Injuries too much to overcome for D-backs in tough season
PHOENIX -- There really is no way around it: 2014 was a nightmare for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
They opened Spring Training filled with optimism, a club-record $110 million payroll and a vow that they would find a way to get over the 81-81 rut they had found themselves in the previous two seasons.
The D-backs did manage to avoid the .500 mark -- at no time were they ever at or above it -- but this certainly was not what they had in mind.
A tough start prompted ownership to bring in Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa to be chief baseball officer and essentially decide the fate of general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.
The verdict on Towers came in early September when La Russa decided to open the search for a new GM while offering Towers another position within the organization.
The D-backs were never in the playoff hunt thanks to a 9-19 April.
They did, however, go 14-13 in May and 13-12 in July, but another disastrous month -- they were 9-18 in August -- once again put them in contention for baseball's worst record.
Injuries definitely did not help matters.
The day before they were to leave for Australia, ace Patrick Corbin was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and would not throw a pitch for them. Then when they returned from Australia, top setup man, David Hernandez, was lost to the same injury and the usually durable Bronson Arroyo would also succumb to it in June.
Outfielder A.J. Pollock was named National League Player of the Month for May and then missed the next three months after being hit by a pitch and fracturing his right hand.
Finally, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was lost for the season when he suffered a fractured left hand after being hit by an Ernesto Frieri pitch.
Record: 64-98, fifth in the NL West
Defining Moment: The D-backs took two of three games against the Giants in San Francisco April 8-10 to raise their record to 4-8 heading home. Rather than building on that momentum, the D-backs lost all six games on the homestand as they were swept by the Dodgers and Mets. It was right around that time that Arizona management began to discuss dismissing Towers and/or Gibson.
What went right: Goldschmidt was once again having an excellent offensive season before his injury. ... Rookie right-hander Chase Anderson came up from Double-A Mobile in early May and became a mainstay in the rotation. ... Rookie Evan Marshall pitched well out of the bullpen and set himself up to be a favorite to be a member of the 'pen in 2015. ... Pollock took a step forward offensively and was playing his way into an All-Star selection before his injury. ... Shortstop Chris Owings was a Rookie of the Year contender before a shoulder injury cost him more than two months. ... And outfielders Ender Inciarte and David Peralta took advantage of all the injuries to show they could be contributors at the big league level. ... After more than two years and a pair of Tommy John surgeries, right-hander Daniel Hudson made three appearances down the stretch for the team.
What went wrong: The list of injuries was long and crippling, forcing the team to give significant playing time to untested rookies. ... The moves that Towers made over the past two offseasons did not pay off. ... Right-hander Trevor Cahill struggled so badly, the club sent him down to Class A. ... Outfielder Mark Trumbo, who was supposed to provide protection for Goldschmidt in the lineup, struggled with foot injuries from the start of Spring Training, which limited his effectiveness. ... Closer Addison Reed had an uneven season, while veteran J.J. Putz struggled so much that the club designated him for assignment. ... Top prospect Archie Bradley's agent criticized the team when Bradley was not called up in April and then the right-hander suffered forearm stiffness and spent time on the DL. ... Right-hander Brandon McCarthy struggled mightily, but then thrived when he was dealt to the Yankees in July.
Biggest surprise: Peralta was called up when injuries decimated the outfield and he surprised everyone by hitting over .300 in his first 58 games and taking over for an injuried Goldschmidt in the No. 3 hole of the lineup. Just two years ago Peralta was playing in independent baseball after failing to make it to the big leagues as a pitcher.
Hitter of the Year: Despite missing the final two months of the season, Goldschmidt still wound up leading the team in many offensive categories. As he's gotten more experience, Goldschmidt has taken on more of a leadership role with younger players.
Pitcher of the Year: Josh Collmenter. The right-hander began the year as the long man in the bullpen, a role he filled admirably in 2013. Injuries as well as the struggles of Cahill, forced Collmenter into the rotation for the first time since early in the 2012 season. Collmenter wound up being the team's most consistent starter and he faced the minimum 27 batters in a 4-0 three-hitter against the Reds on May 29.
Rookie of the Year: Anderson/Inciarte (tie). It's hard to pick between these two so we'll give it to both of them. Anderson pitched very well right from the time he was called up in May and established himself as a rotation favorite for next year. Inciarte, meanwhile, filled in admirably for Pollock in center and really took to the leadoff spot when Gibson moved him there.