By Greg Dillard
With high expectations heading into Spring Training last season, A.J. Pollock saw his season lost almost immediately due to a fractured growth plate in his right elbow.
A year later, Pollock has returned to the diamond for the D-backs.
In Wednesday afternoon’s contest against the Seattle Mariners at Salt River Fields, Pollock got the starting nod in centerfield and played all nine innings.
“It was awesome,” Pollock said. “Anytime you get to start up here, it’s incredible. Just try to keep it simple, try to make some plays.”
His presence was immediately felt as the speedy outfielder raced into shallow centerfield to dive and catch the third out of the first inning.
“I always felt like I had that speed game,” Pollock said. “It’s just a matter of keeping your legs healthy. Everyone here goes through times where your legs just feel slow. I felt really good today, felt good to show it off.”
Pollock stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third inning and again showed off his speed by beating out an infield single. After striking out in the fourth, Pollock rebounded by drawing a walk against Seattle’s Edward Paredes.
In his final plate appearance of the afternoon, Pollock followed a Wily Mo Pena single with a single of his own down the left field line. Pollock later scored from second base on a Paul Goldschmidt hit.
After a strong first Spring start, Pollock is eager to continue his early success.
“Obviously, I just want to come out here and make an impression,” Pollock said. “That would be the number one. I just keep it simple. Make some plays, whether it’s with the bat, on the bases, or in the field.”
While it was only one game for Pollock, it’s clear why the D-backs think highly of their former first round pick.
“He’s a baseball player,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “Good energy. His game’s solid. He’s got good skills. Puts the bat on the ball, pretty good in the outfield. He’s really young, just a year out of college. Goes about his business the right way.”
Septimo solid in Spring debut
The D-backs have long known that Leyson Septimo owns a talented repertoire of pitches and a dominant fastball. It was all a matter of putting it all together on mound for the southpaw.
Against the Mariners, Septimo certainly looked like he’s headed in the right direction.
Septimo took the mound in the top of the seventh, and faced Michael Saunders to lead off the inning. He then quickly retired Saunders on a fly out to right field.
One batter later, Brendan Ryan smacked a ground ball back to Septimo who fielded his position well by hauling in the comebacker and throwing on to Juan Miranda at first base for the out.
Septimo then got Johermyn Chavez to ground out to third base to cap off the 1-2-3 inning.
Septimo has struggled with command since converting to pitching in 2008, last year in particular, so having him command his pitches is certainly a positive sign for the D-backs.
CLAY ZAVADA — Photography: Rick Scuteri
Every year, teams have somewhere between 10-20 non-roster invitees at Spring Training, guys who aren’t on the team’s 40-man roster. It’s always a mix of prospects and veteran players who didn’t sign Major League contracts in the offseason. But every year, there are a handful of potential gems on the non-roster list.
Here’s the D-backs’ list of non-roster players that you’ll be watching in Spring Training (their names are clickable for statistics):
Some thoughts on a few of these guys:
Matt Gorgen — Gorgen was the player Arizona acquired from Tampa Bay in the trade that sent Chad Qualls there late last year. I’m interested in seeing Gorgen pitch and I’m really curious as to why the Rays made him available, especially when the team lost so many relief pitchers to free agency this year. He’s got pretty excellent minor league numbers and according to Jerry DiPoto, as Arizona Republic writer Nick Piecoro mentioned back in September, Gorgen has good stuff as well. If you’re looking to find an interesting sleeper to emerge out of the non-roster invitee group, Gorgen could definitely be your guy.
Jarrod Parker — Like pretty much everybody else, I’m anxious to see how Parker looks in Spring Training. When last we saw him pitch, he was fresh off throwing some really impressive heat in the 2009 Futures Game, but an elbow injury shut him down for the 2010 season. He gave updates on Twitter throughout the year on his conditioning. When Parker is on, he’s darn-near unhittable but the organization is going to be patient with him after major surgery.
Clay Zavada — Elbow surgery also cost Clay Zavada his 2010 season, so one of the bright spots of the 2009 D-backs is going to work toward getting back in the big leagues this year. You won’t meet many ballplayers that are nicer than Zavada, so I would imagine there are going to be a lot of fans pulling for him to succeed this spring.
Chris Owings — Of the D-backs’ highly picked high school draftees in 2009 (Bobby Borchering, Matt Davidson, Chris Owings), this shortstop out of South Carolina has been the most consistent both at the plate and in the field. A foot injury robbed Owings of about two-thirds of his season last year, but he was playing quite well before he went down. Considering the depth the team added this year with Melvin Mora, Geoff Blum and Willie Bloomquist, there are a lot of infielders in camp. There aren’t that many Spring Training at bats to go around, so Owings’ stay on the big league side might not last very long.
Marc Krauss — Along with teammate Paul Goldschmidt, Marc Krauss absolutely killed the ball in the High-A California League with Visalia last year. Krauss was then one of the few players below Double-A that get a chance to play in the Arizona Fall League. Playing for the 2010 champion Scottsdale Scorpions, Krauss was great, batting .298 with a .404 on-base percentage, with four home runs in 22 games. The guy can really hit, and I’m anxious to see what he can do against some big league pitching.
Wily Mo Pena — I’m mostly just excited to watch Wily Mo Pena take batting practice. He has massive raw power (link: check out this stunning home run he hit at Toronto’s Rogers Centre back in 2007), always has, and hit pretty well in limited duty for the Padres’ Triple-A Affiliate last year.
A.J. Pollock — With really advanced fundamental skills coming out of college, A.J. Pollock looked like he was on the fast track until he hurt his elbow going after a ball in the outfield in Spring Training last year and lost a whole season because of it. He also played in the Fall League and hit quite well for average — batted .313 with six doubles in 16 games — and hopefully his power comes along with health.