Coming off solid collective spring, D-backs outfield set for Opening Day
Apr 2, 2015, 10:14 PM | Updated: Apr 3, 2015, 12:09 am
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Position battles are still being waged at Arizona Diamondbacks camp as Opening Day looms, but manager Chip Hale seems to have his made up his mind about his outfield.
And aside from Paul Goldschmidt’s everyday duty at first base — hitting third — outfield decisions were perhaps the easiest to make for Hale and the organization, thanks to some remarkable spring performances from all four of the team’s prospective starting outfielders.
Ender Inciarte, David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Mark Trumbo have all turned in exceptional Cactus League campaigns, while Cody Ross has looked decent enough as a fifth outfielder or pinch-hitter.
Hale revealed Thursday what his plan was for divvying up playing time in the outfield in 2015.
“Trumbo will play right on an everyday basis, unless he needs a break,” he explained. “I think Pollock will play center and Inciarte will play a lot of center with him. And Peralta will start mostly against righties, and so Inciarte will get some time over there also. And then Cody is going to help us out against tough lefties and then pinch-hit.”
Trumbo transitioned from left field to right this spring and has been impressive at the plate. The 29-year-old finished Cactus League play Thursday with a .385 batting average to go along with a .735 slugging percentage and .413 on-base percentage in 17 games — 52 at-bats. He hit seven doubles and three home runs to aid those numbers and has looked serviceable, overall, in right field. His 14 Cactus League RBI led the team.
Pollock, meanwhile, is coming off of a 2014 season which was shortened by a hand injury, but the center fielder showed plenty of promise before going down — hitting .375/.427/.659 with 10 doubles, three triples and three home runs in the month of May. The 27-year-old former first-round pick has hit .355 in Cactus League play, pairing with a .919 on-base plus slugging percentage. His eight doubles led the D-backs and he finished second on the team in RBI with 13 in 20 games — 65 at-bats.
In left field, the left-handed hitting Peralta, who is slated to get the majority of starts, has hung with Trumbo and Pollock’s efforts, turning in a .340/ .434./ .438 spring in 53 at-bats over 20 games. Patient at the plate, the 27-year-old former pitcher has managed nine walks in Cactus League play — second only to Goldschmidt. He also his five doubles and seven RBI.
And the other part-time left fielder, Inciarte, has perhaps provided Hale with the most challenging outfield decision. While the organization never doubted his belonging on the 25-man roster, Hale said Thursday that he was certainly the presumed fourth outfielder when camp began. But the switch-hitting 24-year-old — who finished fifth in National League Rookie of the Year balloting a season ago — has hit .365 with a team-high four stolen bases and a .412 on-base percentage.
“Ender seems to be the guy who will be floating around a lot, but he’s going to have to get a lot of at-bats,” Hale explained Thursday. “He’s a very usable piece, he could be starting on a lot of other clubs in center field, so we need to make sure that he gets a lot of playing time.”
Hale expounded on the conundrum, praising his young outfielder’s talent and agreeing with one reporter in the room that he expected Inciarte to accumulate more than 350 at-bats by season’s end.
“He’s played his way to kind of being, you know, it’s kind of like three-plus is what we have,” he said. “Which is great, because with Trumbo — wanting to get him days off, Pollock is going to need days off, we have guys that we can interchange.”