La Russa: Competition enhances camp

Open positions force players to concentrate, be sharp

March 12th, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tony La Russa believes that nothing gets a team ready for the regular season better than a competitive Spring Training, which explains why the D-backs' chief baseball officer is feeling good about the way the first 10 days of spring games have gone.

"I think the effort and concentration in the drills before the games started and once the games have started has been outstanding," La Russa said. "And, as a result, we're starting to see more and more of our work on a lot of the basics starting to appear in games. Guys are grinding out at-bats. I think the effort level and concentration has been outstanding."

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The starting jobs at third, second and shortstop are open, as well as left field.

With so many players in the mix for spots, it is hard to handicap the races at this point, which is fine by La Russa.

"I mean, you've still got two-thirds of the games to be played and you want to keep a totally open mind," La Russa said. "Who knows? At this point, let everybody try to go out there and earn the max they can earn. They're playing to be one of the 25 and it brings out the best in them. You create that competition within your roster in Spring Training and you get them ready, and the way they win that competition is to play well. They're getting competitively sharp."

One of the factors when it comes to determing the Opening Day roster will be if the team is willing to carry a young player like outfielder Socrates Brito if he is not in a starting role.

Some organizations like to have a young player get regular at-bats in the Minor Leagues rather than sit on the bench in the big leagues. Brito is competing with Yasmany Tomas for the starting job in left.

While the front office ultimately determines what the 25-man roster will be, La Russa wants there to be consensus between himself, general manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale.

If Hale wanted to keep a young position player or pitcher, La Russa said the front office might ask if the manager were confident he could get that player enough at-bats to keep his development on track.

It's the same thing that happened when La Russa wanted to have rookie Albert Pujols on the Cardinals' roster to start the 2001 season and then-GM Walt Jocketty asked if La Russa could get him enough at-bats.

For the record, La Russa said he could and then played Pujols in 161 games.

"Technically, if you do it right, those decisions get made together," La Russa said.