D-backs roster situation gets murky as they consider carrying 2 catchers
TEMPE, Ariz. — Outfielders Adam Jones and Jarrod Dyson took in the repetition of controlled action in minor league action Friday at Salt Rivers Fields rather than join their teammates for a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Dyson’s oblique tweak and Jones’ prolonged free agency shouldn’t stop them from making the team’s regular season roster when Arizona opens 2019 against the Dodgers on March 28, manager Torey Lovullo said.
But the addition of Jones just this week only leads to more questions for the D-backs roster, less so at the outfield position than at other spots.
The catcher position was already a log-jam with four qualified options: returnees Alex Avila and John Ryan Murphy along with newcomers Carson Kelly and Caleb Joseph. Originally, one of them looked like he wouldn’t make the 25-man roster, but that could end up being two catchers.
“We’ve discussed it, we’ve thought about a couple of different options,” manager Torey Lovullo said of carrying two catchers into the regular season rather than their usual, more unorthodox three. “We’ve discussed it. Is it firm? No. But it’s something on our radar that we’re trying to evaluate these guys the best we can.”
Expired minor league options at catcher and at other positions will make the decisions more difficult. The 32-year-old Joseph has an option available, meaning he could be stashed in Triple-A.
Murphy, 27, does not, and the addition of Kelly in the trade of Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals appears to slot him as a favorite to get a major league spot.
Avila is owed $4.25 million this year and brings an offensive resume before he hit just .165 last season.
“It’s four really, really qualified catchers that have made it really hard for us to get to this point,” Lovullo said.
Beyond the catcher spot, outfielder Socrates Brito and first baseman Christian Walker are also out of options, and Arizona will need to decide which of those players are priorities.
Walker has made the best cast this spring by batting .355 with a team-leading 11 RBI, while Brito has had his chances to prove his bat is MLB-ready in the past. Injuries have also bit him at the wrong times, such as in 2017 when a hand surgery ended his attempt to make the roster in March.
Arizona could make the decision-making process less painful — or at least push hard choices back — if Lovullo and management enter the year with 12 pitchers rather than 13. That might not be such a good idea that two of their known talents are injured.
Shoulder issues could challenge lefty T.J. McFarland with getting back in shape in time for Opening Day, while right-hander Silvino Bracho just underwent Tommy John surgery to end his season, leaving the bullpen depth a wide open competition.
“Losing Bracho and not knowing what’s going to happen with McFarland, those are guys that were competition and were going to be counted on to make the roster. It opens it up even more,” Lovullo said.
Things slow down for Merrill Kelly
In a 2-1 loss to the Angels Friday, starting pitcher Merrill Kelly went 4.2 innings, just more than the 4.0 pitched in his third outing of the year five days prior. He allowed three hits and two earned runs off a home run when Albert Pujols took Kelly to deep left field on a 2-2 count in the bottom of the third inning.
The D-backs starter walked one and struck out two, including one of the best batters in the game, Mike Trout.
“It feels good striking out anybody at this point,” Kelly said.
Adjusting to throwing MLB balls after four years throwing more NCAA-build baseballs in Korea has taken time to get used to. In general, he’s just starting to feel things slow down.
“My mindset the last two games especially, and just the last week even in camp, has been a lot calmer. The first couple weeks were pretty much a blur,” he said.
Sherfy optioned to get right
Optioned to Triple-A Reno on Friday, right-hand reliever Jimmie Sherfy will aim to get back to his old self after inconsistencies popped up over spring, Lovullo said.
The 27-year-old has appeared in 26 games for the D-backs over the past two seasons and has an ERA of 1.65 with 17 strikeouts and 12 walks.
But Sherfy allowed seven hits and four earned runs in his 7.0 innings this spring. He also walked four batters while striking out seven in that span.
Lovullo didn’t know those numbers off the top of his head but said the team’s scouting reports on Sherfy showed inconsistencies from the eye-test perspective, regarding things such as his velocity and arm slot.