PHOENIX, Ariz. – Three players for two positions.
It’s a good problem to have if you’re manager Chip Hale, who believes between Nick Ahmed, Chris Owings and Jean Segura, the Arizona Diamondbacks “have three of the better shortstops in baseball.”
Of course, that leaves second base open.
“The middle of (the infield), I think, is going to rotate around. They’re all going to get chances to play,” Hale said Friday prior to the D-backs exhibition game against the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals at Chase Field.
Segura, whom the D-backs acquired from Milwaukee in the offseason, will play more second base than shortstop, according to Hale, while Owings, like Segura, has the ability to bounce back-and-forth between both positions.
Owings may also see some time at third base.
Ahmed, it sounds like, is strictly a shortstop.
“I’m not saying that Nick is going to play short every day,” Hale said. “I’m just saying when he plays; it’s going to be short. We feel like his defense at shortstop is probably either one or two in the league. We might have two and three, four with the other guys. That’s how good we feel that Chris and Jean play shortstop.”
That the D-backs are loaded at shortstop has not gone unnoticed by the team’s biggest-ever free-agent signing, Opening Day starter Zack Greinke.
“That’s the most important position, I think, defensively,” he said, adding about Ahmed, “I’ve been a really big fan of his so far, so I like the idea of him being there especially how good he is defensively.”
Told of Greinke’s comments, Ahmed smiled. He and Greinke are clubhouse locker mates at Chase Field.
“You got a guy who you know is going to hit his spots, you know he’s got a good gameplan, you know he’s prepared; and if he gets beat, he’s going to get beat with his best gameplan and his best pitch. We can all live-and-die with that,” Ahmed said. “It’s just fun to play behind him and see the intensity and fire on his face is really special.”
Candidly, Segura is not entirely comfortable playing second base. Throughout his four big-league seasons, he’s only played on the left side of the diamond.
Segura’s first extended experience at second came this spring.
“It’s different,” he said. “It’s different because you see the game through the other side on the diamond, so it’s tough. I mean, sometimes you don’t know how to attack the ball; sometimes you do not know how to handle those groundballs because you were always at shortstop. But, I’ll get there. I’m trying out there the best I can to help this team to win some ballgames and feel comfortable out there.”
All three — Ahmed, Owings and Segura — hit better than .350 during spring training, with Segura ranking second in the Majors in both hits (30) and batting average (.517), while Ahmed tied for the Cactus League lead in triples (4) and was fifth in slugging percentage (.710) and sixth in average (.419).
In other words, it’s going to be a juggling act— based on the opponent and pitching matchups— for Hale.
“They’re all going to get their at-bats,” he said, “that’s kind of been what’s been told to all of them.”