After a month of being introduced to new faces, some position battles, a few too many injuries and struggles in Cactus League play, Spring Training is over and the Arizona Diamondbacks are set to begin their 2013 season.
Coming off a disappointing 2012 season, they are looking to get back to their winning and over-achieving ways like was the case in 2011. Pitching once again is the identity of this team as they bring back a very solid starting rotation from spots one through five and one of the strongest, if not the strongest bullpen in the National League.
On offense there will not be as many home runs than have seen over the last few years, especially as a result of Justin Upton being traded to the Braves. That means much more small ball and manufacturing runs will be the game plan for this team.
Lets preview the team as it stands as Opening Day approaches on April 1st:
As mentioned, the backbone of this team. Ian Kennedy takes the hill for the third consecutive season as the number one starter in this rotation. Though his numbers for the most part were down from 2011, he still tallied more than 200 innings for the team and took the mound every fifth day. He has been about as valuable as anyone on this team and will be once again.
Trevor Cahill dropped weight in the off-season and is supposedly in the best shape of his life going into 2013. He along with last year’s pleasant surprise Wade Miley and newly acquired Brandon McCarthy make of the team’s second, third and fourth starters. All three have the ability for sub four earned run averages, double digit wins and can log up to 200 innings if they can stay healthy. Having four starters like that could play huge dividends for this group. Patrick Corbin or newly acquired from the Justin Upton trade, Randall Delgado, will anchor the staff.
The Diamondbacks bullpen has the looks to be as dominant as any in the National League. Having four guys with closing experience in J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Heath Bell and Brad Ziegler. This has the makeup that if the above mentioned starters can go about six strong innings, this bullpen will be able to bring home the win. Josh Collmenter is also there in the mix which will handle a lot of the long relief situations and has proven that he is more than capable to do so. Kevin Towers has preached pitching since day one and this might be the best group of pitchers he has ever accumulated.
The Diamondbacks have locked up their infield for not only the present but also the future in the last off-season. Miguel Montero behind the plate, Paul Goldschmidt at first, Aaron Hill at second and Martin Prado at third. That looks the be the core group that the team is going to lean on offensively. Shortstop will be Cliff Pennington on opening day and the beginning of the season. Didi Gregorious, who was the key piece acquired in the Trevor Bauer trade, is battling an elbow injury and is going to start the season in mid-April for triple-A Reno. When he comes up the big leagues, many will be expecting big things especially from a defensive stand point from him.
There are four outfielders good enough to start in the three out-fielding spots for this team and starting who on what days will interesting to see. However, it will be easy to place each player in a spot to start the year as the team’s outfield is very banged up going into opening day. Everyone is excited to see the reigning Minor League Player of the Year, Adam Eaton. But he is out six to eight weeks with a strained UCL in his elbow. Also Cody Ross with a strained calf looks to be starting the year on the disabled list. Jason Kubel doesn’t expect to be DL bound but is banged up as well with ankle problems. The season will start with Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock. The others will be in once healthy. Once this group is healthy, they should make up a very strong core to this team.
To start the year, April will not be easy. The first nine games are against National League Central opponents including the St. Louis Cardinals as the opening series. The team will travel to the Bronx to face the Yankees in a rare inter-league matchup for this early in the season. Then will have five of their last 12 games of the month against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants.
Ian Kennedy and the 2013 Diamondbacks take the field for the first time Monday, April 1 against the Cardinals. First pitch set for 7:05 p.m. in what will be a nationally televised game.