Diamondbacks Spring Training 2022 Report: March 16

Diamondbacks Spring Training
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Diamondbacks Spring Training: March 16, 2022

Wednesday was the last day of “workout-only” Arizona Diamondbacks spring training, with exhibition games beginning Thursday. Diamondbacks players went through their standard routines of defensive drills, bullpen sessions, and live batting practice. While all this was going on, general manager Mike Hazen addressed the media Wednesday morning. Here are some highlights.

Roster Reconstruction

Trade and free agent maneuvering have been going “fairly aggressively,” but Hazen also cautioned that “we’re only a few days into this.” He continued, “A lot of the guys have signed.” But since there’s usually a delay of a few days as details get ironed out, “there’s probably more in the works that will come out over the next 24 to 48 hours.”

Hazen is pleased with the progress but not fully satisfied with the moves that the team has made. “We haven’t done a ton. We’ve done some of the things we want to do and will keep working in other areas. One of the things that we’re going to see, and some of the reason that there haven’t been more moves, is that we’re carving out opportunity for the younger players. Some of the balance of that is blocking them off. When you start to do that, and then you’re not going to get those opportunities. But it’s not a limited opportunity, and it’s not a camp for anyone to come in and try to make the roster in the sense of stopping us from trying to upgrade the roster anyway.”

They are still working on getting external candidates to fill the need at third base. However, Josh Rojas is taking reps at third so that they won’t be caught unprepared if none of those candidates work out. The team is looking into potential trades as well as free agents, although a trade is more likely. With a trade, a player who has some years of team control left is preferable than a shorter-term solution, given the current state of the franchise.

Back-End Relief

The Diamondbacks have agreed to terms with former Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres fireman Keone Kela, pending some red tape. He’s coming off a surgery, so “it’ll be midseason” before he can join the team. But, as Hazen said when signing Ian Kennedy and Mark Melancon, the Diamondbacks are looking to improve their back-end relief. Their performance was “not acceptable last year. We’re looking to improve that. We have a lot of guys internally that we think are going to have opportunities to pitch out there, too.” They are “looking to add things into the back that are going to help late in games for us. It was not an area of strength for us last year.”

The team is pleased to have Ian Kennedy. “We like his stuff, makeup, and ability. There were some games last year where we vibrated a little bit back in the pen. Those are tough games to lose. We talk about that a lot. The games that you should be winning you need to win. It has carryover effects. For younger teams, especially, it’s not as easy to just say, ‘Okay, shower it off, we’ll be back here the next day.’ Those are the toughest games. We need to start winning those games.”

Rotation

Taylor Widener, Corbin Martin, Tyler Gilbert, Humberto Castellanos, and non-roster invitee Dan Straily are all in the mix for spots in the rotation. Those who don’t make the rotation will pitch in middle relief. Caleb Smith is one who may, due to the shorter-than-usual ramp-up to the season, do some starts at the beginning of the season before becoming a full-time reliever, but that is a conversation the team has not had with him yet. Hazen said about Smith was “one of our best relievers last year. “He had the most swing-and-miss stuff in our pen and did a really good job.”

Zac Gallen’s bursitis is “not a concern, from a long-term standpoint.” He pitched Tuesday and “felt great.” But they are going to be “mindful of his long-term health.”

Other Positions

Ketel Marte, who was named the top second baseman in the league Tuesday night by MLB Network, will play second this season.

Pavin Smith will play right field and first base, keeping him on the same side of the diamond at all times. The team is going to “be more discerning” when considering which players can handle multiple positions. Center field, right now, will probably be a platoon position.

Designated hitter is still up in the air as far as whether they will rotate guys in or find a full-time candidate. “With the history that we have with the DH, if I find someone who can bang the ball like a certain Hall of Famer, then that’s one way that you look at that position. I’d probably say that our model, at least initially, is going to necessitate us maneuvering through that position a little bit.” Hazen imagines that other NL teams, “especially in the NL East,” are “looking at it a little bit differently.”

Torey Lovullo Debriefing on Day Three of Diamondbacks Spring Training

Manager Torey Lovullo gave his daily debriefing at about 1:30 pm. He said that the players have been working hard and at a high intensity with the drills. “It’s been hard for me to gauge up until the past couple days what these guys have done during their time down during the 99 days. But they’ve prepared as well as they possibly could have, which has allowed us to kind of push things a little bit quicker.”

Due to how well the players prepared during the lockout, the coaching staff “will continue to make some adjustments to the original plan of really slow-playing things, but we won’t put anybody in harm’s way. We’ll make sure, once they enter into a big-league game, that they’re going to be ready to go. That might happen a little sooner than I originally planned.”

Lovullo will meet with the medical staff on Thursday to discuss when the 40-man players will get into exhibition games. The original plan was the weekend of the 25th-27th, but that might change. Some of those players got some at-bats on the minor league field Wednesday afternoon.

Looking Ahead to Thursday’s Exhibition Game against the Colorado Rockies

Thursday’s starting pitcher will be Tommy Henry, a second-round pick from the 2019 draft.

There will not be any 40-man position players in the first two exhibition games (for sure, possibly more), but three 40-man pitchers will pitch an inning Thursday. Those pitchers are Caleb Smith, Joe Mantiply, and J.B. Bukauskas. Their appearances, earlier than announced on Monday, are “because these guys came in as prepared as possible.”

As far as Caleb Smith, the team is “going to stretch him out” (for a starting role). At that point, they’ll have a better idea as to what his role will be in the pitching staff.

Main Photo:

Diamondbacks Spring Training
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Mar. 16) — Josh Rojas bats against Ian Kennedy as members of the Diamondbacks coaching staff look on during spring training workouts at Salt River Fields on Mar 16, 2022. (Photo by Evan Thompson)

Players mentioned:

Josh Rojas, Keone Kela, Ian Kennedy, Mark Melancon, Taylor Widener, Corbin Martin, Tyler Gilbert, Humberto Castellanos, Dan Straily, Caleb Smith, Zac Gallen, Ketel MartePavin Smith, Torey Lovullo, Tommy Henry, Joe Mantiply, J.B. Bukauskas