Healthier D-backs have much the same roster for new manager
PHOENIX — The players are mostly the same, the big changes for the Arizona Diamondbacks this spring are at the top.
Call it Boston Red Sox-West.
After general manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale were fired following last season’s disappointing 69-93 campaign, the Diamondbacks snagged GM Mike Hazen from Boston to take over as general manager and Torey Lovullo, John Farrell’s Red Sox bench coach, as the new Arizona manager.
So there will be a new atmosphere at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale when pitchers and catchers report Tuesday, followed by the full squad three days later.
The roster looks much the same, with only some minor tinkering. Hazen and Lovullo said that with top players coming back from injuries, they believe there is a nucleus of a contender, if the pitching can be straightened out.
Here are some things to consider when the Diamondbacks open spring training:
NEW LOOK: The spring will be Lovullo’s first chance to put his stamp on the team, the style of play, the attitude he hopes to bring.
This isn’t Lovullo’s first stint as field boss. He filled in as interim manager when John Farrell underwent cancer treatment late in the 2015 season.
The biggest offseason move was a trade that sent second baseman Jean Segura, who led the league in hits last season, and outfielder Mitch Haniger to Seattle for right-handed starter Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte.
And the team signed two catchers — Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis — after letting Welington Castillo go.
In need of a closer, Arizona signed Fernando Rodney, who will turn 40 before the season starts.
ROOKIES TO WATCH: No rookie is likely to crack the opening-day roster, but there is a youngster to keep an eye on in the minors.
Left-handed starter Tony Banda is probably the top prospect in Arizona’s depleted minor league system. He came to the Diamondbacks as part of the deal that sent Gerardo Parra to Milwaukee in 2014.
Banda, 23, split time between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno last season, going a combined 10-6 with a 2.88 ERA.
THEY’RE SET: Center fielder A.J. Pollock and right fielder David Peralta are back from injuries and that should make the outfield set, with Yasmany Tomas in left field.
The Diamondbacks especially missed Pollock, a 2015 All-Star who fractured a wrist sliding into home plate in a preseason game two days before the opener last year.
Of course, Arizona also has one of baseball’s best in first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
THEY’RE NOT: The Diamondbacks had perhaps the worst rotation in the game last season. Zack Greinke, signed to that six-year, $206 million contract, staggered out of the gate, was brilliant for one stretch but battled injuries most of the season.
The real problems, though, are behind Greinke. Shelby Miller is coming off a horrible season after Arizona gave up two top prospects, including No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson, to get him from Atlanta. Miller was 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA.
Left-hander Patrick Corbin, coming off Tommy John surgery, was nowhere near the pitcher he had been before the injury and eventually was demoted to the bullpen. But there was a ray of hope when Corbin finished strong in his last few appearances.
Arizona is counting on the hard-throwing Walker to fill a rotation spot and improve on his consistency.
And left-hander Robbie Ray is intriguing. He was 8-15 with a 4.90 ERA but struck out 218 in 173 1-3 innings.
ON DECK: The Diamondbacks’ spring training facility across a highway from a resort-casino is one of the best in Arizona and fans can expect to see the new skipper go with an array of combinations in the early spring training games to gauge the talent for himself.
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