Speaking in front of the assembled media following the Arizona Diamondbacks’ final tune-up of the spring Saturday afternoon at Chase Field, general manager Kevin Towers admitted that the starting shortstop decision was by no means an easy one.
The incumbent, Didi Gregorius, hit .252 with seven home runs and 28 RBI in 2013, but was better known for his range in the field rather than his presence at the plate.
The challenger, Chris Owings, claimed the Pacific League’s Rookie and Player of the Year in 2013 and batted .291 with five RBI in 61 plate appearances last September.
In the battle between the two young shortstops — Gregorius (24) and Owings (22) — Towers and Co. opted for the latter.
“On the shortstop front, all decision are tough but this we probably agonized on probably more than any of the other ones,” Towers said. “Both are quality players. We spent about an hour prior to the game looking at pros and cons of both sides, weighing strengths of both guys. It was almost equal once again.
“We have decided to start the season with Chris Owings as our shortstop, and we’ll be optioning Didi Gregorius to Reno.”
The news wasn’t all that surprising considering Owings hit .288 with a home run and six RBIs this spring compared to Gregorius’ .222 average and four runs driven in.
And while the Dutchman might have a slight advantage when it comes to the glove, ultimately it wasn’t enough to sway the vote.
As Towers put it, with Arizona minus its top starting pitcher Patrick Corbin and setup man David Hernandez for the entire season, the team needs some pop in its lineup.
“I think we probably view C.O.’s bat a little ahead of Didi’s at this time,” said Towers. “And because of the injuries we’ve had to our pitching staff, we’re going to have score runs to win games.
“I’m not knocking our pitching staff. Hopefully they’ll be able to put a lot of goose eggs up there, but we feel this year specifically that we’re going to have to score a lot runs to win ball games. Having [Owings’] bat in the lineup, there’s power there and its quick. We decided to go with, in our eyes at least, the guy that was the better offensive player.”