For a team with a great deal of optimism, there exists a plethora of openings. Not that this edition of the Diamondbacks is far from secure, manager Chip Hale constantly tells listeners that several jobs are currently up for grabs.
In the infield, only Paul Goldschmidt seems assured at first base. Ditto in the outfielder where A. J. Pollock will open the season in the center field and David Peralta in right. Otherwise, four of the eight position slots are now subject to rather intense competition.
That was evident during Hale’s Monday morning session with the media. Taking into account the three, remaining infield slots in particular, Hale told reporters determinations remain far in the distance.
“There will be no decisions for quite a while,” Hale said. “There is strong competition for many positions, and we hope players will make it hard on us.”
Perhaps the most high-profile battle is between Nick Ahmed and Jean Segura at shortstop. Also, the contest for second base appears wide open, and Chris Owings, Phil Gosselin and Brandon Drury remain in the mix.
Ahmed, for one, does not seem terribly concerned. While the Diamondbacks love his glove and overall defensive skills, Ahmed’s bat is holding back the 26-year-old from taking over the job. In contrast, Segura’s speed on the bases and a more productive stick also enters into the picture.
“My mind set is to grow and get better,” Ahmed said. “I come into each camp to win a job. Nothing is a given. Whatever Chip has, I’ll do to the best of my ability. It’s good to have guys push each other, and competition is healthy for many positions.”
By contrast, Ahmed has a lifetime batting average of .222 and only 35 extra-bases hits in 491 plate appearances for his two years with Arizona. Segura sports a .266 lifetime average and has 101 extra base hits in 1,930 at bat. Plus, Segura‘s speed on the bases cannot be overlooked. Ahmed had four career steals, while Segura has 96, and 44 came during the 2013 season with the Brewers.
While decisions are seemingly far off in the future, Hale started Segura at shortstop Monday in a game against the University of West Virginia at Salt River. In an attempt to evaluate his speed and lead-off capability, Hale put Segura in the top spot, and the veteran infielder opened the game for the Diamondbacks with a double to the right center field gap. Scoring later in the inning, Segura also grounded into an inning-ending double play in the second.
“(Segura’s) hit there before and we like him (in the lead-off spot),” Hale said after the University of West Virginia game Monday afternoon. “He’s an aggressive hitter and, yeah, he can lead off.”
For now, the plan is to have versatility among his infielders. Hale indicated Owings will play second and short here in spring training, and the same for Ahmed and Segura. Drury will likely split time with Jake Lamb at third, although the Diamondbacks hint that it’s Lamb’s job to lose at “the hot corner.”
On Monday, Hale announced right-hander Zack Grienke will make his first start of the spring this Friday against the Oakland A’s at Salt River (1:10 p.m.). Greinke’s starts this spring are calibrated against opening the season at Chase Field on April 4 against the Rockies. Greinke is scheduled to pitch two innings against Oakland.
IN THE FIELD
On Monday, the Diamondbacks opened their pre-season slate with a 7-4, seven-inning victory over West Virginia University at Salt River. This was the first of back-to-back games against college opponents.
After the Mountaineers scored once against Arizona starter Yoan Lopez in the opening frame, the Diamondbacks came back with three in the frame. The inning was highlighted by a RBI single up the middle from Yasmany Tomas, and a two-run double to the fence in center field off the bat of Socrates Brito.
The Diamondbacks complete their slate against college opponents on Tuesday, and face manager Chip Hale’s alma mater, the University of Arizona (3:10 p.m.) at Salt River. Right-hander Matt Koch will start for the Diamondbacks. A. J. Pollock, originally in the line-up against the Arizona Wildcats, was scratched late Monday. Hale said Pollock felt fatigue from early workouts, but said, “it’s no big deal. He gets this every spring, and then he’s fine.”
The Diamondbacks then open the major league portion of their spring slate on Wednesday at Salt River against the Colorado Rockies at 1:10 p.m. In this one, the Rockies are the home team, and in a return match among these clubs on Thursday, the Diamondbacks will be the home team.