SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Their position on the team appears secure.
Their position on the field, however, is unclear.
And that’s good news for them and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Chris Herrmann and Chris Owings are two of the team’s most versatile players, and position flexibility is valued highly these days in Major League Baseball.
At the moment, Herrmann has three gloves in his clubhouse stall at Salt River Fields: catcher, outfield and first base; the latter, he said, just “to help me get some more at-bats” during spring training.
“I might have to get a fourth (glove),” he continued. “(Manager Torey) Lovullo mentioned to me practicing at third base. I’m going to have call up Rawlings. Let’s hope (Jake) Lamb has another great year and I don’t have to worry about playing third base.”
Last season, his first with the D-backs, Herrmann saw action in 56 games. His time was split between catcher, first base and all three outfield spots.
Right now, Herrmann’s main priority is catcher, where he made 29 starts in 2016 and where the D-backs have flooded the position. With the team deciding to part ways with Welington Castillo, Herrmann finds himself competing with veterans Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis, a pair of offseason additions focusing on their defensive ability.
“I’m the young buck,” Herrmann, 29, said, referring to the soon-to-be 34-year-olds Iannetta and Mathis. “They’ve been playing for a long time in the Majors. I look up to people like that, so I’m going to try to pick their brain as much as I can.”
With Paul Goldschmidt still with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, Herrmann has seen a handful of starts recently at first base, including Tuesday when he singled in his first three at-bats against the Texas Rangers.
But, again, it’s behind the plate where Herrmann would prefer to be positioned.
“In the long run it would be nice just to concentrate on one position like most players do and really try to perfect that. But, as for now, this is what’s getting me a job,” he said. “I know I’m a good enough catcher to be here, but it’s also nice just to be able to play all these extra positions to help me get into the lineup more.”
A four-year veteran, Owings feels the same way.
There are two different gloves in his locker.
After bouncing between second base and shortstop in each of his first three big-league seasons, Owings in 2016 added center field to his resume in addition to playing both middle infield positions.
Outfield was a new experience for Owings, who made 47 starts there. He was asked to make the move following the injury to starter A.J. Pollock only days prior to the beginning of the season.
“Going back to being a little kid, if coach told you go play second base, what are you going to say, ‘no’, and not go play? For me, I just took it as a challenge. I enjoyed it and I made it fun,” said Owings, who used Pollock’s outfield glove. “(First base/outfield coach) Dave McKay helped me do a great job. We were doing early work like every day before every game for the first month of the season, so I wouldn’t have had any luck out there, I don’t think, if it wasn’t for him.”
Center field is not in the plans for Owings this season, however. Right field is.
Owings received his first game reps in right field this week, playing a handful of innings on Tuesday and getting the start on Friday at the Oakland A’s.
The preference, though, is the infield — specifically shortstop.
It’s an open competition at that position, according to Lovullo. Owings, Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte are all in the mix.
“Like I told Torey, I think everybody’s dream is to show up and be an everyday player (so) whatever gives me the opportunity to do that, I’m more than willing to help the team out,” Owings said. “I liked going back to shortstop a little bit last year and kind of getting settled in there, so it is nice on that end to kind of show up and kind of be stuck in one spot. But, at the same time, it’s about winning ball games and for me, to help the team out any way I can, if that’s giving somebody a day off somewhere or playing short, second and right three days in a row—moving around like that—I’ll be able to do that.”
— Making his fifth Cactus League start, right-hander Shelby Miller pitched 3.1 innings, allowing one run on three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts against the Seattle Mariners at Salt River Fields on Friday.
He was removed from the game having thrown 73 pitches, 47 for strikes, including 12-of-15 first-pitch strikes.
Miller labored through a 29-pitch, 15-minute first inning when the Mariners scored their run, an RBI double by third baseman Kyle Seager.
— Beginning with Zack Greinke’s start on Saturday, D-backs pitchers will bat in games.
“We’re ready to take the next step,” Lovullo said, “but you always worry about how that next step will go. The obvious ones are hit-by-pitches or getting jammed and damaging hands or fouling a ball off feet, but that comes with the territory. What I’ve noticed is our pitchers are very prepared as hitters. I’m pleasantly surprised.”
— The D-backs made a roster move on Friday. They optioned right-handed reliever Enrique Burgos to Triple-A Reno.
Burgos, who made 43 appearances last season, had a 9.00 ERA in six games.
— With just over two weeks before Opening Day, Lovullo was asked how the D-backs can be competitive once again in the NL West.
“We have to earn that, we got to earn that. We know. We know we won 69 games last year, and that is a motivating factor for me every day. I think the rest of the organization feels the same way,” he said. “We’re turning the page on what happened last year, and we’re ready to go out there and prove that we’re prepared for the season.”