ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Tony La Russa encouraged by talent level, excitement in Arizona Diamondbacks camp

Feb 27, 2015, 7:33 PM | Updated: 7:51 pm

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LISTEN: Tony La Russa, D-backs Chief Baseball Officer

On Thursday, new Arizona Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said his team has “championship-caliber players” and will “do some special things” this season.

It was a bold statement considering the D-backs are coming off a 2014 campaign in which they finished 64-98, the worst record in Major League Baseball.

But on Friday, Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa backed his manager, noting the level of enthusiasm during spring practice and the desire by players to win a number of open spots in the batting order and pitching rotation.

“One of the exciting parts since the first day of camp … has been the effort level here,” La Russa told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “During the latter part of January and all of February, guys are coming out here and they’re excited and they’re putting it out there.”

La Russa said the D-backs had 45 players report 7 to 10 days early to camp this year, while several other teams had just 20 to 25 players report during that time frame.

“We’ve had, what, five, seven days of practice, and they’re carrying it forward,” he said. “Now, if you carry it forward today and every day, if we learn to execute — the talent level here is exciting.”

La Russa said Hale, who is entering his first season as manager at the MLB level, has already won the respect of his players — a key component to becoming a competitive team.

“I heard Chip’s first meeting and I saw the guys light up,” La Russa said. “We’ve got to back it up, but I think the answer to (whether we can be a championship contender) is sooner or later. Chip thinks it’s sooner.

“There’s some excitement here and guys are competing, so I think our fans are in for a treat. I think in spring training there will be so much excitement watching some of the guys earn at-bats and innings to pitch. So I agree with Chip.”

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