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Difficult season ahead for Diamondbacks

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There's no question that the season ahead will be a formidable challenge for the Diamondbacks. Not only must they try and keep pace with the Los Angeles Dodgers but also watch the San Francisco Giants, the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies in the rear view mirror.

If there is one variable that should characterize the D-backs, it is concentration. To be competitive, this club needs to play nearly mistake-free baseball. To be fair, there is little margin for error. That was evident in the opening game in Australia.

After a credible effort, starter Wade Miley said he made two mistakes. One was a lead-off walk to Adrian Gonzalez in the second, who eventually came around to score the Dodgers' first run when Miley grooved a fast ball to Scott Van Slyke for a two-run homer.

The D-backs dropped the opener by a two run margin. Going forward, they need to play each game with a terrific sense of urgency.

Perhaps the biggest question mark centers around the starting rotation. With Patrick Corbin out with Tommy John surgery, the rotation could fall with dominos or rise like a Phoenix.

Brandon McCarthy, who starts the U. S. portion of the schedule Monday night at Chase Field against the Giants, is capable to picking up the leadership baton. Yet, McCarthy has spent parts of the last seven years on the disabled list. The Diamondbacks would do well to plan for another visit this season.

Elsewhere among starters, Trevor Cahill had an unproductive spring and a terrible outing against the Dodgers in Australia. He is trying to right his ship before it sinks.

Bronson Arroyo, coming off an injury-filled spring, says he's ready and healthy. Arroyo will likely get the ball from manager Kirk Gibson in game four of the Giants series.

The bullpen, which allowed a major league-lead of 29 blown saves a year ago, appears stabilized. Addison Reed acquired from the White Sox in the off-season will open the season as the closer. David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler should be two capable set-up relievers.

Behind the plate. the D-backs hope for a bounce-back season from Miguel Montero. Suffering from a sore back and quiet bat a year ago, the Diamondbacks hope Montero hits .270, slams 17 homers and drives in 70 runs.

While Chris Owings is expected to win the shortstop job, the rest of the infield is set with Paul Goldschmidt at first, Aaron Hill at second and Martin Prado at third.

The outfield is anchored by an underrated A. J. Pollock in center. Gerardo Parra will play right and Mark Trumbo, who played a credible left field in Australia, will start in that position. Cody Ross, out since last August with an injured hip, starts the season on the disabled list.

Here at the advent of the season, the stars do not appear aligned in the D-backs' galaxy. There is that need to play mistake-free baseball. Given a marginal pitching staff, the specter of failure seems more realistic than success.

In the end, the Diamondbacks' season again at .500 would be considered a success.

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