The Arizona Diamondbacks entered last season with a target on their backs.
Winners of 94 games and the NL West in 2011, the team was expected to be a contender for the NL pennant, and possibly the World Series.
The offseason additions of Trevor Cahill and Jason Kubel, along with the natural progression of some of the roster’s youth, made Arizona the team to beat in the NL West.
The D-backs were beaten far too often.
Arizona finished the season with an 81-81 record, which left them third in the division behind eventual World Series champion San Francisco and big budget Los Angeles.
So, they went into the offseason set on making more changes, and the roster’s latest makeover has many believing the team is worse for wear and not ready to compete with the NL’s best.
And you know what? Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, who is responsible for putting the roster together, is just fine with that.
“I think I like the character and the culture,” he told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Wednesday.
Towers said the early days of spring training have given him a glimpse of the makeup of the roster, and getting a chance to watch and get to know newcomer Martin Prado gives him great confidence in the team that will be on the field.
“He was the first guy in the clubhouse, the last guy to leave,” Towers said. “[Manager Kirk Gibson] asked where he likes to hit, and he said ‘one through nine, wherever you want me skip.’
“The more of those guys you have the better. I think we’ve got a little bit more of a speed dynamic this year, I think we still have power. I think we have a shut-down, lock-down bullpen.”
True, while the team parted with big names like Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer in the offseason, it is not as if the team is without talent. Towers spent time adding to an already solid bullpen, and the starting rotation got a boost with the addition of Brandon McCarthy. And you know what they say about how important pitching is to winning baseball games.
“People aren’t going to be picking us, and that’s fine,” Towers said. “I would much rather lay under the radar and come up and sneak up an beat people.
“We accept the challenge, we embrace the challenge, and we’re looking forward to it.”