D-backs start season with 10 in the 'pen

July 23rd, 2020

There were no major surprises when the D-backs announced their 30-man Opening Day roster and three-man taxi squad Thursday, one day before their opener against the Padres.

The biggest takeaways were the final three spots on the roster going to infielder/outfielder Josh Rojas and right-handers Taylor Clarke and Taylor Widener, as well as Christian Walker making the team, which means Arizona feels his strained right groin has healed enough for him to play.

Here’s how the roster breaks down:

Catchers (2): ,

The D-backs will carry two catchers on the 30-man roster, but they will have added protection with veteran backstop John Hicks on the three-man taxi squad. Another player to keep an eye on this year will be Daulton Varsho, the team’s No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline. Varsho hit the ball well during Summer Camp and also showed he can play all three outfield positions as well as catch. It is hard to imagine he won't be up at some point this season.

Walker rejoined the team in San Diego after staying behind to rehab his strained right groin while Arizona played two exhibition games against the Dodgers. With the designated hitter being used in the National League this year, Walker could be used at that spot if the team feels he is not quite ready to play in the field. Lamb will rotate between third base, first base and DH in order to get at-bats, while Cron will provide pop off the bench and could be a candidate to DH against lefties.

Second base (1):

Marte has picked right up where he left off during Spring Training, when he homered in his first at-bat. Unlike last year, when he bounced between second and center field, Marte will see just about all of his action at second. Eduardo Escobar and Ildemaro Vargas will be the likely backups to him.

Shortstop (1):

Ahmed had another stellar season with the glove in 2019, and he continues to get better each year with the bat as well. He is a leader both on and off the field, and his importance was shown by the team inking him to a four-year extension. Marte can also slide over and play short if needed.

Third base (1):

Escobar is the likely starter here, but he could also see time at second base and DH. Lamb will get some starts here as well, while also seeing time at first base and DH.

Utility infielders (2):

Vargas has raked during Summer Camp, and as a switch-hitter who can play up the middle as well as third base, he is a valuable piece off the bench. Rojas played mainly outfield in the big leagues last year, but he has seen time in the infield, including shortstop, during Spring Training and Summer Camp. He did not swing the bat well during Summer Camp, but the team is clearly basing this decision on what it saw from him at the end of last season.

The starting outfield of Peralta (left), Marte (center) and Calhoun (right) is set, and given the energy and on-base ability that Locastro provided to the D-backs last year, he seemed like a lock for the roster since Spring Training. Locastro is also valuable as a pinch-runner, especially in extra innings, when a runner is placed at second base to start each frame after the ninth. Jay was a favorite of manager Torey Lovullo during his first go around with the team, and he brings a steady veteran presence that Lovullo values off the bench.

Mike Leake’s decision not to play this year opened a spot in the rotation that will be filled by Kelly, who looked sharp during Summer Camp. Kelly beat out Alex Young, who pitched well as a starter for the D-backs over the final two months of the 2019 season. Young will begin the year in the bullpen.

Despite rough outings in starts against the Dodgers this past week, both Widener and Clarke made the team. Widener did pitch well at the start of Summer Camp. Lopez missed some time towards the end of Summer Camp, but Lovullo said he was unable to say why. Bradley will start a season as closer for the first time in his career, while the bridge to him will be decided on a matchup basis, with Ginkel, Guerra, Rondon and Chafin all likely serving as back-end options.

Taxi squad (3): John Hicks (C), Joe Mantiply (LHP), Wyatt Mathisen (INF)

One of the three members of the taxi squad has to be a catcher, and the team would rather have it be a veteran while Varsho receives more at-bats and work behind the plate at the team’s alternate training site. Mantiply pitched well early in camp, and Mathisen can play all over the diamond, which covers them in case of injury.