Abreu part of D-backs' 'nice problem'
Positional depth could be an asset in any pitching deal
TUCSON, Ariz. -- A surplus of depth at any position is a problem clubs can handle.
But how the surplus is managed by a club, especially when there are other areas of need, is the difficult part.
The D-backs are faced with that age-old scenario, and many more as Opening Day approaches. There are three spots on the bench and four players -- Augie Ojeda, Ryan Roberts, Ryan Ryal and Tony Abreu -- competing for them.
Ojeda and Roberts seem like locks for spots, but which player, Ryal or Abreu, heads to Triple-A? And with the lingering questions about the starting rotation behind Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson, is it time to move an extra infielder to fill pitching needs?
Is it really realistic to think the D-backs can acquire a No. 3 starter for Ojeda, and how does Brandon Webb's health play into all of this?
These are just some of the many questions D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes is likely pondering in the final few weeks of camp.
"We have the best depth we've had in years, so there are decisions to be made regarding the 25-man roster and playing time, but it's a good problem to have," Byrnes said. "We have a lot of guys that can swing the bat and contribute."
"Let me put it this way: We don't have to do any [trades] and we are prepared to keep the guys we have," he added.
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There's also the Webb factor for Byrnes to consider. The right-handed pitcher has said he's hoping for a late-April return and is on a throwing program that is best described as "day-to-day." But what if Webb needs more time and the D-backs need pitching in the meantime? That's where a package deal involving the surplus of infielders could come into play. First baseman Brandon Allen, who was seen participating in outfield drills Thursday, is also looking for playing time.
Here's the tricky part: The D-backs are not sure when Webb will be back on the mound or in the rotation.
"Generally speaking, to get a guy six or seven innings, it takes three to four weeks, and we'll adapt accordingly depending on how big of a pitch count we want him to have," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "But it really doesn't start until Day 1. It's hard to project when that's going to be. We hope it's sooner rather than later, but it doesn't do me any good to speculate when we are still not sure when Day 1 is."
Here's what is certain: Hinch likes Abreu. The manager also likes the rest of his squad, and the D-backs are hoping for the best.
"[Abreu's] shown a lot of versatility in the field and he's played very well defensively," Hinch said. "He swung the bat very well early in camp and he kind of hit the wall in the middle of camp, but he's a complete player. He has good energy and a good attitude. He's shown very well in camp and I'm glad we have him."
Abreu is not taking anything for granted. Acquired from the Dodgers for Jon Garland last year, the Dominican Republic native has something to prove after missing all of 2008 and the first month of the '09 season after hip surgery.
"I'm working hard and I appreciate the opportunity to fight for a job," Abreu said. "I've had a lot of problems in the past, but I'm healthy now and I'm happy about it. It's their decision where I go. They are the bosses and I'm just here to do my job whenever they tell me. If they say the Minor Leagues, I'll go there."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.