Diamondbacks face difficult roster decisions with Perdomo, Thomas returns upcoming

Jun 7, 2024, 8:53 AM | Updated: 8:54 am

Kevin Newman of the Arizona Diamondbacks...

Kevin Newman #18 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates his two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fifth inning at Busch Stadium on April 23, 2024 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Barring anything unforeseen, the Arizona Diamondbacks are about to face a couple of great problems. Shortstop Geraldo Perdomo is closing in on a return to the MLB roster from the injured list next week, and center fielder Alek Thomas is not far behind.

The D-backs will benefit from two strong defenders returning to premium positions, added lineup options and their clubhouse presences, but the players Arizona has used to fill in the gaps are all making strong cases to stick around.

More immediately along the infield, Kevin Newman has been a stabilizer at shortstop with a solid .761 OPS in May and .757 OPS so far in June after a quiet April.

Blaze Alexander has had his lumps defensively, but the rookie has been a spark in the lineup when given consistent at-bats. He is fifth on the team with a .792 OPS, can use all fields and adds dynamism on the bases.

In the outfield, Jake McCarthy has been useful with a .353 on-base percentage and nine steals. Pavin Smith has had himself a week at the plate, hitting a walk-off homer on Monday and picking up three hits Wednesday.

Their contributions are that much more impactful considering the lack of consistent punch from expected cornerstones in third baseman Eugenio Suarez and outfielder Corbin Carroll.

“We’ve relied on player X to contribute to us, and now we’re without that,” assistant general manager Mike Fitzgerald told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke of the injuries. “Then there’s a transition to that opens a door for someone like Kevin Newman to come up in a much different role than probably what we anticipated come early June. He put a really strong month together for us offensively and has been extremely reliable defensively.”

“The most exciting thing about Blaze is it feels like how he goes about playing the game brings us closer to the identity we had last year that brought us a lot of success,” Fitzgerald added. “We’re going to be a really tough at-bat. We’re going to grind our way on base, we’re going to use the big part of the field and when we get on base, we’re going to put pressure on the defense.”

What is Geraldo Perdomo’s injury status as he aims for a return to the Diamondbacks roster?

Perdomo played his first rehab games in Triple-A Reno on Wednesday and Thursday. Manager Torey Lovullo has been clear: Perdomo will slide back into his starting shortstop role as soon as he gets back to the club.

Lovullo said he is very comfortable with Newman at multiple positions and said “Newman’s versatility is going to be very helpful to me.”

Alexander made the Opening Day roster over Newman, but the latter has in no way played himself off the roster.

Alexander has also showed value as a versatile defender, starting for Suarez at third, Ketel Marte at second and Newman at shortstop within a three-day span. He committed four errors over the first 18 games and only one since, saying he was moving too fast out of the chute but has worked hard to rectify that. Lovullo did not rule out giving Alexander more looks at third base to spell Suarez, who was 2-for-27 stretch before homering on Thursday.

With Perdomo heading back to the starting lineup, does a consistent defender and veteran presence make the most sense for the roster? Or do the D-backs need the upside Alexander brings as a bat and athletic defender. That is if the decision even comes down to only those two players.

“I’m having a tough time, really tough time with it, and I’m losing sleep over it,” Lovullo said Tuesday. “We got good players here right now, and when Gerry comes back, Gerry deserves to be our shortstop. What move do we make beyond that? We have no idea, we are starting to have those conversations in a very mild way, but nothing has been decided whatsoever. And then we have another one coming around on top of that. I lose sleep over those things, more so than bad decisions I might make during the game, because I know it’s going to change lives.”

When Thomas gets closer, assuming no one else goes on the mend, the outside noise around a possible Carroll option may get louder unless he puts together a strong stretch of games. That run has eluded him even as the contact has improved of late.

Carroll entered Thursday hitting .192 with two home runs in 259 plate appearances. But then on Thursday, he crushed the ball for a 3-for-5 day with a steal and two runs to climb over the Mendoza line (.201). That was an optimistic sign, but it’s about building those days from here and the confidence is he will.

If discussing Carroll is a non-starter, is it simply a Smith versus McCarthy debate? McCarthy is a left-handed outfielder whose usage becomes less predictable when Thomas comes back and fills that role. Smith is a limited outfielder but can back up first baseman Christian Walker.

Perhaps it depends on who goes cold over the next couple of weeks before Thomas returns, in which case this group of players deserves a close eye as they play not only to win games but to remain in the fold.

The Diamondbacks have relied on their roster depth this year, but at least with the position players, it could soon become a luxury.

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