ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks deciding how many OFs to carry; Jake McCarthy’s approach to spring training

Feb 25, 2024, 5:58 AM

Jake McCarthy...

Jake McCarthy #31 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates scoring a run in the seventh inning with Corbin Carroll #7 while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on June 09, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE — How many outfielders is a reasonable number for the Arizona Diamondbacks to carry on Opening Day?

It’s a question the front office and coaching staff will review throughout spring training after spending on free agent outfielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk. The trio joins starters Corbin Carroll and Alek Thomas, but that leaves a group of competing players headlined by Jake McCarthy on the fringes.

The D-backs have to pick 13 position players on the 26-man team. Two will be catchers, and six outfielders would leave the infield light with five players. Meanwhile, manager Torey Lovullo described the challenge of finding the right amount of reps for his regulars.

“There are challenges because I feel like (Alek Thomas) is evolving into playing every day,” Lovullo said. “We’re still going to read and react to that but there’s not a lot of innings out there. If you have too many, you’re gonna fight to get guys consistent playing time.

“We believe in days off, but there’s a certain number where there’s a sweet spot. We start count up innings and how many are left over for player A? What does that match up look like? Player B, where’s he gonna fall into his strengths and limitations? How can we get him at-bats where he’ll be most productive? So those are conversations we’re having right now.”

Jorge Barrosa and Pavin Smith round out Arizona’s 40-man roster outfielders, and the club signed veterans Albert Almora and Kyle Garlick to minor league deals on Saturday.

Grichuk and Pederson will see time at designated hitter, although Lovullo said they will fill into the outfield. Grichuk is battling back from right ankle surgery that addressed bone spurs, and he is on track for Opening Day — whether he is ready to field by March 28 is to be determined. Pederson mostly slotted in at DH for the San Francisco Giants last year, but Lovullo said Pederson has been committed to working with outfield coach Dave McKay.

The D-backs have infielders who can fill in at first base to back up Christian Walker if they hold onto six outfielders — and Smith presents a 1B/OF option.

Emmanuel Rivera and Jace Peterson are incumbent veteran third basemen who can fill in at the other infield spots in a pinch.

At the same time, Blaze Alexander, Jordan Lawlar and Kevin Newman are competing for the backup shortstop role — although the thinking with Lawlar is he needs to play every day which does not look possible to start the year.

“We have some wiggle room with some of the decisions that we’re making. … It’s going to be a very healthy camp, much like the Tommy (Henry) and (Ryne Nelson) situation, with really tough decisions for position players,” Lovullo said. “We have a lot of very able bodies who are going to make it very competitive. And I like that.”

General manager Mike Hazen explained after signing Grichuk last week, “I’ve said before, I hope this roster gets through 162 games completely healthy and stays exactly how it is. We all know that’s the last thing that’s going to happen. So we want to ensure that on those days, if we lose somebody for 10 to 15 days that for those games we’re just as good as we were before.”

Lovullo put it bluntly, there will be winners and losers, and the losers will be depth. He noted 35-40 players will make an impact this season.

Jake McCarthy enters Diamondbacks spring training healthy

McCarthy’s 2023 ended unceremoniously with an oblique strain during batting practice before his first career postseason series in Milwaukee against the Brewers. The 26-year-old said he was close to being healthy by the end of the World Series and he started taking swings in December.

He enters camp with a less clear path to playing time than last year when he started on Opening Day in right field.

“I approach (spring training) with the same intensity,” McCarthy told Arizona Sports of this year compared to those past. “I don’t really let external factors really play into how I approach things. I’m always playing hard, I’m always trying to do my best. … I just want to be ready for as soon as possible and be at my best when the season starts.”

McCarthy called last season a learning experience after a brutal start offensively led to an early-season option.

“You don’t want to fail, but in this game, it’s inevitable. So it’s always good to learn and try to move forward and be better for it,” he said.

He came back up to a part-time role, playing 77 games before the injury with a slash line of .272/.345/.352 and 24 steals. Lovullo said McCarthy had a fine year but expects more.

Lovullo told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta this past week McCarthy still has an opportunity but is challenged to progress from where he left off.

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Diamondbacks deciding how many OFs to carry; Jake McCarthy’s approach to spring training