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Shortstop competition no clearer for D-backs, Owings struggles in first Opening Day start

The Arizona Diamondbacks technically kicked off their regular season Saturday in Sydney, but the team still has one major competition to settle heading into its home opener against the San Francisco Giants March 31.

Who will be the team’s starting shortstop?

Because Major League Baseball allowed both the D-backs and Los Angeles Dodgers to travel to Australia with a 28-man active roster, manager Kirk Gibson elected to take both shortstop candidates — Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius — with the intention of getting each one start.

Owings got the first crack at making an impression, but his first Opening Day start didn’t quite go according to plan in Arizona’s 3-1 loss.

The reigning Pacific Coast League Player of the Year struck out swinging twice on off-speed pitches from two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and also grounded out weakly to second baseman Justin Turner.

If there was a positive for Owings it came in his final at-bat of the night when he worked a two-out walk in the ninth inning off of Kenley Jansen.

Gregorius, who is expected to start in the second game of the series against Hyun Jin-Ryu, also had a plate appearance. The 22-year-old pinch hit for Wade Miley in the bottom of the fifth inning and struck out rather quickly on four pitches.