Dbacks starters looking to find groove

slider diamondbacks_ian_kennedyOn paper, the Diamondbacks appear to be the team to beat in the National League West.

Coming off a surprising 94-win season last year, General Manager Kevin Towers added power to the middle of the lineup with Jason Kubel who came over from the Twins and depth to the starting rotation acquiring Trevor Cahill from the A’s in December.

Many experts feel the Dbacks aren’t only a safe bet to win the NL West, but possibly flirt for a spot in the World Series with a nice mix of youth and experience on manager Kirk Gibson’s roster as Opening Day approaches on Friday.

However, some within baseball aren’t convinced the Snakes are ready to repeat their success of 2011 and it starts on the mound.

“We’ve all seen the pitching has not looked good this spring,” USA Today baseball insider Bob Nightengale told Brad Cesmat Tuesday on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “[Josh] Collmenter has struggled. Trevor Cahill doesn’t look like his Oakland days. Joe Saunders has been up and down.”

Scouts have said Collementer’s velocity is down from a year ago, while Cahill looks like he’s “throwing batting practice” with little movement on his pitches.

The good news for Arizona is there is depth in the minors with first-round pick Trevor Bauer and promising young lefty Tyler Skaggs among others ready for duty if the back half of Gibson’s rotation stumbles out of the gates.

Offensively, the Dbacks feature a likely MVP candidate in Justin Upton, center fielder Chris Young who’s had an excellent spring, and slugging catcher Miguel Montero who posted career highs in doubles, homers, and runs batted in last year.

With that being said, Nightengale believes Kubel could be the piece in Arizona.

“I loved the [trade],” he told Cesmat. “I think in this lineup in this ballpark you’re going to see this guy hit 30 home runs. I think you’ll see the real Jason Kubel this year and next.”

The Dbacks open the season with a quick three-game home stand against the Giants before hitting the road next week.