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Hazen talks Leake, López and spring progress

@SteveGilbertMLB
March 2, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With a week of Cactus League games in the book, we caught up with D-backs general manager Mike Hazen to talk about a variety of subjects.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With a week of Cactus League games in the book, we caught up with D-backs general manager Mike Hazen to talk about a variety of subjects.

Mike Leake
Mike Leake aggravated a previous fracture of his left (non-throwing) wrist just before camp opened and has been limited to throwing bullpen sessions with someone catching the return throws for him.

While Leake says he feels he could be ready to start the season if he gets into two, or even just one game, the D-backs have not yet greenlighted that.

“I’m not ready to determine that yet,” Hazen said about the number of games Leake needs to get into. “There is going to need to be some ramping up of intensity against competition before we step into the gauntlet of Major League position players. Of course, we trust him and we’re listening to him. And he’s thrown enough to warrant that. I think we’re all going to have to get together to make sure what’s best for the team, too. So, we’ll have those conversations with him.”

Yoan López
Right-hander Yoan López allowed four runs on five hits over one inning of work Sunday and he will need to perform better to make the Opening Day roster.

“Inconsistency,” Hazen said. “We are stressing the continued need to improve his consistency of command. That needs to happen with both his fastball and his breaking ball.”

López, 27, was a big part of the team’s bullpen in the final month of 2018 and all of last season, but Hazen has been insistent that very few players have come into camp with their role assured.

“We’ve stressed competition at this camp,” Hazen said. “It’s going to continue to be that way. These spots are not locked in. People have to go out and earn them. That’s something that we’ve talked about consistently for three years. We’re in our fourth year now. That’s not going to change.”

Judging spring performance
When he talks about competition, Hazen is not speaking about a player’s statistics during camp. For example, with Lopez, it was about the command of his pitches.

A lot of times during the spring, pitchers are more focused on throwing a particular pitch than necessarily getting a hitter out. That window is closing.

“To me, there are times in Spring Training and the offseason and probably early in camp, there are times to push and stretch out the boundaries of what you’re trying to do,” Hazen said. “And then there comes a point in time when getting hitters out becomes the most important thing to do. I don’t think on March 2 we’re necessarily there, but we’re not that far away from it. We only have three weeks left. Some point guys want to hit the ground running going into the season, I think. At some point, when we stress competition, that’s what we talk about.”

More evaluations soon
It’s also getting closer to the time when it’s easier to evaluate the position players. So far in camp, they’ve gotten a couple of at-bats a game and have not played in back-to-back games.

Also, with other team’s starting pitchers only going a couple of innings, they are a lot of times facing Minor League pitchers early in games.

That should start to change as this week goes on and position players play in back-to-back games and starting pitchers go deeper into games.

“You start to get a little better read,” Hazen said. “The starter you’re going to be facing will be more stretched out. You might play against them for three or four innings, which means with a good bullpen guy or two behind him, you might get five to six innings of Major League competition against your five to six innings of your position player group.”

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