SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Third base.
That’s where Yasmany Tomas has been working out, and that’s where the Arizona Diamondbacks envision him playing for years to come.
“I feel comfortable (there),” Tomas said. “I played a lot of third base in Cuba.”
The D-backs have invested $68.5 million over the next six years in the 24-year-old, known more for his bat than his fielding.
In Cuba, Tomas mainly played outfield, though he did see time at third and at first.
“If the progression continues, he’s going to be able to play third base,” general manager Dave Stewart said following Tomas’ introductory press conference Thursday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. “What we don’t want to do is have his hitting suffer because he’s so concentrated on being a third baseman. We’d like to have him be a well-rounded player and be able to play both defensively and offensively for us. And if we feel in any way that his offense is going to lack because he’s so focused on playing third base, then that’s not a good decision for us organizationally.”
In his five seasons in the Cuban Serie Nacional, Tomas hit 30 home runs and compiled 104 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 205 games dating back to 2008.
He fled Cuba in the summer, leaving behind his family.
“It was something hard for me,” Tomas said through D-backs coach and translator Ariel Prieto.
The slugger first arrived in Haiti, a journey he described as “uncomfortable” and did not wish to elaborate on.
“Everything was fine,” Tomas said. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
His arrival in Arizona is only the second time he has been in the United States. His first visit came during the 2013 World Baseball Classic, when he batted .375 (6-for-16) with two home runs, five RBI and a 1.224 OPS in six games. Baseball America tabbed him as the sixth-best non-MLB player in the tournament.
Now, wearing Sedona Red and white, Tomas plans to put in the time and effort to learn the nuances of third base.
“It’s been a staff effort,” Stewart said of Tomas’ early work with manager Chip Hale and coaches Andy Green (third base), Dave MacKay (first base) and Mark Grace (assistant hitting coach), among others.
“He’s making adjustments. He’s a very, very smart young man, and he’s really taking in the information that’s being given to him and applying it immediately. We don’t think it’s going to be an easy transition, but we do think that he’s going to be able to play the position.”
Stewart said the true test of Tomas’ comfort at third base is going to come once the team starts playing Cactus League games.
“We want him to play in the big leagues for us coming out of spring training,” the GM said. “But, once again, we’re not opposed to him getting some adjustment time at the minor league level if we have to. But we want him to be on our big league team.”
That’s what Tomas wants, too.
“That was my dream, first of all,” he said, “but never was my goal because I never know at 24 years old (if) I can play in the big leagues. But now it’s going to be my goal. I’m going to try to do the best I can to help the team and to get a great year.”