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Yasmany Tomas or Jake Lamb: There’s good competition at third base for Arizona Diamondbacks

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Seeing Yasmany Tomas’ name in the lineup playing right field raised some eyebrows.

Hadn’t the Arizona Diamondbacks invested $68.5 million in the young Cuban player for him to be a third baseman?

Yes, and first-year manager Chip Hale assured reporters Monday that is still the plan.

“First of all, he’s being looked at as a third baseman, of course, but we need to get at-bats,” he said, “a lot of at-bats for him in spring training, so today was a nice day to get him out in the outfield.”

The start in the outfield was Tomas’ first of the spring.

“He’s been running around shagging balls. He’s done a little work with (first base coach) Dave McKay but not much,” Hale said before the game. “I think he’ll be fine out there.”

Of course as luck would have it, not a single ball was hit Tomas’ way in the six innings he played of the D-backs’ 6-2 win over the Chicago White Sox at Salt River Fields.

The D-backs want Tomas, 24, to be their starting third baseman, even if that means having him start the year in the minor leagues to gain more seasoning. The club, though, realizes Tomas’ potential at the plate — he hit 30 home runs with 104 RBI in 205 regular-season games for the Havana Industriales — and thus have given themselves an out: if the experiment at third base fails, then Tomas can play one of the two corner outfield spots.

“Tony and Stew and I have talked about that a bunch,” Hale said, referring to chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart. “He’s been fine over there (at third base). He hasn’t had a whole lot of really difficult plays of late, but he’s shown on balls that were hit kind of high, he didn’t panic; just caught the ball and threw it to first.

“I don’t think any of us are ready to say he can’t play third. Jake Lamb has played well, so it’s some pretty good competition. And it’s not out of the question that they both make the team.”

Lamb got the start against the White Sox and fielded each of his three plays cleanly, including a pair of ground balls, one in the sixth and one in the eighth. He has just one error in 14 total chances in his seven starts at third.

Tomas, too, has only a single error in seven starts, seeing a total of 14 plays in 39 innings.

Hale was asked whether Tomas hadn’t been bad enough to remove him from the third base discussion or good enough to declare him the starter.

“I don’t think it’s either of those,” he answered. “It’s more that Jake has been good enough and Tomas has been good enough that it’s just good competition. I wouldn’t say it’s whether he’s bad enough to say no more or good enough to say that Jake’s not good enough, know what I mean?”

A decision must be made soon, Hale acknowledged, but right now the team has yet to reach a conclusion.

So, the competition will continue and at the same time, to help Tomas (.212; 7-for-33 with two doubles, one triple, one home run and two RBI in 11 games) get some more at-bats, he may see another start or two in the outfield.

“We’re going to move some guys around a little bit,” said Hale, before adding Lamb may play some first base. “It might be unconventional, but it’s just for at-bats and you never know, see how they look out there.”