The Arizona Diamondbacks did a lot of things right this spring, when they ranked second in the National League in runs and stolen bases, but the one thing they were unable to do was stay healthy.
Arizona will open the season with three key contributors on the disabled list, starting outfielders Adam Eaton and Cody Ross and handyman Willie Bloomquist. Eaton and Ross comprise two-thirds of the outfield remake as starters in center field and right, respectively, and Bloomquist is expected to be in a platoon at shortstop and also spent time at second base and in the outfield.
Eaton, the MVP of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League while playing for Reno last season, is the expected leadoff hitter, and his ability to energize the lineup with stolen base speed at the top of the order is something the D-backs have not had since Tony Womack hit there in the early days of the franchise. Eaton, who hit .390 with two home runs and three stolen bases this spring, will take the place of Chris Young, who was traded to Oakland in a three-team transaction over the winter in which the D-backs received shortstop Cliff Pennington and reliever Heath Bell.
Pennington, a switch hitter, was expected to be the left-handed hitting part of a shortstop platoon with Bloomquist, but he is likely to receive most of the playing time until Bloomquist returns. Bloomquist hit .317 against left-handers last season, when he had a career-high 21 doubles. Non-roster invitee Josh Wilson made the team as a backup infielder, and he was added to the 40-man roster Sunday. He had 36 at-bats (and two relief appearances) with the D-backs in small parts of 2009 and 2011.
The D-backs had an extra middle infielder, John McDonald, in camp most of the spring, but they traded him to Pittsburgh about a week before Bloomquist's injury in order to place him before the hectic final week.
Ross, signed as a free agent, had only seven at-bats this spring after suffering a left calf strain the first week of March, although he took quite a few at-bats in minor league games the final week of March. Once healthy, he will start in right field in place of Justin Upton, who was traded to Atlanta as part of a six-player deal that landed third base starter Martin Prado and starting-pitching prospect Randall Delgado.
Gerardo Parra, the 2011 NL Gold Glove winner in left field, will start in right field in Ross' absence, while A.J. Pollock will play center. Pollock has shown an ability to cover all three outfield spots, and Parra is better suited to a corner, especially right, where his plus arm plays well.
Alfredo Marte, who was added to the 40-man roster over the winter, made the team as the fourth outfielder over Tony Campana, who was optioned to Reno. Marte, 24 on Sunday, hit .294 with 20 homers and 75 RBIS at Double-A Mobile last season, when he was named to the midseason and postseason All-Star teams. He has not played above the Double-A level.
Veteran Wil Nieves won the only expected position battle entering spring training, beating out veteran Rod Barajas for the backup catcher job behind Miguel Montero. Nieves spent the final two months with the D-backs last season, signing after Henry Blanco suffered a broken thumb and was lost for the season.
Left-hander Patrick Corbin won the only pitching spot available, beating out Delgado and Tyler Skaggs for the fifth spot in the rotation. Corbin was 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA in spring training, striking out 26 and walking nine in 25 2/3 innings. Delgado had a 6.88 ERA.
Left-hander Wade Miley, who missed a start because of arm fatigue early in spring, threw 94 pitches in his final tuneup Saturday. Manager Kirk Gibson said he would see how Miley recovered before setting his rotation for the first week. Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy will start during the season-opening three-game series against St. Louis, with Miley and Corbin following in some order for the first two games of a weekend series in Milwaukee.