For the past few weeks, there was a legitimate fear that Diamondbacks’ center-fielder A. J. Pollock would not answer the bell. Regarding his status for Opening Day this Monday night in Chase Field, speculation grew that Pollock might start the season on the Disabled List.
Hindered by a sore right below, the injury nagged over the past three weeks to such an extent that manager Chip Hale conjectured the Diamondbacks might lose their All-Star at the beginning of the season. That anxiety was allayed Thursday morning when Hale announced Pollock would start in center Friday night against the Royals in Chase Field. Given recent at-bats in minor league games and coupled with at-bats he is scheduled to get over the final two pre-season games against Kansas City, Pollock was declared fit and ready. Pollock was not in the lineup Thursday for the Diamondbacks’ final spring game at Salt River against Colorado.
“That should give Pollock around 25 at-bats, and that’s okay,” Hale said before Thursday’s game. “With A. J., we have to pick our days carefully.”
That means there will be watchful eyes on the 2015 Gold Glover and National League All-Star. The injury to Pollock’s elbow, Hale explained, was a result of an extended work load in early March. Dedicated, Pollock’s aggressiveness and determination to prepare properly for the marathon ahead might have comprised his physical capabilities. Sidelined for much of March, the trepidation developed that the healing process might be extended. If that was the case, the start of Pollock’s major league season might be placed on hold.
For his part, Pollock discounted the fact he would not be ready for the season opener. After facing Zack Grienke earlier his week, Pollock said confronting the stellar right-hander in four at-bats was more like 40 ABs. Plus, Pollock hit against Zack Godley, in the running for the final rotation spot until the final week of spring training, and came away swinging against strong competition.
“The issue with Pollock is not his timing or execution,” said Hale. “The concern is trying to do too much. Playing in consecutive days could be a concern, so we have to watch that.”
For now, Pollock is set to face Royals’ right-hander Chris Young, who turned in an 11-6 season last season with Kansas City, and a 3.06 ERA for 18 starts, a year ago. There is a better than even bet Hale will give Pollock at least four ABs in this game, and likely start him again Saturday in Chase Field for the final pre-season game.
THE FIRST OF SEVERAL
A somber Chip Hale delivered the first of several, which he considers, difficult announcements. After Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Rockies at Salt River, Hale announced the Diamondbacks optioned veteran catcher Tuffy Gosewisch to AAA Reno.
The move means left-handed hitting catcher Chris Herrmann will be the Diamondbacks’ back-up to Welington Castillo, who was named as starter a few weeks ago. His face drawn, Hale quietly said this represents the first of several arduous moves. Based on the stellar level of competition and the fact that several, whom Hale says deserves to be on a major league roster, are playing at an elite level, judgments to pare down the roster to the mandated 25 players remain difficult and challenging at best.
“This is very hard,” Hale said of the impending decisions. “(With Herrmann), we went with a little more flexibility and (Herrmann) gives us a good left-handed bat.”
Before he injured a hip in mid-March, Herrmann was hitting .353 and split time behind the plate, at first base and as a DH. Now, he moves in to support Castillo, whom the Diamondbacks hope remains healthy to catch 130 plus games this season.
Because the Diamondbacks must take a day off Sunday, there is no practice scheduled at Chase Field. Therefore, Hale pointed out, the 25-man roster will set by the time the Diamondbacks leave Chase Field after their final pre-season game with Kansas City on Saturday afternoon.
ANOTHER ROSTER MOVE
Prior to Thursday’s game, the Diamondbacks released veteran infielder Joaquin Arias. In 20 spring games, Arias hit .290 (6-for-31), and had no extra base hits. Reducing the roster by two on Thursday, the Diamondbacks now have 31 players remaining in the major league camp. They must be down to the mandated 25-man, opening day roster, by Saturday.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
The Diamondbacks concluded their spring slate with a pair of games against the defending World Series championship Kansas City Royals. Both contests will be played at Chase Field.
On Friday night, righty Rubby De La Rosa faces right-hander Chris Young at 6:40 p.m. For Saturday’s 12:10 start, look for left-hander Robbie Ray to engage right-hander Yordano Ventura.
Following an off-day Sunday, the season opens Monday night in Chase Field against the Colorado Rockies. Right-hander Zack Grienke gets the opening day nod for Arizona, and will oppose left-hander Jorge De La Rosa. Game time is 6:40 p.m.