Pitchers and catchers reported for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday and there are plenty of questions at both positions for new manager Chip Hale.
Hale, bench coach for Bob Melvin in Oakland, took over for the fired Kirk Gibson,
He says 12 to 14 pitchers have a chance to make the rotation. And he says the competition is "wide open" to replace departed catcher Miguel Montero. Hale says all eight catchers in camp have a chance to make the team.
The Diamondbacks had the worst record in baseball last season at 64-98.
Hale said that should provide motivation.
"It's human nature," he said. "No one likes to get laughed at. Ninety-eight losses is not good. They realize that."
With most of the position players on hand for informal workouts for the past few weeks, Hale said he has getting to know the players.
"What they're saying is unbelievable and the things that they've shown to me early on are really good," Hale said, "really good signs of a team that can come together and win. But the character issue and the drive and all these things, we'll have to see."
Talking a good game is the easy part.
"The things that are being said and different things I read on texts are the perfect things we're looking for," Hale said, "but we really won't' see it until we get under fire and see how they react with each other."
Two pitchers who probably are locks to make the rotation are Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson.
Collmenter, 11-9 with a 3.46 ERA last season for Arizona, has moved from starter to long reliever and back to starter again. He could be the opening day pitcher.
"It's kind of been a revolving door for me as opposed to a one-way street," Collmenter said. "It's exciting to be back in the rotation and hopefully last year kind of solidified that. ... To potentially be the opening starter would be an incredible honor."
Hellickson, acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, missed the first part of last season after undergoing surgery on his right elbow. When he returned, he struggled to a 1-5 record with a 4.52 ERA in 13 starts. The Diamondbacks are banking on him to return to his earlier form. In 2011, he was 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA and was American League rookie of the year
"He's healthy again 100 percent for the first time in a while," Hale said. "He feels it. The trainers feel like he's ready to go and compete. He's a very good competitor."
Performance in spring training could determine the rest of the rotation.
"We like to go on what guys have done in the past, their seasons last year for example," Hale said. "But in this situation if a guy jumps out at us in spring training he could jump himself right on the team."
Peter O'Brien, a minor leaguer obtained from the New York Yankees last year in the Martin Prado trade, has a reputation as a good hitter with suspect defense.
"O'Brien has worked really hard with (bench coach and former catching instructor) Glen Sherlock all year. He's been here every day working," Hale said. "He can be really special."
Another candidate, the manager said, is Oscar Hernandez, "an exciting rule five guy that you guys are really going to like."
Hale said he and Diamondback head of baseball operations Tony La Russa have talked about how to proceed this spring.
"For us, the way you teach is to go back and start at ground zero," he said. "When a team loses 98 games, it's not hard to get their attention."
Outfielder Mark Trumbo won his arbitration case with Arizona on Thursday, awarded the $6.9 million he had sought. He was the first Diamondback to go to arbitration since 2001.
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