With Greinke and Goldschmidt, Arizona looks to contend
PHOENIX (AP) There are 206.5 million reasons the Arizona Diamondbacks expect to contend this season.
That's the price the Diamondbacks paid -$206.5 million over six years - to lure one of baseball's top pitchers, Zack Greinke, to the desert. Add Shelby Miller, obtained in a trade with Atlanta, and throw in a healthy Patrick Corbin and Arizona believes it has a 1-2-3 rotation that can compete with anyone.
When he surprised the baseball world and signed with the Diamondbacks, Greinke talked about how he'd admired the team's all-out style of play. He said he saw nothing in spring training to change that perception.
''I haven't seen a mistake in the field yet all the times I've watched,'' Greinke said, ''and it seems we score at least five runs a game and the pitching staff's better than it was last year. So all the good things that were going on last year are still going on and then the parts that needed improvement have been improved.''
Arizona returns one of the best defensive units in the National League and nearly all the components of a team that ranked second in the NL.
National baseball prognosticators have been slow to consider the Diamondbacks serious contenders in the NL West, where the Los Angeles Dodgers win with big money and the San Francisco Giants have won three World series the last five years.
But the players felt an unmistakable positive vibe throughout a highly successful spring. Records mean nothing in the spring, of course, but players often remarked about how good the team feels
''That team gets after it and it's fun to watch,'' All-Star center fielder A.J. Pollock said.
Chip Hale, entering his second season at the Diamondbacks helm, was asked to describe the personality of the team. He didn't hesitate.
''Aggressive,'' he said. ''And I would say family, very family oriented. These guys take care of each other. I think this is an aggressive team.''
Here are a few things to watch when the Diamondbacks open play at home Monday against Colorado.
CROWDED INFIELD: The Diamondbacks are loaded with young talent at the middle infield positions and every candidate had a good spring. That includes shortstop/second baseman Jean Segura, acquired in an offseason trade with Milwaukee, slick-fielding shortstop Nick Ahmed, second baseman/shortstop Chris Owings. There's also second baseman/third baseman Phil Gosselin, second baseman-third baseman Brandon Drury and veteran infielder Rickie Weeks.
''I think it will work itself out,'' Hale said. ''I think we're going to have to make a decision on two of them getting more time than one. I'd like to be a round robin (three players) but it's sounding more like we're probably going to have to decide on two of them.''
But those left out could well be back.
''Injuries, performance are going to be part of that,'' Hale said. ''So they're always going to be held at a high standard. There's going to be someone sitting in the wings.''
SEGURA AT SECOND: Segura has been a shortstop in his professional career, but he played some at second in the spring as the Diamondbacks toy with the personnel possibilities at short.
''It feels a little bit weird,'' Segura said. ''But at the same time you feel good trying to work there, trying to do the best you can to learn that position and I think we're going to be fine.''
ACE UP THEIR SLEEVE: For the first time in years, since Brandon Webb really, the Diamondbacks have a bona fide ace. And boy will that make Hale's job easier.
Last year with the Dodgers, Greinke was 19-3 with an NL-best 1.66 ERA. He tied an NL record with six consecutive scoreless starts.
''It's huge,'' Hale said. ''That's a manager's dream because you know when you're going through some struggles, he's a guy that when he pitches can get your team straightened out.''
ROTATION BOTTOM: The top of the rotation looks impressive, the bottom is a big question mark. Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa struggled in the spring and young lefty Robbie Ray is still looking for consistency.
If either falters, don't be surprised if Arizona quickly dips into the minor league system where a handful of options await.
A.J. & GOLDY: Hale is hoping someone among the infielders emerges as a leadoff hitter, so the manager doesn't have to have Pollock fill that role.
Hale prefers Pollock batting just ahead of Paul Goldschmidt. The two were among the league's best hitters a year ago.
First, Pollock needs to get healthy. He missed much of the spring training play with a sore right elbow although he insists he will be ready for opening day.