverage; no headlines. We don't care about it. We just want to play baseball and see what we can do.
— Chris Gabel (@Chris_Gabel) February 13, 2017
"In our workouts the last couple weeks, we're like, 'Why not?' No one expects anything. We don't want, 'Oh, were huge underdogs, we want everyone to root for us.' We don't care about that. When we look around this room and you see the guys in this locker room and the talent we have, seriously, it's like why can't we? I know no one expects anything but seriously we think we have the talent here, we truly do. It's just about going out and executing and playing the game."
That starts with Tuesday's first workout for pitchers and catchers and then with Friday's first full-squad workout.
"It's been a long runway, a long time coming to this day," said Lovullo, managing in the majors for the first time after successful coaching stints with the Indians and Red Sox. "... There's a certain eagerness that each one of us shares."
Lovullo said Zack Greinke won't throw his first bullpen session until later this week as the team "slow plays" the ace with an extended spring training due to the World Baseball Classic. New closer Fernando Rodney also won't arrive until later this week as he finalizes his work visa.
The D-backs will be without seven players for varying time lengths who will play in the WBC.
"As an organization, we're very proud of our guys who will represent their countries," Lovullo. "Maybe I'm a little more patriotic than most, but I feel like to go out and represent your country is a tremendous honor."