There are several things the Diamondbacks can take away from the final weekend of Spring Training games heading into Opening Day 2012.
While Manager Kirk Gibson has set his pitching rotation with Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Josh Collmenter, Trevor Cahill, and Joe Saunders, he has left open the possibility of changing things up. According to D-backs.com, Gibson said minor league prospect Patrick Corbin still has an outside shot at making the rotation. Despite a rough outing on Monday against the Chicago Cubs in which he gave up seven runs, Corbin still has had an outstanding spring. He has a respectable 3.00 ERA in six games, giving up 13 runs, while striking out 20 opposing batters and limiting those batters to a .178 batting average.
One thing is for certain, Kennedy and Hudson have certainly started pitching well the closer Opening Day comes. After rocky spring training starts, Kennedy has gone 2-2 with a 3.98 ERA, while Hudson has gone 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA. Hudson is poised to have a breakout year, which has already been well documented here on Venom Strikes. In his last game Sunday, he allowed one hit in five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out the last 14 batters he faced and struck out five.
Another thing Gibson talked about was the bullpen and how he still has not decided who will be making up the seven-man bullpen. The only two things which have been decided is J.J. Putz will be the closer and David Hernandez will be the setup man. All of the other roles have yet to be set, but it seems like Takashi Saito will be the seventh inning man. The other pitchers in contention for the last four spots are Joe Paterson, Craig Breslow, Brad Ziegler, Bryan Shaw, and Mike Zagurski.
While we know spring training numbers don’t necessarily translate into success in the regular season, center fielder Chris Young is going to have to make it happen. Young, who has been hitting lights out this spring with a .407 batting average and five home runs, one of which came Monday, will have to continue the hot streak if he wants to keep his starting position with Gerardo Parra the odd man out in the outfield with the addition of Jason Kubel. Parra, who is hitting .288 this spring is a serious threat to take over an outfield spot if Young or Kubel can’t live up to expectations. Justin Upton is set up for another stellar year in right field as one of the young, rising stars of Major League Baseball.
The biggest question in the infield surrounds shortstop Stephen Drew. Drew, who suffered a gruesome injury last season has yet to step into a spring training game and is still on the recovery with no end, currently in sight. With Drew still out, Willie Bloomquist will be taking over the every day duties until Drew can make his return. Aaron Hill and John McDonald will split time at second base, while Ryan Roberts appears to be set a third base and Paul Goldschmidt will be handling the duties a first base with Miguel Montero behind the dish.
The Diamondbacks seem ready to defend their title but if Drew can’t come back sooner rather than later and the back end of the rotation can’t hold up, the D-backs could be searching for answers midway through the season.