Uneventful spring a beautiful thing for D-backs

BY foxsports • March 29, 2012

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Diamondbacks played through another gorgeous spring Thursday – sunbathers blanketing the berm at sold out Salt River Fields, a top pitching prospect on the mound, the only questions coming from the other dugout.

It was another uneventful day in what has been an uneventful spring for the defending NL West champion, just the way they would have drawn it up.

There have been no critical injuries, no contract bickering and no big roster fights.

Bland is beautiful.

"We're on target. Crossing our fingers. We haven't had any serious injuries. Everybody is taking their turns. We're getting a lot of extra work on the back fields," manager Kirk Gibson said.

"With a week to go, it's gone well."

It has left general manager Kevin Towers and Gibson in a good spot, with plenty of time to evaluate the top minor league prospects such as Tyler Skaggs, who started and got the victory when the D-backs beat Cleveland, 5-4, before 11,064 Thursday.

One of Towers' main spring objectives was to get a long look at the minor league system, understanding the opening day 25-man roster is only a starting point. The D-backs had 20 position players who were in at least 17 games last season, 11 pitchers who had at least one start and 20 pitchers who appeared in at least eight games.

"I don't know if it is going to take 30 or 35 or 40" players this season. "We're certainly trying to build our depth and understand what we have," Gibson said.

Mission accomplished. Young pitchers Skaggs, Trevor Bauer and Patrick Corbin have logged at least 11 innings apiece, and Corbin has shone brightly, giving up one run in 15 2/3 innings. Outfielders Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock have been fully immersed, and infielders Matt Davidson and Chris Owings have been to a lesser extent.

"We want to give them as much as exposure as we can to this type of atmosphere. We think it will help them, and they may help us in the future," Gibson said.

The D-backs' lone downer this spring has been the absence of shortstop Stephen Drew, still rehabbing after suffering a season-ending fractured right ankle and ligament damage July 20. At the same time, the D-backs had no illusions about the severity of Drew's injury and his lengthy recovery time.

Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald, who filled in for Drew the final 10 months of 2011, were re-signed just days into the free agent period. Free agent left fielder Jason Kubel's later signing addressed the need for a left-handed bat with pop. The D-backs were 47-27 in games Bloomquist and McDonald started at short last year.

With Drew to start the season on the disabled list, the 13-man position player roster appears set, with Henry Blanco, Geoff Blum, John McDonald, Lyle Overbay and Gerardo Parra as the reserves. Drew's return will cause an infield shuffle, but he may not be back until May at the earliest.

Injuries caused the D-backs to scramble a little bit last spring, something they have been able to avoid with a week to go until the regular-season opener April 6 against San Francisco at Chase Field.

The D-backs had lost two players expected to be key contributors by this time last year, when rotation candidate Zach Duke suffered a broken hand after being struck by a line drive and platoon third baseman Geoff Blum suffered a knee injury that required surgery. Drew also had a strained abdominal muscle that caused him to miss a week of the regular season. Duke missed two months, Blum three.

Then, the D-backs needed to identify another starter and another third baseman pronto. This time, their toughest job was slotting the rotation behind Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. And instead of looking for another third baseman – and how did Ryan Roberts do last year, anyway? – the position group is all but set.

The only ailments have been minor. No. 3 starter Josh Callmenter missed an early-March start because of forearm tightness and Kubel missed four games with a tight quadriceps. Both are back and at full strength.

The offseason additions of Takashi Saito and Craig Breslow seemed to fill the bullpen, and even the strong showings of third left-hander Mike Zagurski, Rule 5 signee Brett Lorin and Corbin may not change the mix, barring a trade.

The pen appears set with Saito and Breslow joining closer J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, Joe Paterson and Bryan Shaw.

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