3/28/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
D-backs reflect Towers' philosophy, Gibby's grit
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Since he was hired in September 2010, general manager Kevin Towers has worked to shape the D-backs into his type of team.
More so than any of his other squads, the 2013 D-backs certainly reflect that, as well as the personality of manager Kirk Gibson.
Towers has gotten rid of players with big strikeout numbers and he has moved the D-backs away from a reliance on home runs. The Arizona starting rotation is deep, and the bullpen looks once again to be solid.
W: Kennedy L: Wainwright
"This is a club that I think Gibby and I talked about when we had our first conversation about his philosophy, my philosophy," Towers said.
After overachieving in winning the National League West in 2011, the D-backs took a step backward, finishing 81-81 and in third place last season. It was a disappointment that left a sour feeling in the clubhouse and in the front office.
During the offseason, Towers overhauled his team. Outfielders Justin Upton and Chris Young were dealt, which meant that, coming on the heels of the trade that sent Stephen Drew to Oakland last August, the three longest-tenured players were gone.
"I'd say that it's a very team-oriented group, good camaraderie," Towers said of what he's noticed this spring. "The whole entire team seems to get along pretty well. I think they challenge one another, I think they root for one another. I don't think there's a selfish guy in there. It's a good blend of experience and youth. A good group to be around. How that translates into [wins] when we start the season I don't know."
The true barometer, of course, will come when adversity strikes during the season.
"You always get tested when things start going downhill, but I think there's definitely been a great atmosphere," first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. "Guys are getting along and guys have the same mindset that we're going to play hard, we're going to play for each other, play for the team. I think everyone is kind of on the same page and we'll do that the whole year."
To reinforce that, the D-backs brought in some veteran players with good clubhouse reputations like infielders Eric Chavez and Eric Hinske and outfielder Cody Ross.
All have playoff experience, and the team hopes will help to stabilize the clubhouse when challenges arise.
"I guarantee you they won't quit, or give up, or rollover," Towers said. "I don't think that's in their DNA. I think they're a tough group that have high expectations for this ballclub and themselves. I think they'll pull for one another. And do the little things. What I've seen more than anything is sacrifice [at-bats] to advance a runner, move a runner over, get a runner in where I didn't see a lot of that last year. Not to mention names."
The D-backs had hoped that center fielder Adam Eaton would be the spark atop the lineup that the organization has long lacked. That will have to wait, though, as an elbow injury will sideline him for the first six to eight weeks of the season.
"It's tough," Towers said. "I'd be lying if I didn't say that was a blow. He's kind of an igniter. We kind of feed off his energy, the way he plays the game. A big part of the way this ballclub was put together was with him in mind."
What once seemed like a crowded outfield was thinned by not only Eaton's injury, but that of Ross, who last played in a Cactus League game on March 3 due to a lower leg strain. Ross is expected to begin the season on the disabled list and miss the first six games of the year.
That will mean Minor League outfielder A.J. Pollock will get the opportunity to show what he can do in their absence.
In all it's a lineup that, in theory, will be less reliant on the home run to score.
"We don't really have that guy in the clubhouse that's just motivated by hitting the home run," Towers said. "I think there are some guys that will hit home runs, but they know what they need to do to help us win."
The rotation will be anchored once again by Opening Day starter Ian Kennedy and was bolstered by the signing of Brandon McCarthy during the offseason. Meanwhile, Trevor Cahill shed 12-15 pounds during the offseason and appears poised for a breakout season.
Predicting bullpen performance from year to year is dicey, but Towers has a track record of building good 'pens, and he thinks he's got one again.
J.J. Putz returns as closer, while David Hernandez, Heath Bell and Brad Ziegler will try to get the ball to him. For the first time in recent memory the team has a pair of quality left-handed relievers in Tony Sipp and Matt Reynolds and long man/spot starter Josh Collmenter's versatility should prove valuable.
"I just feel like as opposed to last year we already know what our identity as a team," Putz said. "Last year I felt like coming off that 2011 season were we still trying to maintain that identity? Were we a different team? I think this year we know who we are and that's big. We're a team that checks our egos at the door. Doesn't matter what happens at the end of the day as long as there's a 'W' next to the Diamondbacks. That's all that matters."