SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Top prospect Archie Bradley is making a strong push for a spot in the Arizona rotation after two scoreless spring training starts, and the Diamondbacks plan to give the 21-year-old right-hander another test in Australia.
Bradley will start the D-backs' exhibition game against the Australian national team on March 21, the day before Arizona begins a two-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Sydney, Australia. The rookie received the assignment in part to see how he handles a change of environment.
"One of the things he told us was that he has to become better at keeping the game slowed down," manager Kirk Gibson said. "He has great stuff, but it happens to us all. Kind of give him the exposure (in Australia). It is important to give him that. It helps to get him into more elevated, more high-leverage situations that he has to deal with and keep control of."
Bradley gave up three hits in 6 1/3 innings in starts against the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Angels, striking out nine and walking four. Miguel Montero and Henry Blanco each caught him once, and both were impressed. Blanco called Bradley "electric" after the Colorado start, and Montero said Bradley showed good command of his curveball against the Angels on March 8.
"I feel good," Bradley said. "That's what spring is all about, figuring out where you are stuff-wise. Arm-wise, I feel good. I'm just going to keep fine-tuning things until it's time to go. Pitching in Australia is a lot different than an eight-hour bus ride to Birmingham, Alabama, or something like that. I'm looking forward to it. I think it's an honor."
Bronson Arroyo missed a scheduled start March 4 because of a bulging disk in his lower back. He got an epidural the following day, then didn't pitch off a mound the remainder of the week. With his availability in question, the D-backs are keeping all options open for a fifth starter behind Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy.
The organizational thinking at this point seems to be that if Arroyo is close to rejoining the rotation early in the season, Randall Delgado could pick up a start or two until he returns. Delgado is stretched out as a starter this spring, and he made 19 starts last season.
"He's still in the mix," Gibson said of Bradley. "Kind of waiting to see how Arroyo works out, kind of how the whole dynamic of the starting staff will work out. This next week will tell us a lot. See how everything pans out. See how they are throwing the ball, health-wise, et cetera. There are so many scenarios, but they are not worth talking about."
Bradley, 21, is not being considered for a bullpen role, Gibson said.
--LHP Oliver Perez agreed a two-year, $4.25 contract with the Diamondbacks on March 7. He is expected to be the top left-hander out of the bullpen, but the D-backs had yet to acknowledge the deal is official, even though Perez had a locker in the clubhouse, wore No. 59 and threw a bullpen session at Salt River Fields on March 9.
--LHP Patrick Corbin will throw the first pitch in the major leagues this season when he starts the D-backs' season-opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 22 in Australia, with RHP Trevor Cahill going the second game. Cahill was 14-8 with a 3.33 ERA and earned his first All-Star appearance last season after making the team as the fifth starter. "I'm going to approach it as another ballgame and try to do my best. Whether it is the first or whatever, that doesn't mean too much to me," Corbin said. "It's exciting the Diamondbacks are giving me the opportunity to start the first game. I think everybody wants to start the first game. It's an honor."
--RHP Bronson Arroyo, scratched from a March 2 start because of a herniated disk, played long toss March 8 and March 9 and said the initial session "wasn't that good. It was too stiff for me to get after it." Arroyo is tentatively scheduled to throw a bullpen session March 12 and get into his second spring training game March 14. He believes he will be ready for the start of the U.S. regular season if he gets four more spring starts. Arroyo is not expected to travel with the team to Australia.
--OF Cody Ross slid March 8 for the first time since suffering a fractured hip on Aug. 4, and he also hit and ran 90 at percent out of the batter's box in a camp game on March 9. "The thing I'll say about Cody, unlike other guys we've had come back from serious injuries, everything that he has done has been good," manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's really had no setbacks. Every step of the way, it has all been great. When he slid yesterday, he just attacked it. No apprehension at all." Ross is likely to make his first spring appearance as a pinch hitter, Gibson said. The veteran is unlikely to play for Arizona during the Australia trip.
--LHP Wade Miley and RHP Brandon McCarthy are not expected to travel with the D-backs to Australia because they will not be used. "They don't have to do the travel and back," manager Kirk Gibson said. "We're just trying to prepare to win as many games as we can, and we figure that is the way to go." Miley was considered for a bullpen role, Gibson said, but the team thought better of it.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Numbers mean absolutely nothing to me right now. Just trying to work on stuff. Obviously, results are great. It doesn't translate. If there is something specific you are working on that gets you more comfortable for the season, that is the best thing to do right now." -- Diamondbacks CF A.J. Pollock, who was 10-for-25 in his first 11 spring games.
LHP Patrick Corbin
RHP Trevor Cahill
RHP Brandon McCarthy
LHP Wade Miley
RHP Bronson Arroyo
Corbin worked his way from candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation in spring training to staff ace, with a stop-off at the All-Star Game highlighting his first full season in the majors. One early-season start against Atlanta prompted this tweet for Chipper Jones: "This Corbin dude is pretty nasty!"
Cahill and McCarthy missed about 10 weeks combined with injuries last season, and the D-backs are counting on a return to form for both. Cahill tried a new arm slot after returning from his hip injury in August, and the results were promising.
Miley made 22 quality starts last season, second on the team to Corbin's 23 and more than RHPs Matt Cain, Mat Latos and A.J. Burnett had. He knows how to keep his team in a game. Arroyo signed a two-year, $23.5 million deal on Feb. 7, when pitchers and catchers went through their first workout. His arrival could move RHP Randall Delgado to the bullpen and RHP Archie Bradley, a top prospect, to the minor leagues for final seasoning.
RHP Addison Reed (closer)
RHP J.J. Putz
RHP Brad Ziegler
RHP David Hernandez
LHP Oliver Perez
RHP Josh Collmenter
RHP Randall Delgado or RHP Will Harris
The D-backs tied for the major league lead with 29 failed save conversions and led major league bullpens with 59 home runs given up in 2013, so changes were inevitable, especially from GM Kevin Towers, who believes a good pitching staff starts at the back end.
Newcomer Reed enters spring training as the closer after posting 69 saves in his first two seasons with the Chicago White Sox. Reed was 40-for-48 in save conversions last season. His arrival pushes former closer Putz and fill-in closer Ziegler into setup roles. Although Ziegler was very efficient as the closer in the second half last season, the D-backs also like his ability to induce ground balls with runners on base.
Collmenter was among the best long relievers in the game last season, when he threw 29 of his 92 innings in extra innings. Perez was signed March 9 and is expected to replace lefty specialist Joe Thatcher, who scuffled after being obtained for starter RHP Ian Kennedy at the trade deadline. Hernandez, who has great stuff, is looking for a bounce-back season.
1. RF Gerardo Parra
2. 3B Martin Prado
3. 1B Paul Goldschmidt
4. 2B Aaron Hill
5. LF Mark Trumbo
6. C Miguel Montero
7. CF A.J. Pollock
8. SS Chris Owings or SS Didi Gregorius
The D-backs wanted to power up in the offseason, and they did so by acquiring Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels in a three-way deal that cost them CF Adam Eaton and LHP Tyler Skaggs. Trumbo has the resume, with 95 home runs and 284 RBIs in three seasons in a more pitcher-friendly park in Anaheim his first three seasons.
Goldschmidt had a breakout 2013 with 36 homers and an NL-high 125 RBIs. He seems a lock at the No. 3 spot. Hill, who missed two months with a broken hand in 2013, could slot between Goldschmidt and Trumbo. Prado recovered from a slow start to post a career-high 82 RBIs in his first season with Arizona, admitting it took him awhile to settle in after being traded from Atlanta.
The D-backs do not have a pure leadoff hitter, but Parra appears the most likely candidate, at least against right-handed pitchers. Pollock had a strong rookie season, and he could hit at the top against lefties. Owings and Gregorius will not platoon; one will win the job and the other will open at Triple-A Reno, GM Kevin Towers said.
TOP ROOKIES: RHP Archie Bradley, the seventh player taken in the 2011 draft, will get a long look in spring training as a possible addition to the rotation. Most baseball people feel he has to-of-the-rotation stuff and makeup, and that it is only a matter of time before he arrives. He was drafted out of high school, and the D-backs will not rush him. SS Chris Owings was the Pacific Coast League MVP and Rookie of the Year after hitting .330 in 2013, and he will make the 25-man roster, perhaps as the starter. RHP Matt Stites, a reliever also obtained in the Ian Kennedy deal, throws in the high 90s and is a candidate to make the team after a strong Arizona Fall League, although the bullpen is crowded. RHP Jake Barrett, a 2012 third-round draft choice, also throws in the high-90 mph range. He had a 1.21 ERA and 29 saves in 2013, finishing the year at Triple-A Mobile.
--OF Cody Ross (right hip surgery in August 2013) took batting practice in early February, and he slid March 8 for the first time since last summer. GM Kevin Towers said that it is possible Ross could be ready for the start of the regular season, although that appears optimistic.
--LHP Matt Reynolds (Tommy John surgery in September 2013) likely will miss the entire 2014 season.
--RHP Daniel Hudson (Tommy John surgery in June 2013) underwent his second elbow surgery in two years. He signed a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks in December, and he is expected to miss most of the season.
--RHP Bronson Arroyo (herniated disk) was scratched from a March 2 start. He played long toss March 8 and March 9. He believes he could be ready for the start of the U.S. regular season.
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