D-backs face decisions at closer, middle infield
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — With two weeks left of spring training, the Arizona Diamondbacks still are grappling with a pair of significant unresolved issues.
One, who is the closer? Two, how to sort out the crowd at middle infield?
There is still plenty of time to work things out, manager Torey Lovullo said.
"I feel like it's still a little bit too early," he said, "but everybody is paying a lot of attention to some very key spots and you hit on a couple of them."
The closer competition a three-way competition with Archie Bradley, Brad Boxberger and Yoshihisa Hirano.
Bradley, the bearded fan favorite, was one of the game's best setup men last season with a 1.73 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 73 innings pitched. Boxberger had an AL-leading 41 saves in 2015 but battled injuries the past two seasons. Hirano arrived from Japan a 33-year-old seasoned closer.
Bradley insists he doesn't want the job.
"Really not at all, and not in a bad way. I'm not scared of it," he said. "I just want to win. I found so much fun and success in my role last year that it kind of taught me whatever the situation is, let's just role with it. I don't need the title 'save' to feel accomplished. I just want to win ballgames."
But, of course, Bradley will willingly accept the job.
"The role is kind of up in the air," he said. "There's a lot that has to play out on both sides. Guys have to stay healthy, guys have to continue to throw the ball well and hopefully that last week we"ll be able to kind of slide stuff in place and really set up how we're going to pitch for the season."
Bradley threw two shutout innings and got the win Friday against the Royals. The team has indicated a desire to have him throw more than one inning.
Lovullo likes the open competition.
"I think it's that type of competitive atmosphere that we're watching these guys operate in every single day and they've been successful," Lovullo said. "They're all throwing the ball well. We're doing our jobs offensively and defensively. That creates some tough conversations for the staff to have."
A vacancy opened at second base, and backup at third, when Arizona sent Brandon Drury to the New York Yankees in a three-tame trade that brought outfielder Steven Souza Jr. from Tampa.
Daniel Descalso played second frequently, especially late last season, and can play any other spot, too. Chris Owings, like Descalso, is being counted on as a do-everything utility infield player. So that could mean regular stints at second base for Ketel Marte to allow slick-fielding Nick Ahmed to play shortstop.
"You see 'C.O' (Owings) and myself bounce around a little bit," Descalso said. "Ketel's playing some second. Obviously, Nick is as good a shortstop as there is in the big leagues. So it's probably nice for the manager to be able to plug guys in different spots."
Marte had a strong season filling in for the injured Ahmed and Owings at shortstop last season and said he has no problem moving to second. He was at shortstop on Saturday but said he'd started three other games at second.
Shortstop, Marte said, is "the hardest position on the field. If you can play shortstop, you're going to be good anywhere."
On Friday, Lovullo had Descalso in place of Jake Lamb at third, Ahmed at shortstop and Owings at second.
The crowd up the middle is a plus, not a minus, Lovullo said.
"I feel like we have a very, very deep team that is showing up every single day," the manager said. 'We're going to have some tough decisions to make down the road. We know that."
Another lingering question is what to do with Yasmany Tomas. The everyday outfield spots are filled by Souza, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta. Newcomer Jarrod Dyson provides speed and experience as the fourth outfielder. Tomas, the second-highest player on the team behind Zack Greinke, could wind up in the minors.
Tomas doubled and walked in Saturday's spring training game against Kansas City in Scottsdale and is batting .409 this spring.
The Diamondbacks open March 29 at home against Colorado.