On a day full of pranks and shenanigans, seeing Arizona Diamondbacks’ A.J. Pollock grab his elbow in pain after sliding head-first into home plate was just a sick April Fools joke.
Well, the team has dropped the punchline and it was a doozy.
Manager Chip Hale announced Pollock suffered a fracture right elbow, the same elbow he injured in 2010. The center fielder missed the 2010 season due to that injury, and while Pollock hopes he’ll be back this season, he remains confident in the team moving forward.
“It’s frustrating because how amazing I feel like our team is, but they’re still going to be great,” Pollock said in a press conference Saturday morning. “They didn’t really miss me much in spring. Hopefully those wins carry over, I think the guys stepping in for me are more than ready. They’ll have a great opportunity here.”
Pollock is right, the Diamondbacks haven’t missed him much during spring. Arizona won its fourth Cactus League title in franchise history and was the best offensive team in the Majors.
Moving forward though, Arizona will have to rely solely on its young spring performers, knowing they do not have Pollock in their back pockets.
Arizona will look to convert Chris Owings to the outfield in the aftermath of Pollock’s injury. Before last night’s game, Owings had never played center field professionally, but the 24-year-old welcomes the new challenge.
“The first thing that comes to mind is the Bruce Arians speech he gave us, and their motto of ‘next man up'”, Owings said. “I feel like we have a lot of guys in this clubhouse that can play big league baseball. Everybody is going to have to step up and do their role.”
Owings was in a battle for an infield position along with Nick Ahmed and Jean Segura, but the loss of Pollock opens the door for him to play on a more regular basis. The move to outfield will take some adjusting to for the infielder.
“It’s so far away compared to where you’re usually playing, it looks funny,” Owings added. “But there’s a lot of ground out there to cover, and hopefully I can cover it all.”
Aside from Owings’ increased playing time as a result of Pollock’s injury, this also opens the door for Socrates Brito. ESPN’s Buster Olney recently named Brito as an under-the-radar breakthrough player.
Brito debuted at the end of last season, hitting .303 in 33 at-bats. The 23-year-old has continued his torrid pace at the plate, hitting .319 during spring training.
While this is obviously not the ideal way to start a season filled with such optimism, the Diamondbacks and Pollock will embrace this new obstacle.
“It almost felt like a nightmare, like it really hadn’t happened,” Pollock said. “But today it’s sunk in. Now it’s getting prepared for what’s next.”
Arizona prepares to open up the regular season April 4 at Chase Field against the Colorado Rockies.