Ten D-back questions at Spring Training: Part 4

Mar 12, 2011, 4:36 AM | Updated: 4:49 am

Over the next four weeks, I will examine what the biggest question marks are surrounding the Arizona Diamondbacks as they head into the regular season.

Check out the questions that were asked last week.

9. Can anybody in the bullpen get people out?

The Diamondbacks had one of the worst bullpens in the history of baseball last season. They became a running joke after watching game after game where the bullpen gave up leads and cost the Diamondbacks games deflating the entire team in the process.

With that said, you might ask how this couldn’t be the most important question surrounding the team heading into Spring Training.

The answer is that there is no way possible this unit could perform anywhere near as bad as last season. Remember this group was one of the worst in the HISTORY of baseball. The law of averages says they will be better anyway. They have to be.

In addition, the team did add a solid reliever in J.J. Putz to be the closer. Putz has been a solid closer in past seasons for Seattle compiling 36 and 40 saves back in 2006 and 2007. Putz had a down year in 2009 with the Mets before rebounding last season with 2.83 ERA with the White Sox.

If Putz gives the team what they expect, the rest of the bullpen should fall into place with roles clearly being defined for everybody.

The Diamondbacks netted some arms in David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio in the Mark Reynolds deal to shore up the bullpen. Combined with holdovers Sam Demel, Esmerling Vazquez and Juan Gutierrez, the team is hoping to turn what was a negative last year into one of the team’s strengths.

10. Will Justin Upton turn into a franchise player and team leader?

Look, there is no doubt that J-Up is an immensely talented player. He is the prototypical five-tool player that scouts drool over. He has proven that he can hit for average, hit for power, speed on the base paths, solid throwing arm and ability to play defense.

The problem with Upton is that he hasn’t had to work hard to be good because of his natural ability.

During Upton’s time with the D-backs, he has amazed fans and the organization with his talent, but also shown indifference and malaise when it comes to the simple things like running the bases or where to throw the ball.

It’s hard to measure a player’s “will to win” and one has to wonder how badly does Upton want to win a championship.

It was shocking to hear in the offseason that the D-back brass was shopping Upton around the league. You rarely ever see franchises willing to trade their best young player when he is locked up for the foreseeable future.

One can only surmise the organization doesn’t like what it has seen in Upton’s make-up and might not think they can win a championship with Upton as the team’s leader.

It’s not all Upton’s fault. The D-backs haven’t done a good job of surrounding Upton with veteran players that can show him the way of how to be a team leader. Upton was a young kid (19) when he reached the Majors and hasn’t been given an example of how to prepare and carry yourself in MLB.

If the Diamondbacks are to return to prominence, they need Upton to take on some kind of leadership role whether that’s being accountable for his play or saying the things that need to be said to keep the team on track.

You rarely see a team where its best player isn’t one of the team’s best leaders and the D-backs need Upton to step up in that department or the team may decide next offseason to cut ties with the first overall pick of the 2005 MLB Draft.

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Ten D-back questions at Spring Training: Part 4