SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – While Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers reported to Salt River Fields for the start of spring training on Wednesday, several position players were spotted in and around the clubhouse.
Among them was center fielder A.J. Pollock.
Though not required to be in camp until next week, Pollock, like many of his teammates, has been using the facilities almost on a daily basis to get ready for the upcoming season.
“Same everything I want to work on, just more…just reassurance of what I’m doing was the right thing,” he said, referring to his breakout 2015 season. “Hopefully I can build from that. Learn some things and grow from there.”
Last year, Pollock established career highs in nine offensive categories, including batting average (.315), home runs (20) and RBI (76). He was named to his first All-Star team and earned his first Gold Glove, establishing himself as one of the rising stars in the game.
His production, both at the plate and in the field, not to mention on the base paths where he ranked fourth in the National League in stolen bases, earned him a two-year contract worth a reported $10.25 million.
Pollock and the D-backs were headed for salary arbitration prior to the deal being reached Feb. 8.
“That’s great,” he said, referring to the contract. “I’m just glad to get to baseball stuff. It’s a crazy business and this allows me to—I just want to focus on baseball, which is awesome.”
The deal bought out Pollock’s first two years of arbitration.
When asked if he was disappointed a longer term couldn’t be agreed upon, Pollock took the high road.
“The contract stuff, like I said, I’m worried about baseball right now,” he said. “I’ve put the other stuff behind me. The negotiations, I think, all that is kind of private so…it’s baseball now. It’s cool.”
Extending Pollock, who turned 28 in December, had long been talked about.
With that talk now reality, Pollock preferred to talk D-backs, specifically pitcher Zack Greinke.
“I was stunned. It almost didn’t seem real,” he said of the team’s record offseason signing. “You always face the guy and now he’s coming on your team. When he came in the clubhouse, it was still like, ‘really? Is this happening?’ It’s great to not have to play against him and let the other teams worry about that.”
For the record, Pollock owns a .250 batting average with three hits, including a home run, one RBI, one walk and four strikeouts in 13 career plate appearances against his new teammate.
Going into this season, his fifth, the biggest question facing Pollock is where he bats in the lineup.
“That’s Chip’s decision,” he said, mentioning manager Chip Hale.
With the trade of Ender Inciarte, the D-backs have a hole in the leadoff spot and at least initially, it’s a void Pollock will fill.
“That’s one of our big keys,” Hale said. “If somebody can fill that hole, boy that would be great to be able to hit A.J. second and Paul (Goldschmidt) third or A.J. third and Paul fourth. We’ll experiment and we’ll play around with it and see if somebody grabs that leadoff spot.”
Last season, Pollock led off 48 times and hit .302 (62-for-205). However, most of the games saw Pollock in the two-hole (72 times), while also seeing limited action in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots.
“I consider myself a baseball player. I don’t consider myself a leadoff hitter or a three, four, I mean whatever. I’m there to hit. If Chip feels that, for the team, I should be in the one or two or three or whatever, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to do it as best I can,” he said.
“I think I’ve gotten some good work in any spot in the lineup over the years. You just realize it’s just where they put you. You’re going up there, you’re facing the same pitcher. Some different opportunities, but it’s all really the same.”