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D-backs' trajectory depends on choosing proper pieces

Club keeping open mind as position battles loom

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Diamondbacks are definitely a work in progress.

What is known is that Dave Stewart is the new general manager and Chip Hale is the new manager.

Paul Goldschmidt will be the first baseman, A.J. Pollock the center fielder and Mark Trumbo the right fielder. Goldschmidt and Pollock are both coming off season-ending broken hands suffered when they were hit by pitches last year.

Josh Collmenter and offseason addition Jeremy Hellickson will be in the rotation, and the bullpen will be anchored by Addison Reed.

Video: Outlook: Collmenter's solid control provides promise

After that?

Time will tell.

This is, after all, a franchise that lost 98 games last season, the most in the Major Leagues, and second most in franchise history to the 111 losses the D-backs endured in 2004.

That is what prompted ownership to revamp the management team for the third time in five years, hiring Stewart to take over for Kevin Towers and Hale to replace Kirk Gibson.

And that is why things are so open this spring. The D-backs are embracing a chance to create a new look.

Video: De Jon Watson talks D-backs on MLB Now

Headed into only their 18th year of existence, the D-backs have a history of quickly rebounding. They won the NL West in 1999, their second year of existence, advancing to the postseason quicker than any team in history, and two seasons later were World Series champions.

Three years after that 111-loss nightmare, they won the NL West again and four years ago they won the fifth division title in franchise history, which matches the Dodgers' division titles in the last 17 years, is one more than the Giants in that time period and two more than the Padres. The Rockies have never won the NL West.

They aren't predicting pennants this spring, but they are confident that the turnaround will begin. Chief baseball officer Tony La Russa is confident a winning season awaits. It starts with sorting out the bodies this spring.

"The important thing is we are confident in whoever wins the battles," said Stewart. "We feel the talent base is strong."

How strong? Strong enough that the D-backs aren't conceding anything to the Giants, who have won three of the last five World Series championships; the Dodgers, who are coming off back-to-back division titles; nor the Padres, who spent an offseason grabbing headlines with big-name acquisitions.

They aren't, however, printing up World Series T-shirts yet, either.

The lineup centers on Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas, whom the D-backs signed to a six-year, $68.5 million deal. An outfielder in Cuba, he's getting a long look this spring at third base, where he faces competition from prospect Jake Lamb and veteran infielder Aaron Hill.

Video: Outlook: Tomas may provide considerable power

If Lamb, who had a 37-game big league audition last season, claims the third base job this spring, Hill can go back to second base, which would allow Chris Owings to get back into the mix at shortstop, along with rookie Nick Ahmed and veteran Cliff Pennington.

Tomas would then go into the left field mix with David Peralta, Cody Ross and Ender Inciarte.

"And Tomas may not be ready for Major League pitching," admits Stewart. "That's what the spring is about."

It's also about sorting out the final three spots in the rotation, where there are at least 10 pitchers who have been mentioned as possibilities, including right-hander Archie Bradley, the team's No. 1 ranked prospect, and veterans Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill and Chase Anderson, who have been members of Arizona's rotation in the past.

"I'm not concerned about that," said Stewart. "I feel anyone we pitch in the last three spots will get the job done. We are looking at legitimate arms."

They are also looking at inexperience, at least in terms of handling a heavy workload in the rotation. No pitcher in the D-backs back end has a 200-inning season on his resume.

Collmenter pitched 179 1/3 innings last year, 25 more than his previous career-high. Hellickson did work 189 innings in 2011, but underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow last spring and worked only 63 2/3 innings after returning to Tampa Bay for the final two months of the season.

Video: Hellickson excited for start of D-backs' 2015 season

That is going to put a focus on a bullpen that, at least early in the season, is going to have to carry a heavy load while the D-backs get a better read on the durability of their potential rotation.

And that could be a challenge.

Reed returns, but his right-handed setup man, Brad Ziegler, is coming off microfracture surgery on his left knee, and right-hander David Hernandez and left-hander Matt Reynolds are both looking to return from Tommy John surgery.

"We feel we have the pieces to be successful," said Stewart.

The challenge this spring is figuring out where each of the pieces fit in the puzzle of the regular-season roster.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for
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