On Monday, the Diamondbacks moved a few players and made a couple of roster reductions. This was more like the usual drum roll, and not the clash of cymbals. That’s expected later this week.
Because a high level of competition and production has characterized Arizona’s spring training camp, the number of hard decisions and personnel moves were put off for a few days. That’s when agonizing judgments and difficult choices will be made. For now, it’s essentially quiet at Salt River, but there should be plenty of thunder and lightning later in the week.
On Monday, the Diamondbacks optioned right-hander Zack Godley to AA Mobile and assigned right-handed pitchers Kaleb Fleck and Yoan Lopez, catcher Brett Hayes and outfielder Evan Marzilli to the minor league camp. At the same time, the team released right-handed pitcher Sam LeCure and lefty Wesley Wright. Arizona has 33 players remaining in the major league camp.
The Diamondbacks must be down to the 25-man roster that will start the season by this Saturday. That means manager Chip Hale needs to resolve his middle infield positions, his fourth and possible fifth outfielder, and decide upon one or two middle relievers from several. This is all from a cast of worthy candidates.
“Right now, we can form two major league teams with the players we have here,” said Peter O’Brien, who could make the team as a versatile outfielder, catcher and first baseman. “We all pull for each other, we have a great bunch of guys here, and I can’t wait to get the ball park each day to join my teammates.”
O’Brien is one of several praise-worthy candidates on the bubble. Still to be resolved for Hale and other decision-makers is whether Jean Segura opens the season shortstop or second, will Nick Ahmed beat out Segura for the shortstop job, will Brandon Drury make the team and split time between second and third, and will Hale carry two or three catchers.
In the .outfield, the status of A. J. Pollock could determinate opening day roster spots. If the Diamondbacks believe Pollock’s sore right elbow continues to need therapy and rehabilitation, he could start the season on the Disabled List.
That creates a void in center-field, and Hale would have several options. He could keep Socrates Brito and start the Azur, DR native in center-field for Pollock. Perhaps a better guess might be keeping Jason Bourgeois, who played a strong outfield in spring training, as the center-fielder until Pollock returns. As well, Hale could keep veteran Rickie Weeks, Jr. as a fourth outfielder backing up Yasmany Tomas in left. The best bet would keep Bourgeois, and that’s because of his versatility to play all three outfield positions.
Since the start of spring training, Hale continuously tells reporters the difficulty of making these and other decisions. Usually with a smile, he seems to put off the enviable as long as possible, but Judgment Day is nearly here.
THE FINAL STARTER NAMED
After pitching in a minor league game Monday, left-hander Robby Ray was told by manager Chip Hale he would be the Diamondbacks fifth starter in the rotation. The announcement on Ray’s status was hardly unexpected.
Coming into spring training, Ray was in competition with Zack Godley, Tyler Wagner and Archie Bradley for the last spot in the rotation. All three have been sent to the minors, and Ray now continues his place in the rotation. Ray finished last season in the rotation, and went 5-12 and an 3.52 ERA for 23 starts. His first start of the season is expected on Friday night April 8 against the Cubs in Chase Field.
Several former Diamondbacks felt the guillotine Monday. Left-hander Joe Thatcher, who came to the desert nearly three years from San Diego for Ian Kennedy, was released by Cleveland. Former Arizona outfielder Tony Campano was reassigned by Washington, and former Diamondback Carlos Quentin, attempting a comeback from injury, was released by the Twins.
Other notables Monday were outfielder Nick Swisher released by the Braves, outfielder David Murphy released by the Red Sox, infielder Casey McGehee released by the Tigers, and pitcher Phil Humber, who threw a no-hitter for the White Sox on April 21, 2012, was reassigned by the Padres.