Just when it was safe for Shelby Miller to write off a treacherous day, Diamondbacks’ bats put a smile on his face. With Arizona leading the majors this spring in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, extra-base hits, doubles, triples and total bases, the strong production continued Wednesday in Hohokam Stadium. Though the strong offense did not mask Miller’s weak effort, what followed Miller on the playing field could set the tone and temper for the season ahead.
For a team which scores runs on a consistent basis and tends to dominate the score sheet, the Diamondbacks use this dimension of their game in the cultivation of a critical component of their make-up. Slowly, and deliberately this spring, Arizona has gradually developed a culture of winning and accomplishment, and there’s a strong belief this will carry over to the championship season.
Granted the majority of the bombs bursting in air came against Oakland reliever Ryan Dull in the fifth inning Wednesday, the A’s relief pitcher was thrown into the Diamondbacks’ buzz-saw, and came away by giving up six runs in the frame. While the Diamondbacks posted a come-from-behind, 12-9 victory over Oakland before 5,335 Wednesday, the win was not terribly important in a meaningless string of spring training games. Of greater value was how important two points were defined.
First, Miller, while the most vulnerable in this game as in any of his previous spring starts, was shown no matter deep the deficient, Diamondbacks bats told the Houston, native, “we have your back.” Still, the comfort level shrank, Miller left Hohokam Stadium shortly after his outing, and did not discuss what happened with the media. For the record, Miller went four innings, surrendered seven hits, seven runs, all earned and ended his final spring start with a 4.79 ERA.
Giving up five runs in the second and another two in the fourth, Miller fell behind early. Despite the abyss, this is where the other factor was important. That concerned the Diamondbacks’ mentality and approach. While germinating during the spring, a high, competitive spirit bloomed into the team’s mantra.
Down 7-0 Wednesday, the Diamondbacks, with that mentality firmly affixed, started on a huge comeback. While scoring is vital to any bottom line, the mental part associated which such a charge now resonates with the players.
“It’s the mentality around this team,” said utility infielder Phil Gosselin, who powered the comeback with a bases-loaded triple and a two-run double. “We keep telling everyone, let’s get one here, get two there, and we’ve developed the mindset that we can come-back no matter what.”
That’s a culture which is beginning to permeate throughout the organization. From the low minors to the major league level, there is more to the Diamondbacks’ game these days than getting stellar pitching from Zack Greinke and timely hitting from position players.
“We continually preach getting good at-bats,” said manager Chip Hale. “This comes from the players on the bench. They all do a nice job of not giving up and battling.”
Aided by a six-spot in the fifth, the Diamondbacks eventually caught the A’s at 9-9 in the seventh. Stryker Traynan’s double down the right field line scored Rickie Weeks, Jr. with the game-winner with two out in the eighth. Insurance was added in the ninth when minor leaguer Chad Oberacker cracked a two-run homer over the right-field fence.
The victory increased the Diamondbacks’ spring record to 22-7. They have three pre-season games remaining on their schedule.
STARTING SEASON ON THE DL?
Right-hander Josh Collmenter, last season’s Opening Day pitcher, could start the season on the Disabled List. Over the past few days, Collmenter developed inflammation and tightness in his right shoulder.
With spring training dwindling to a few days, the Diamondbacks are in the process of determining Collmenter’s future. Before Wednesday’s game with the A’s in Mesa, manager Chip Hale indicated Collmenter could open the season on the DL. If that happens, then Randall Delgado would be the Diamondbacks’ long reliever. If Collmenter is placed on the DL, his roster spot would be filled with a middle reliever and not a long reliever, Hale pointed out.
This spring, Collmenter appeared eight games and had an 0-2 mark. That included a 9.69 ERA for 13 innings. In that period, Collmenter gave up 17 hits and 14 runs, all earned.
On Thursday, the Diamondbacks break camp, and head to Chase Field. That’s where they engage their final two pre-season games this Friday and Saturday.
First, they play their final spring game at Salt River Thursday. Minor leaguer Braden Shipley will start for the Diamondbacks against Colorado (12:10 p.m.) The Rox will counter with lefty Chris Rusin. Lefty Patrick Corbin was supposed to take his regular turn in this game, but the left-hander is held out for starting a minor league game. In his first start of the season, Corbin is scheduled to face the Rockies April 6 in Chase Field.
On Friday, righty Rubby De La Rosa will square off against Kansas City Royals’ right-hander Chris Young at 6:40 p.m. For Saturday’s 12:10 p. m, start, look for lefty Robbie Ray to face Royals’ righty Yordano Ventura.
There’s an off-day Sunday, and then the season opener Monday night, 6:40 p.m. in Chase Field. Zack Greinke gets the call for game one against the Rockies, and Rox’s manager Walt Weiss selected lefty Jorge De La Rosa to start the season for Colorado.