Gibson hopes Spring Training sparks competition
D-backs enter camp with No. 5 starter, outfield roles to be determined
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rain and cooler than normal temperatures greeted D-backs pitchers and catchers Monday as they reported for the start of Spring Training.
Inside the Salt River Fields complex, however, temperatures were plenty hot, with players and management alike determined to improve from last year's disappointing 81-81 third-place finish in the National League West.
"That's not what I expect. It's not what you hope for your team," said manager Kirk Gibson. "I've certainly evaluated myself, and I do have to do things better and do my part, but so does everyone else. It's a collective effort. It's us. If we can have that chemistry and make sure our agendas are all the same, we create us and have the chemistry and the chance to be a championship team."
Technically, in order to consider themselves reported, pitchers and catchers simply had to contact the club Monday to say they had arrived in Arizona. Some players underwent physicals Monday night, and the first workout is Tuesday around 9:30 a.m. MST.
Position players must report Thursday, with the first full-squad workout taking place Friday.
Plenty of new faces will be in camp this spring with the D-backs having undergone a major roster renovation in the offseason.
Chris Young, Justin Upton and Stephen Drew -- all core players over the past six seasons -- are gone. Some of the new faces are Martin Prado, Cody Ross, Eric Chavez, Cliff Pennington, Eric Hinske and Didi Gregorius.
Upton, in particular, had in many ways become the face of the franchise, with the organization dubbing the right-field bleachers "Uptown," prompting a question for Gibson as to whom will take Upton's place.
"I know who it is, it's us," Gibson said. "I just see it as us. Just look at the team the way it is. It's not one person. It could be anybody on any given day. It really can be. There's a lot of strength and depth, and a lot of ability and good makeup, I think."
While the theme of the 2011 spring was competition with Gibson declaring every job up for grabs, the roster was virtually set heading into camp last season.
The bullpen and infield -- with the exception of shortstop -- are pretty much set this season, but the club hopes to foster a more competitive atmosphere.
The biggest competition among the pitchers will be for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, with youngsters Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin and Randall Delgado the main contenders. All three have at least had a taste of the Major Leagues.
"Those guys have enough experience to come in and know what it's all about," Gibson said.
The bullpen seems set, with closer J.J. Putz, setup man David Hernandez, Heath Bell, Brad Ziegler, Tony Sipp, Matt Reynolds and Josh Collmenter. Gibson will spend the spring trying to determine how best to utilize the two lefties -- Sipp and Reynolds -- who arrived in Arizona in separate trades during the winter.
"When we leave Spring Training, hopefully I'll have a better feel this year than I did last year for how to use people and put them in position to succeed," Gibson said.
Spring Training could go a long way towards determining how the outfield playing time is divided. Jason Kubel, Adam Eaton, Ross and Gerardo Parra all figure to be part of the Opening Day roster, but Gibson said it's not certain that Parra will not have a starting job.
"He's got a chance to be a starting outfielder," Gibson said. "We've got our four outfielders there. Can't really tell you who's going to be the three guys that start on Opening Day, but Parra's got as good a chance as anybody."
Pennington has a leg up to be the starting shortstop, but Willie Bloomquist should get his fair share of playing time, and the club will have to make a decision about veteran John McDonald and rookie Gregorius.
Miguel Montero has been a mainstay behind the plate, and Gibson would like to reduce the 29-year-old's workload. The club already had Wil Nieves pegged as Montero's backup, but over the weekend, the D-backs signed veteran Rod Barajas, who played for the organization from 1999-2003. Nieves and Barajas will now battle for the backup spot.
Offense will certainly be part of the competition, but how well Nieves and Barajas are able to work with the pitchers is even more important.
"We like competition," Gibson said. "A veteran guy [Barajas], he's been here before, the organization knows him well. Wil Nieves did a good job for us last year. We hope they push each other."