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D-backs debating upcoming roster decisions

Sticking with three-catcher approach would impact roles elsewhere
@SteveGilbertMLB
March 14, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Could the D-backs possibly carry two rather than three catchers when Opening Day rolls around? It sounds possible.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Could the D-backs possibly carry two rather than three catchers when Opening Day rolls around?

It sounds possible.

“We’re going to evaluate the roster over the next couple of weeks as to what we feel like is going to be the most optimal setup for us,” D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said. “We have looked at the three-catcher setup and we feel like it really works for us. Having said that, we’ve never been 100 percent bound by that as to how the roster could break or shake and we’ll try to carve into that over the next couple of weeks. We’re not pinned in any one set direction on what the ultimate roster is going to be.”

The D-backs have carried three catchers for just about all of the past two seasons since Hazen has been the GM, and the team has put a lot of game-planning responsibility on the position.

Having three catchers has allowed the team not to overwork any one individual while also allowing each of them to work at least one day ahead, going over scouting reports with the pitcher they’re going to catch.

The recent addition of outfielder Adam Jones, though, has somewhat changed the roster equation.

Should the D-backs carry three catchers -- which would likely be Alex Avila, Carson Kelly and John Ryan Murphy since Caleb Joseph has Minor League options -- it would force another choice.

Assuming Jones and fellow outfielder Jarrod Dyson are healthy and ready to go on Opening Day and there are three catchers, the team would have to choose between carrying either outfielder Sócrates Brito or first baseman Christian Walker. Both are out of options and the team could lose either on waivers.

Of course, cutting down to two catchers and carrying both Walker and Brito carries its share of drawbacks as well.

Avila is owed a guaranteed $4.25 million, while Kelly has nothing left to prove at Triple-A and could be the future at the position. Murphy, meanwhile, is out of Minor League options.

It will make for some interesting decisions over the next two weeks.

“I still like the three-catcher setup, but we’ve always felt like we were going to get to a two-catcher system at some point,” Hazen said. “We just didn’t feel like we had the right ways to do it. I feel like we now have more of an opportunity to do it if we choose to.”

Jones update

Jones took batting practice with a coach pitching to him on Wednesday and was scheduled to do some baserunning drills Thursday.

If all goes well he should get some at-bats in a backfield game Friday morning and then the team will evaluate what the next steps will be.

Speaking of backfield games

Closer candidate Greg Holland threw in a backfield game Wednesday after rain forced the cancellation of Tuesday night’s game in the fifth inning.

“He looked very good,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said.

Going to be tough

Left-hander T.J. McFarland has begun a throwing program this week after being out with shoulder inflammation, but it remains to be seen whether there’s enough time for him to be ready for Opening Day.

“We don’t like to rush things and force guys into situations where they’re playing catch-up, and then the year is one of those where they’re not ready mentally or physically and they’re playing uphill,” Lovullo said. “We’re going to take our time with it.”

Up next

The D-backs travel to Tempe Diablo Stadium to take on the Angels on Friday afternoon at 1:10 MST with Merrill Kelly getting the start. Yoan Lopez and Yoshihisa Hirano are also scheduled to throw.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.