3/6/2013 4:27 P.M. ET
Little things adding up for Towers
General manager pleased with re-modeled offense early in spring
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Through the first couple of weeks of Cactus League games, D-backs general manager Kevin Towers likes what he's seen from his club.
During his offseason makeover, which included the departures of mainstays Chris Young and Justin Upton, Towers emphasized wanting the offense to rely less on the home run and be able to create runs in other ways.
"I think offensively, I've seen a lot of good things," Towers said. "We've been much better at advancing runners, getting runners in from third base with less than two outs, advancing a guy on a ground ball to the right side. They're doing some of the little things right that we didn't do over past years. We're scoring runs without hitting homers, which is what we were hoping for."
In center fielder Adam Eaton, the D-backs have their first legitimate leadoff man in quite a while. Newly acquired third baseman Martin Prado seems to be a good fit in the No. 2 hole ahead of Aaron Hill.
"We've got kind of a real table-setter," Towers said of Eaton. "When he gets on base, good things happen. Corners are coming in, they know Prado is going to put the ball in play, he's got a chance to hit-and-run. We're jumping on people early and we're scoring without hitting the long ball, which is good.
"If we're able to do that throughout the year -- we're still going to hit our home runs -- but if we can score runs without having to hit the home run and do it in other ways we should be in a lot of ballgames. And if our pitching is as good as I think it's going to be, I think we'll compete."
Towers has liked what he's seen so far from shortstops Cliff Pennington and Willie Bloomquist. Paul Goldschmidt also drew praise.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has already named Ian Kennedy the team's Opening Day starter. He'll be followed by Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy.
The bullpen also seems set with closer J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Heath Bell, Brad Ziegler, Tony Sipp, Matt Reynolds and Josh Collmenter.
"We're not walking a lot of guys," Towers said. "Our starters and relievers are pounding the strike zone. I think, of late, we've started to pitch inside a little bit better. Early in camp, I think we were getting a little too much of the plate. But maybe that's just being out there for the first time. We're kind of taking away the inner half of the plate, which I think is big and vital."
This has been Towers' first extended look at McCarthy and the right-hander has been sharp in his first two outings.
"First time I saw him behind the plate, [the ball] comes out of his hand easy and he's got great location," Towers said. "He just keeps the ball down and inside, outside, keeps them off-balance with the breaking ball. Big tall, good downward trajectory. I've liked what I've seen. The key thing is keep him healthy. If we keep him out there for 25 to 30 starts, I think he'll put together a pretty good year."
The biggest battle in camp is for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, with Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado the main competitors.
Corbin has pitched the best so far, but Skaggs had a really good outing on Tuesday night and there's still plenty of time for one of the three to separate themselves.
"We're going to have a good option regardless," Towers said. "And we'll have depth behind whoever ends up breaking with us."
The one real area of concern for Towers thus far is the health of outfielder Cody Ross.
Signed as a free agent during the offseason, Ross strained his left calf and is going to be out for at least 2-to-3 weeks, placing his availability for Opening Day in question.
"I'm sure we have to look at Plan B to start the season if for some reason he's not ready to go," Towers said. "It's probably going to be right near the end of Spring Training before he's able to start running again. Hitting has a lot to do with your legs too. If your lower half is not right it's kind of tough from a hitting standpoint.
"Of all the guys I would say that's the one I'm probably most concerned with right now, because he's only had a handful of at-bats and he's not going to get many before the start of the season."