D-backs enter spring in Australia state of mind
Club reports to camp early due to season-opening series vs. Dodgers in Sydney
PHOENIX -- For the D-backs, it will be a Spring Training like no other.
Pitchers and catchers report Thursday, a week earlier than most teams, thanks to their season-opening series against the Dodgers in Sydney, Australia.
Oh yeah, about that season-opening series, it will take place March 22-23 and then the D-backs will return to the states to play another week of Spring Training games before their March 31 home opener against the Giants.
"Different than in years past, just because it's not just exhibition games, it's two games that literally count right in the middle of the spring," D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said. "We take those very seriously and will have to make some decisions a little bit earlier on our roster than we normally do, but we'll be ready."
The D-backs asked their pitchers to begin throwing their offseason bullpen sessions earlier than they have in the past so as to be ready for regular-season action sooner than usual.
"Everybody's routine is a little bit off right now," Towers said.
Though Towers and manager Kirk Gibson are no longer entering the final year of their contracts -- thanks to extensions given the pair Monday -- there is still plenty of pressure on the organization to break out of the 81-81 rut they've found themselves in the past two seasons.
"Regardless of whether we've got a seven-year deal, a 10-year deal or a one-year deal, our job is to go out and win, and we feel like we're on the hot seat every year," Towers said. "I'm never going to become complacent because of my contract. I put a lot pressure on myself as well as our baseball operations staff to get the job done each and every year, and that will never change."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Home vs. Dodgers, Feb. 26 at 1:10 p.m. MT
In Sydney, Australia vs. Dodgers, March 22 at 1 a.m. MST
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. How will the D-backs deal with the long spring?
Most players consider Spring Training to be too long as it is, and now the D-backs have an extra week of it in addition to the trip to Sydney.
Striking the balance between getting his team ready for the March 22 opener while not having them peak too soon during the spring will be a challenge for Gibson. In the past, Gibson has run pretty intense camps, but this year he'll need to figure out how to cover the fundamentals while not wearing down his team.
To help deal with the increased amount of work, the D-backs have invited more non-roster players to camp than usual, so that should help spread the playing time around.
Baseball players, though, are creatures of habit, so how they deal with a disjointed spring schedule and whether it impacts them will be something to keep watch closely.
2. What about Archie?
Archie Bradley, the top pitching prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, will get his first extended taste of big league camp this year and could begin the year in the team's rotation.
Bradley was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and at the time was one of the most polished high school pitchers available.
Having made a rapid rise through the system, Bradley finds himself competing for the No. 5 spot in the rotation with among others Randall Delgado.
The D-backs say that if Bradley shows he is ready for the big leagues and pitches well enough to earn a spot, he will be on the Opening Day roster, and team insiders are confident that the ultra-competitive and determined right-hander will find a way to do just that.
3. Who will bat leadoff?
At this time last year, it appeared that outfielder Adam Eaton would fill the leadoff spot for years to come.
Eaton, though, got injured during Spring Training, never was able to get on track and was dealt during the offseason to the White Sox. That leaves the D-backs with a question mark at the top of the lineup.
Arizona lacks a prototypical leadoff hitter, and Gibson will probably use the spring to experiment with hitting outfielders A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra to see which might be the best fit there.
81-81, .500, 2nd in the NL West
Projected batting order
1. RF Gerardo Parra:
.268 BA, .323 OBP, .403 SLG, 10 HR, 48 RBI in 2013
2. 2B Aaron Hill:
.291 BA, .356 OBP, .462 SLG, 11 HR, 41 RBI in 2013
3. 1B Paul Goldschmidt:
.302 BA, .401 OBP, .551 SLG, 36 HR, 125 RBI in 2013
4. C Miguel Montero:
.230 BA, .318 OBP, .344 SLG, 11 HR, 42 RBI in 2013
5. LF Mark Trumbo:
.234 BA, .294 OBP, .453 SLG, 34 HR, 100 RBI in 2013
6. 3B Martin Prado:
.282 BA, .333 OBP, .417 SLG, 14 HR, 82 RBI in 2013
7. CF A.J. Pollock:
.269 BA, .322 OBP, .409 SLG, 8 HR, 38 RBI in 2013
8. SS Chris Owings:
.291 BA, .361 OBP, .382 SLG, 0 HR, 5 RBI in 2013
1. Patrick Corbin, 14-8, 3.41 ERA in 2013
2. Trevor Cahill, 8-10, 3.99 ERA in 2013
3. Wade Miley, 10-10, 3.55 ERA in 2013
4. Brandon McCarthy, 5-11, 4.53 ERA in 2013
5. Archie Bradley, 14-5, 1.84 ERA in 2013 (Class A Visalia and Double-A Mobile)
Closer: Addison Reed, 40/48 saves, 3.79 ERA in 2013
RH setup man: J.J. Putz, 2.36 ERA in 2013
LH setup man: Joe Thatcher, 3.20 ERA in 2013
The new guys
RHP Reed: Acquired from the White Sox in a trade that sent third-base prospect Matt Davidson to Chicago, Reed is the presumptive closer heading into camp, though Towers has said that there will be a competition for the role.
LF Trumbo: After not getting much power production from their outfield last season, the D-backs made adding a big bat a priority this offseason. Enter Trumbo, who could see his home run numbers go even higher playing half of his games in hitter-friendly Chase Field. The D-backs also believe that Trumbo's presence will take some of the offensive pressure off Goldschmidt and Montero.
Prospects to watch
RHP Bradley: Bradley was named the organization's Pitcher of the Year last season and has rocketed up through the system since being drafted. He has an overpowering fastball and a good breaking ball. Developing a consistent third offering is essential, and the organization was pleased with the progress Bradley made with his changeup last season.
SS Owings: Thought to be the odd man out a year ago after the D-backs traded for Didi Gregorius, Owings established himself as the front-runner at shortstop after a standout 2013 season. Owings won the Pacific Coast League's Most Valuable Player Award and impressed the D-backs during a September callup. He will battle Gregorius for the starting job this spring, with veteran Cliff Pennington penciled in as the backup.
RHP Jake Barrett: Drafted out of Arizona State University in 2012, Barrett began last season at Class A Visalia and after compiling a 1.98 ERA in 28 games there he earned a promotion to Double-A Mobile. Barrett did even better there, saving 14 games in 16 opportunities with a 0.36 ERA. This will be his first big league camp as he battles for a spot in the bullpen.
RHP Matt Stites: Acquired in the deal that sent right-hander Ian Kennedy to the Padres at the Trade Deadline last summer, Stites was unable to pitch in the Minors for the D-backs due to an appendectomy. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League and the D-backs liked him enough to invite him to camp with a chance to win a bullpen job.
On the rebound
C Montero: Montero got off to a slow start at the plate last year and never seemed able to get fully on track. More than that, though, his defense was not at the level it had been in recent years. The club is counting heavily on Montero to return to his customary form. If he's able to do that, he could be a real difference maker in the lineup.
RHP Cahill: Cahill struggled with his mechanics for much of the season and also was hampered by a hip injury after being struck with a comebacker. The D-backs desperately need him to step up and be the pitcher he was in 2012 and before.
RHP McCarthy: The D-backs knew there was a good chance, given his injury history, that McCarthy would not be able to stay healthy for an entire season, but what they didn't count on was that he would struggle as much as he did when able to pitch. Without a lot of rotation depth, the D-backs are counting on McCarthy to pitch better in 2014.
RHP David Hernandez: One of the best setup men in baseball in 2011 and '12, Hernandez was demoted to Triple-A Reno in early August with a 5.59 ERA. The trip to the Minors seemed to be beneficial for Hernandez as he had a 0.64 ERA during his September return to the big leagues.
OF Cody Ross: Ross suffered a horrific leg injury on Aug. 11 when he tripped running to first base, dislocating and fracturing his right hip. The team has said that Ross' rehab has been ahead of schedule, and they hope to have him back in April, but the injury is unique so there is no precedent to go on.
OF Eaton: Eaton struggled through an injury-plagued 2013 and was dealt to the White Sox in the three-team deal that netted Trumbo from the Angels.
LHP Tyler Skaggs: At one time, Skaggs was an untouchable prospect, but after struggling last year, the team was willing to part with him. He was dealt to the Angels, the team that originally drafted him, in the Trumbo deal.
3B Davidson: Blocked at third base by Prado, the D-backs felt Davidson was expendable and traded him to the White Sox for Reed.
INF Willie Bloomquist: After three seasons with the team, Bloomquist signed a free-agent deal with the Mariners. While the D-backs valued what Bloomquist brought to the team on and off the field, the glut of shortstops pushed him out.
RHP Heath Bell: Bell was acquired prior to the 2013 season with Towers hoping the former closer could regain the form he had when he pitched for the Padres. Alas, Bell struggled and the team moved him to the Rays in a three-team trade that also sent left-handed pitching prospect David Holmberg to the Reds.
C Wil Nieves: Nieves played well for the D-backs in a backup role last season, but the team wanted better defense from the reserve role, so Nieves was allowed to leave.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.