D-backs’ Tomas to focus on defense in Reno; Ray works on backfield
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Once the Arizona Diamondbacks added outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Steven Souza Jr. this offseason, the odds of Yasmany Tomas making the Opening Day roster dropped. Significantly.
Even after Souza Jr. strained his pectoral muscle this past week, the D-backs turned to Chris Owings in right field, not Tomas.
Perception became reality on Sunday, when the team optioned their highest-paid position player to Triple-A Reno.
The reason, according to manager Torey Lovullo, was simple.
“He had a great camp offensively and defensively was still trying to piece together his game,” he said of Tomas, who batted .293 with two RBI in 16 spring games. “And those are the things that we talked about with him that he needs to go and work on his defense. It’s adequate but we want it to improve on a level where he’s going to be an above-average defender and that was spelled out to him.”
Lovullo added Tomas, halfway through a six-year, $68 million contract, took the news well.
The D-backs know what Tomas can do with a bat. It’s his glove that continues to be an issue, and Lovullo made clear speaking to reporters Sunday that defense comes first in 2018.
“We have outlined our thoughts very clearly about what type of defensive team we want to have on the field at all times. And it’s a priority,” he said. “We just don’t want to go out there and bang the ball and win 10-9. We want to pitch, we want to pick up the baseball and be a complete team. That’s a priority for us.”
Robbie Ray throws in Single-A game
Rather than pitch against the team he’ll face in five days when the results count, left-hander Robbie Ray threw in a Single-A game on Sunday — and looked good.
He struck out the first six batters he faced and finished with 12 over 6.1 innings. More importantly, Ray issued zero walks.
“It went really well. Me and (catcher Alex) Avila worked really well today, mixing up the pitches. My command was really good today,” he said.
Ray’s only blemish Sunday on a backfield at Salt River Fields was a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Other than that, four of the remaining five hits he allowed were all singles, including a bunt base hit.
Ray is scheduled to start Game 2 of the season-opening, three-game series with the Colorado Rockies.
“Getting into the seventh inning, 86 pitches. I could’ve gone deeper. I could’ve finished out the seventh and I feel like, right now, that’s right where I need to be,” he said.
Deven Marrero arrives
Just before 10:30 a.m. Sunday and ahead of a team meeting, infielder Deven Marrero walked into the D-backs clubhouse. A few hours later, he made his D-backs spring training debut.
Marrero entered the game with the Rockies in the bottom of the seventh. The next half inning, he singled in his first plate appearance.
The D-backs acquired Marrero, a former Arizona State Sun Devil, from Boston just a day earlier.
“I’m excited to be back here in Arizona where I grew up and played college baseball. I became a man here,” he said, following the D-backs’ 8-3 win.
— Though Sunday marked the end of the Cactus League schedule, the D-backs will play a pair of exhibition games Monday and Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians at Chase Field.
Right-hander Zack Greinke will start Monday’s contest, which then lines him up to take the ball on Saturday which would be the series-finale with the Rockies.
“If it everything works the way it’s supposed to, yes, that’s what we’re hoping that will happen,” Lovullo said.
— In addition to Souza Jr., outfielder Rey Fuentes is expected to begin the season on the disabled list. He’s got a hand injury.
Fuentes was hit by a pitch in a game on March 19.
“He was progressing well. The swelling was going down, but he was still experiencing a little bit of discomfort,” Lovullo said, “and (a MRI) showed that there was a small fracture there” in his knuckle on his left hand.