The Diamondbacks enter spring in an enviable position: Contingent upon health, every job on the 25-man roster is spoken for.
Arizona plans to carry 13 position players and 12 pitchers, and all but perhaps one spot in the bullpen are filled, although that could change if infielder Chad Tracy and left-handed reliever Doug Slaten, both coming off offseason right knee microfracture surgeries, are delayed out of spring training.
"If we're healthy, you could make an argument that our 25-man roster is set. That being said, things can happen in spring training," general manager Josh Byrnes said.
The Diamondbacks won the NL West with youth last season and opted to keep the position player group almost intact -- infielder/outfielder Chris Burke replaced departed free agent first baseman Tony Clark on the roster.
Conor Jackson, Orlando Hudson, Stephen Drew and Mark Reynolds are the infield starters, with Burke, middle infielder Augie Ojeda and corner man Tracy the projected reserves.
Eric Byrnes, Chris Young and Justin Upton are the starting outfielders, with Jeff Salazar the reserve. Starting catcher Chris Snyder and backup Miguel Montero round out the roster, although catcher/outfielder Robby Hammock is a candidate if Tracy is forced to open on the disabled list.
Right-handers Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Micah Owings and left-handers Randy Johnson and Doug Davis make up the rotation. The majority of the bullpen appears set with closer Brandon Lyon, setup men Tony Pena, Chad Qualls and Juan Cruz, lefty situational specialist Doug Slaten and long reliever Edgar Gonzalez. Right-handers Dustin Nippert and Brandon Medders, both out of options, are the top candidates for the final spot.
--LHP Randy Johnson threw 27 pitches in his first bullpen outing of the spring on Feb. 17, and manager Bob Melvin came away impressed. Johnson is on a slightly different schedule than his fellow pitchers, with his next scheduled bullpen session set for Feb. 21. As a concession to his surgically repaired back, Johnson will do a very limited amount of pitchers' fundamental practice and hitting this spring as he returns from August back surgery. "You know, the guy's been playing all his life. He can pick up a ball and throw it to first," one Diamondbacks' official said. "His job is to go out and pitch. We are trying to get the most out of a very talented guy. We want to make sure we maximize that the best we can."
--LHP Doug Slaten played long toss with LHP Randy Johnson early in camp and does not expect to throw off a mound until the last week of February while returning from microfracture surgery on his right knee. Slaten said he has had four knee surgeries, two on each knee, since the first one when he was 15. He attributes the wear and tear to playing youth basketball on the cement courts near his Venice, Calif., home, where the movie "White Men Can't Jump" was filmed.
--RHP Micah Owings, third among major league rookies with eight victories last season, is working on a new delivery. Instead of starting his motion at the extreme left side of the rubber, Owings will begin at the far right side. Pitching coach Bryan Price believes the adjustment will make it more difficult for right-handed hitters to pick up the ball, and that it also may make his slider more effective.
--Manager Bob Melvin hinted at the winter meetings that Owings might take
groundballs at first base this spring as another way to get put his bat into
play, but he nixed that idea when camp opened: "Whether or not I actually throw him out there in a position is a difficult thing to do,"
Melvin said. "With a guy that you count on to be out there every five days for you, injury is obviously first and foremost, and to put him in another position doing other things that could affect not only his routine, but do things that could tax your body a little more probably isn't realistic."
--RHP Tony Pena had his usual visa problems when attempting to leave his Dominican Republic home for spring training, and the Diamondbacks have been given no timetable for his arrival. Pena has had difficulty every spring since it was discovered that he signed a contract and played his first two minor league seasons under the name of his nephew, Adriano Rosario.
--RHP Juan Cruz was expected to miss the first four days of spring training workouts because of a dispute with the government in his native Dominican Republic. The government is attempting to build a highway through the land where Cruz's house sits, and Cruz was in negotiations with officials in an attempt to keep the plan from being enacted.
--RHP Juan Gutierrez was delayed arriving in camp because of visa problems that occurred when he had to reapply after being acquired in a trade with Houston.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Pitchers in the Diamondbacks' starting rotation who have started on Opening Day: Randy Johnson (14), Brandon Webb (2), Dan Haren (1) and Doug Davis (1). Webb is to make the Opening Day start in Cincinnati this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was never going to win a Gold Glove." -- LHP Randy Johnson, who will participate in only a limited amount of pitchers' fundamental practice and batting practice this spring as the Diamondbacks attempt to limit the workload on his surgically repaired back.
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