World Baseball Classic opens opportunity for Diamondbacks at, away from camp

Mar 8, 2023, 8:13 AM | Updated: Mar 9, 2023, 10:01 am
Arizona Diamondbacks infielders Diego Castillo (R) and Geraldo Perdomo (L) (Arizona Sports/Alex Wei...
Arizona Diamondbacks infielders Diego Castillo (R) and Geraldo Perdomo (L) (Arizona Sports/Alex Weiner)
(Arizona Sports/Alex Weiner)

The World Baseball Classic is underway with the Netherlands defeating Cuba in the opening game Tuesday evening.

Ketel Marte (Dominican Republic), Alek Thomas (Mexico), Merrill Kelly (United States) and Emmanuel Rivera (Puerto Rico) are among Arizona Diamondbacks players and prospects who joined or are joining their national teams.

For some, the hiatus away from Salt River Fields could last five days, while those on squads that push for the world title will be away for weeks.

At D-backs camp, the absence of starters will allow those fighting for roles – not only on the active roster – to receive additional reps before and during games.

“We have 21 players and coaches going to the WBC, and we’re extremely proud of that and we’re going to follow them and we’re going to be watching those games,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo told reporters on Tuesday.

“But it does present some openings and some opportunities for players to jump in there. You know, players like Phillip Evans, Diego Castillo, Yairo Munoz, we’re going to be able to look at them in different positions. We like their versatility, but those are just three of many who will get extra opportunities and extra at-bats and I want to really take advantage of that time.”

During Tuesday’s spring training game against the Oakland Athletics, Jake McCarthy got reps in center field, Castillo took left field and Evans started at first. Younger players Blaze Alexander, Geraldo Perdomo and Buddy Kennedy also started in the infield.

Evans, Castillo and Munoz were brought in this offseason to further secure Arizona’s depth with players who have played in MLB games before.

Arizona had 26 position players step up to the plate last season with injuries and other bumps in the road, an inevitability in a 162-game season. Even if the trio is unlikely to make the big-league team on Opening Day, this is an opportunity to prove one’s worth for a situation that may arise.

Castillo, for example, has already played a solid second base in games this spring, and his ability to move the outfield may come in handy.

Kennedy is not on the 40-man roster, but he received a cup of coffee in the bigs last year and can play multiple spots along the infield.

Alexander is Arizona’s No. 11 prospect and made the 40-man roster in November to avoid the Rule 5 Draft.

The D-backs will also keep a close eye on their players representing their flags during the WBC, even those playing overseas. Chase Field is hosting Mexico and the U.S., but others are playing in Taiwan, Japan and Miami. They will be thrust into meaningful games off the bat in group play.

“I like that those guys are going, it is a real thing,” Lovullo said. “We’ve had a few players that declined to go represent their country so they can stay here and make an impression. And that’s their right but not once have we ever discouraged somebody from going because I think it’s a pretty incredible honor, but we’ll evaluate the same.

“We’re gonna watch guys. We’re gonna watch what Dominic Fletcher is doing for Team Italy.”

Fletcher made the 40-man roster in November after reaching Triple-A Reno in 2022.

Lovullo said at the start of spring training that the WBC will allow Thomas to test run his adjustments in Year 2.

Thomas had ups and downs in his rookie campaign last year. He was a finalist for the Gold Glove award in center but had a difficult second half of the year offensively with a .500 OPS in MLB games after Aug. 1.

The D-backs traded Daulton Varsho this offseason and are counting on Thomas to continue to improve.

He will play in the first WBC game at Chase Field when Mexico takes on Colombia on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Lovullo said being transparent with his players competing in the tournament is huge, as they will be expected to pick up where they left off when they return to camp.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Munetaka Murakami #55 of Team Japan celebrates after hitting a two-run double to defeat Team Mexico...
Associated Press

Japan walks off Mexico to set up World Baseball Classic final vs. USA

Shohei Ohtani sparked a ninth-inning rally as Japan walked off Mexico 6-5 to advance to the World Baseball Classic final against Team USA.
1 day ago
Tommy Henry #47 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches during the first inning of the game against the...
Arizona Sports

LHP Henry optioned as D-backs key in on final starting candidates

The Diamondbacks optioned Tommy Henry to Triple-A on Monday, whittling down their options to cement the backend of their starting rotation.
1 day ago
Starting pitcher Merrill Kelly #29 of Team USA throws a warm-up pitch during the first inning of th...
Alex Weiner

D-backs’ Merrill Kelly set up to start World Baseball Classic final for Team USA

Team USA "looks like" it will turn to Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly in the World Baseball Classic final on Tuesday. 
1 day ago
Paul Goldschmidt #46 of Team USA celebrates with Moookie Betts #3 after hitting a two-run home run ...
Associated Press

Turner, Goldschmidt lead Team USA to WBC final with win vs. Cuba

Defending champion United States romped over Cuba 14-2 on Sunday night to reach its second straight World Baseball Classic final.
2 days ago
David Peralta #6 and Eduardo Escobar #5 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate after scoring on a si...
Haboob Blog

Former D-backs OF David Peralta rekindles Eduardo Escobar’s cat fear with Team Venezuela

David Peralta had some fun with Eduardo Escobar's fear of cats when they were teammates with the Diamondbacks.
1 day ago
Brandon Pfaadt #90 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the second inning against the Cincinnati ...
Kellan Olson

Diamondbacks reassign Brandon Pfaadt, send Seth Beer to Triple-A

The Arizona Diamondbacks made 11 roster moves on Sunday that cut their spring training roster down to 40.
2 days ago
World Baseball Classic opens opportunity for Diamondbacks at, away from camp