Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Sometimes you have to work with unexpected tools that just may not be what you needed for the job.
The D’backs are getting a taste of this dilemma right now as word spreads that they’ve lost yet another starter in Willie Bloomquist heading into the opening night of the regular season.
The Diamondbacks felt they had an advantage with their outfield depth heading in to spring training for the second straight year despite much talk of a ‘crowded outfield.’ With the likes of Gerardo Parra, Jason Kubel, Cody Ross and Adam Eaton the team was excited with the group of guys on their roster.
Now three weeks later, as spring training winds down this week and culminates with a final exhibition game at Chase Field on Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds it looks as though the team is going to be fielding one of the three expected outfielders and no Willie Bloomquist at shortstop for opening day on April 1.
Below is a breakdown of what the D’backs are up against with just five days before Opening Night at Chase Field.
Cody Ross jogged yesterday for the first time since March 3rd when he went down with a calf strain that has left him sidelined virtually all spring, his first with the D’backs. All signs point to Ross beginning the season on the DL although Towers hinted that it’s likely he’ll only miss the first five games with the ability to back date the injury. Still, even if Ross does miss just five regular season games, the 32 year old has just nine plate appearances without recording a hit all spring.
Adam Eaton was enjoying one of the best spring starts on the team when trainers discovered a partial tear in his elbow, specifically in his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) on March 22nd. This injury, although not requiring surgery, will keep the rookie from throwing a baseball for four weeks and possibly keep him out of games for eight weeks meaning his return may not come until the middle of May.
Jason Kubel, the team leader in home runs and runs batted in last season, rolled his ankle in the batter’s box during Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels and left for precautionary reasons. While the ankle roll turns out to be of little concern after Kubel played on it Wednesday, the left fielder has also been battling a sore knee that stemmed from running into the outfield wall a few days prior.
With the three expected outfield starters banged up and two of them expected to begin the season on the disabled list, the club will likely be looking at a starting outfield of Kubel in left, A.J. Pollock in center, and Parra in right. The fourth outfielder role would likely be Tony Campana or Alfredo Marte while Ross and Eaton work to get healthy.
This scenario is certainly not what manager Kirk Gibson had in mind at the start of spring, however things could be worse. After all, Pollock was the teams first round draft pick in the 2009 amateur draft taking him 17th overall. Parra has a gold glove under his belt and hopes to carry over his strong spring to the regular season to prove that he can be an everyday outfielder with the Diamondbacks.
As mentioned above, the team will also be without infielder Willie Bloomquist on opening day now as the 35 year old Tuesday night’s game with a right oblique strain that he was not very optimistic about, “I definitely did something,” he said. “We’ll figure out tomorrow how bad it is and make a game plan, and hopefully it’s not too long.” Bloomquist completed an MRI on the muscle this morning revealing a grade two oblique strain meaning he will start the season on the disabled list with no timetable for return at this point.
With Bloomquist forced to begin the season on the DL, the club will rely on Cliff Pennington at shortstop and as Steve Gilbert reports, keep Josh Wilson as their utility infielder to open up the season.
One final issue that the club is closely monitoring isn’t necessarily an injury but rookie of the year runner-up, Wade Miley has been reporting a ‘tired arm’ this spring and was held out of his scheduled start last week to work against the ‘B’ league to see if his arm was OK or if he would require additional time off.
His final appearance this spring will be on Saturday against the Reds when he is projected to throw up to 90 pitches which will give the team a better idea of whether or not the 26 year old will be ready come opening day.
Thus far, the lefty appears to be on track to begin the season as the team’s fourth starter, pitching the first game in Milwaukee next week.
Despite these injuries to key players, in a best case scenario, the D’backs will be back on track by the middle of May at the latest with plenty baseball left to play.
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