D-backs stand pat, ready to show rough 2020 was a fluke

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Diamondbacks took a long look into the mirror after a lackluster 2020 season and made a somewhat surprising decision: They liked what they saw.

Not the results, of course. D-backs manager Torey Lovullo and GM Mike Hazen don’t have any real excuses for the team’s 25-35 finish last year that placed them last in the National League West.

They just don’t believe that nine weeks of bad baseball have any bearing on what’s coming in 2021.

Veteran outfielder David Peralta said all that confidence is much appreciated.

“We’re good the way we are,” Peralta said. “That’s what it seemed like. We’ve got a great group of guys. We added a couple of guys that are going to help us, but from last year, I think our lineup and pitching staff, we’re going to be good.

“We don’t care what the noise is from outside we’re going to go out there and do our job.

So the Diamondbacks stayed relatively quiet during the offseason, keeping their lineup nucleus of second baseman/outfielder Ketel Marte, first baseman Christian Walker, right fielder Kole Calhoun, shortstop Nick Ahmed, third baseman Eduardo Escobar, catcher Carson Kelly and Peralta.

The hope is Marte rediscovers his power swing, which led to a career-high 32 homers in 2019. They also think Escobar and Kelly can recover from poor offensive seasons.

The starting rotation is also expected to look very similar to last season. The D-backs are confident that four-time All-Star Madison Bumgarner will be the top-of-the-rotation lefty they expected when they signed him to an $85 million, five-year deal before the 2020 season.

They’re pleased with young ace Zac Gallen, who finished ninth in the NL Cy Young voting. They believe right-hander Merrill Kelly will bounce back from thoracic outlet surgery to dissolve a blood clot found in his throwing shoulder. They’re confident Luke Weaver’s brutal 2020 season won’t be repeated.

In case you’ve not noticed, that’s a lot of what-ifs. But that’s the D-backs’ story and they’re sticking to it.

“I’m not really worried about 2020 or any other year except for right now,” Bumgarner said. “Regardless of whether I won the Cy Young last year or had the year I did, this is a new year and we’ve all moved on.”

A FEW GOOD VETS

The D-backs did make some moves to improve their bullpen, adding right-handers Joakim Soria and Tyler Clippard. Both veterans will likely be used in the later innings to help close games.

The two pitchers have more than 1,500 appearances in the big leagues between them. Even with all that mileage, Soria was good for the A’s and Clippard a key piece for the Twins in 2020.

Now the D-backs hope both of them have at least one more good season remaining.

Arizona also boosted its lineup in the early days of spring training, adding veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera. The two-time All-Star can play third, second or first and has 188 career homers.

BUMPS AND BRUISES

Spring training hasn’t been without its share of problems. Calhoun had to have surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee on March 3 and is likely out for at least a few weeks at the beginning of the regular season.

Calhoun hit a team-high 16 homers in 2020.

The D-backs have also played most of their spring games without Ahmed, who is also battling a sore knee. Arizona still believes he’ll be able to get enough at-bats in the final two weeks of spring training to be ready for opening day.

If those two have to miss time, look for the Diamondbacks to give more at-bats to Tim Locastro and Josh Rojas.

The speedy Locastro can play all three outfield spots and hit .290 with a .395 on-base percentage in 82 plate appearances last season. Rojas has hit well during spring training and can play several positions, including shortstop.

UP AND COMING

Calhoun’s injury might pave the way for Pavin Smith to make the opening day roster. The left-handed, 25-year-old hit .270 with a homer in limited playing time during 2020 and can play both first base and right field.

The D-backs also could get help from Wyatt Mathisen and Daulton Varsho, who both had good moments during their MLB debuts last season.

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Follow David Brandt at www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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