One of the prayers club officials say at the start of every year is for their team to remain healthy. Injuries can loom as a major consequence in the fate of a team, and could ultimately influence placement in the standings.
While this is certainly true as the 2016 baseball marathon approaches, the Diamondbacks reference to healthy bodies could go back to last season. That’s when third baseman Jake Lamb went down for over two months and second baseman Chris Owings never recovered from off-season shoulder surgery prior to the 2015 season.
Lamb, who beat out Yasmany Tomas to win the position in spring training, was off to a torrid start. When he went down with a stress reaction to his left foot on April 18, Lamb was hitting .414. Aaron Hill immediately filled at third and started the next day against the Giants’ Tim Hudson. During the first week of the season, Lamb picked up seven RBIs in the first two games of the season. That set a team record and he was the first rookie to achieve such a feat since the Tigers’ Johnny Groth did this in 1949.
When Lamb returned to the line-up in early June, his bat appeared sawed off and an absence of power was evident. Still, he managed a .393 batting average from Aug. 23 to Sept. 7, and ended the season hitting .263 with six home runs and 34 RBIs.
Owings, a 24-year-old out of Charlestown, S. C., never reached any kind of potential. Starting in spring training and throughout the season, Owings compromised on his swing to compensate for off-season surgery to repair his left labrum. Owings was coming off a .261, 2014 season, and was given the second base job with great expectations. The physical adjustment Owings made clearly influenced his swing, and he managed only a .227 batting average in 515 plate appearances
Now, the expectations for both are high, and their development through the up-coming spring training period will be critical. That’s because manager Chip Hale and the other Arizona decision-makers believe each is ready to bring their game to a high level.
“We’re looking for much better seasons from Lamb and Owings,” Hale said last month at the winter meetings in Nashville. “For Jake, we’re looking for more power and the ability to drive the ball. He’s shown that in the past.”
Lamb stared the 2014 season at Double-AA Mobile and came up with numbers which Hale referenced. Before called up the Diamondbacks in late August, Lamb hit .318 with the BayBears, slammed 35 doubles, hit 14 home runs and drove in 79 runs in 103 games. While there is no evidence that the foot injury cut into his numbers, the .261 batting average was the lowest of Lamb’s professional career at any level.
Because rumors persist that second baseman Howie Kendrick, still a free agent here with a month to go before the start of spring training, would made an ideal fit at second base, the organization seems ready to see how Lamb and Owings preform though camp. Many believe the Diamondbacks offense, powered by Paul Goldschmidt and A. J. Pollock, will continue to function at a very high, productive level. Strong contributions from Lamb and Owings could make the offense that much more lethal.
The spring training dates for all 30 major league teams are finalized. The Diamondbacks begin their sixth spring at the Salt River complex in Scottsdale they share with the Colorado Rockies.
Catchers and pitchers report on Wed. Feb. 17 and first workouts are the following day. Position players report on Monday Feb. 22 and commence workouts the following day.
In all, the Diamondbacks will have 63 players in camp. This includes 40 on the 40-man roster and 23 non-roster invitees.
Here are the players invited to camp.
Right-handed pitchers (16): Chase Anderson, Jake Barrett, Silvino Bracho, Archie Bradley, Enrique Burgos, Josh Collmenter, Rubby De La Rosa, Randall Delgado, Zack Godley, Zack Greinke, Daniel Hudson, Matt Koch, Dominic Leone, Shelby Miller, Matt Stites and Brad Ziegler.
Left-handed pitchers (6): Andrew Chafin, Patrick Corbin, Keith Hessler, Will Locante, Robbie Ray and Matt Reynolds.
Catchers (4): Welington Castillo, Chris Hermann, Tuffy Gosewisch and Oscar Hernandez.
Infielders (7): Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury, Paul Goldschmidt, Phil Gosselin, Aaron Hill, Jake Lamb and Chris Owings.
Outfielders (6): Socrates Brito, Gabriel Guerrero, David Peralta, Peter O’Brien, A.J. Pollock and Yasmany Tomás.
Disabled List (1): Evan Marshall.
The 23 non-roster invitees:
Right-handed pitchers (9): Matt Buschmann, Jose Cisnero, Miller Diaz, Kyle Drabek, Kaleb Fleck, Yóan Lopez, Adam Miller, Braden Shipley and Tim Stauffer
Left-handed pitchers (4): Daniel Gibson, Adam Loewen, Scott Rice and Wesley Wright.
Catchers (2): Brett Hayes and Mark Thomas.
Infielders (4): Joaquin Arias, Kyle Jensen, Jack Reinheimer and Carlos Rivero.
Outfielders (4): Zach Borenstein, Jason Bourgeois, Todd Glaesmann and Evan Marzilli.