With new manager, mostly same players, D-backs optimistic

PHOENIX (AP) The 2016 season went south in a hurry and the Arizona Diamondbacks never recovered.

The result was a 95-loss team. General manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale were fired.

New general manager Mike Hazen took a look around and decided not to make wholesale changes this year, not yet anyway.

These Diamondbacks, led by perennial All-Star Paul Goldschmidt, can hit. They were third in the National League in runs scored.

Arizona traded away second baseman Jean Segura but should more than make up for it with the return of outfielders A.J. Pollock and David Peralta from injuries.

Oh, but that pitching.

The Diamondbacks had the worst ERA in the majors (5.09).

Zack Greinke, in his first season after signing a six-year, $206.5 million contract, struggled with injuries and went 13-7 with a 4.37 ERA.

Shelby Miller, acquired in a trade that sent two top prospects to Atlanta, was 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA. Left-hander Patrick Corbin, still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, was ineffective and eventually was sent to the bullpen, where he pitched better.

New manager Torey Lovullo, the personable former Red Sox bench coach, understands the perception that this is a team that can hit but can't pitch. But he said he's been impressed with the starters so far.

''Pitchers set the tone for the game,'' Lovullo said. ''It's no mystery that everything revolves around them. I think these guys have accepted that challenge.''

The Diamondbacks' $100 million payroll is probably less than half that of NL West rivals Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Greinke uses up a big share.

Here are some things to look for with this season's Arizona Diamondbacks:

ROTATION: Greinke will head mostly the same group that started last season - Miller, Corbin and Robbie Ray. The newcomer is Taijuan Walker, acquired in the trade that sent Segura to Seattle. ''I've been impressed from the get-go,'' Lovullo insisted, ''from the first bullpen.''

POLLOCK & PERALTA: Big things were planned for Pollock before he fractured his elbow with a head-first slide into home plate a couple of days before last season's opener. One of the best centerfielders in the game, Pollock was an All-Star in 2015, batting .315 with 20 home runs, 76 RBIs 111 runs scored and 39 stolen bases. He will bat leadoff, Lovullo said. Peralta, the right fielder, hit .312 in 2015 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs. But last season he was limited to 48 games and underwent wrist surgery last Aug. 11. ''The professionalism that they walk around with helps us offensively and defensively on a daily basis,.'' Lovullo said.

DRURY AT SECOND: The emergence of Brandon Drury was one reason Segura was traded away. As a rookie last season, Drury's.365 average after Aug. 15 was fourth-best in the majors. So he starts this season with confidence. ''I learned a lot mentally and physically,'' he said. ''I just decided to build off it (last season).''

LAMB'S SLUMP: Third baseman Jake Lamb had a great first half last season. But he slumped badly after that. Lamb hit .249 but did have 29 home runs and 91 RBIs. He spent the offseason studying film and enters this season wiser. ''Struggles are going to happen,'' he said, ''but I've just got to be able to minimize that, not having the whole half of the season be a huge slump.'' Another problem was his 20 errors. He said he's figured out that the problem was how he set up before the pitch.

BULLPEN: Forty-one-year-old Fernando Rodney is the closer. The rest of the bullpen is a major question mark.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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