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Amid Diamondbacks slow start, trade rumors begin to circulate

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Because of the Diamondbacks poor start this season, nasty rumors have surfaced.

Coming into this weekend series with the Dodgers at Chase Field, the Diamondbacks are in last place in National League West, a record of 16-27, 11.5 games behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants and a home mark of 4-17. Only the Chicago Cubs, with a season record of 12-36 and 12 games out of first place in National League Central, have a worse record in the majors.

Whenever a team harbors on the brink of disaster, pundits and fans tend to place immediate blame, and call for the dismissal, of those in charge of pushing the buttons.

In the case of the Diamondbacks, that would be field manager Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers, the team’s general manager. Both have dismissed such dialogue and Towers told reporters earlier this week that “I can only stay focused and positive. The rest is out of my hands.”

Not only do rumors begin to circulate among the most visible managers but among players as well.

Most notably here are third baseman Martin Prado and Aaron Hill, the team’s starting second baseman. Combined, they will earn $22 million in 2014 and each is signed for two more years. Prado will make an additional $22 million through the 2016 season, and Hill is signed for $24 more million also through the 2016 season.

With that kind of money tied up in two players and Prado, for the second season in a row with Arizona off to a difficult start, the organization could start thinking of moving talent from the minor leagues to the major league level.

When the present season began, the shortstop job was up for grabs. The decision, to go with Chris Owings at short and send Didi Gregorius to Triple A-Reno, was made after the D-backs returned from Australia. Since, the organization had interchanged Gregorius and Nick Amed, obtained in the Prado-Justin Upton before last season, between shortstop and second base at Reno.

While Amed and Gregorius are both natural shortstops, use of Gregorius at essentially second base could be a hint to the future.

“The reports on these guys, and (Reno third baseman) Nick Evans are great,” said Gibson. “Evans is a professional hitter and Amed has a major league-ready glove. These guys are in our conversations but we hope we don’t have to use that need.”

If the D-backs move either Hill, Prado or both, Gregorius could be the candidate at second and Evans, the Pacific Coast League player-of-the-week for the period May 5 -12, could step in at third. Then again, the issue for Gibson and Towers is whether they want to revamp one-half of their infield weeks before the All-Star game.

The answer is probably no, but these options are on the table.

“We like Amed quite a bite,” said Towers. “At this point, we’re switching Nick and Didi and think second could be Didi’s best position.”

That would pencil in Owings, long-term, as the Diamondbacks shortstop and ease the transition for Evans, who played in parts of four seasons with the Mets, and Gregorius, who appeared in 103 games for the D-backs a year ago, onto the major league roster and in the infield.

Of the two, Prado may appear the most likely to go.

Coming into this weekend series with the Dodgers at home, Prado is hitting .247 with no home runs and 13 RBIs. Plus, his defensive play at third has been marginal at best and, at times, a liability.

In the series finale Wednesday against Washington, Prado struck out in each of his final three at-bats and finished the Nationals series 3-for-13.

Keep in mind that the major league trade deadline is July 31 at 4 p.m. Eastern time.

FACING THE DODGERS

With the Dodgers in Chase Field for the next three games, the Diamondbacks enter the three-game set with a 1-7 season mark against Los Angeles.

That includes two defeats in Sydney, Australia and the one victory was an extra-inning triumph at Dodger Stadium on April 18.

Now, the D-backs get Zach Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Dan Haren, in that order, for the next three days.

For his part, manager Kirk Gibson is feeling better about this team and welcomes the challenge to change the present course.

“We’re playing better now,” he said earlier this week. “Last year, we handled them pretty good early but things have changed. We hope to reverse the trend.”

Gibson is right. Last season, the Diamondbacks hit on the Dodgers early.

In the opening series of the season in Chase Field from April 12-14, the D-backs took two of three, then swept the Dodgers in L. A., May 5-8, and Arizona took two-of-three at Dodger Stadium June 10-12. Just after that span, the Dodgers turned red hot and breezed to the National League West Division title.

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