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Shortstop remains up for grabs; Reed named as closer

Chris Owings has a higher spring average than Didi Gregorius.
Chris Owings has a higher spring average than Didi Gregorius.
Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

SYDNEY, Australia - While manager Kirk Gibson said his Diamondbacks are ready for the regular season to begin, there exists a major hole to fill.

Of the eight positions, save the pitcher, all appear secure except shortstop.

Since Stephen Drew went down with a nasty broken right ankle and ligament damage during the 2011 season, the Diamondbacks have struggled to find an everyday shortstop.

Now, two candidates have emerged and still the issue remains unresolved.

The race between Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius is as unsettled here on the advent of the season as the early February day both reported to Salt River.

If numbers are a barometer, Owings may have the inside track but Gibson, at this point, is not revealing his cards. Yet, Gibson made this admission after practice at the Sydney Cricket Ground Wednesday.

"We have two games here and each will start one game," he said. "Beyond that, who will play will be determined later."

So far, the spring has not been kind to Gregorius.

The 24 year-old native of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, has just eight hits in 39 at bats and that translates to a .205 batting average. After a hot start last season, Gregorius cooled to end the year at .252 with 16 doubles, seven home runs and drove in 26 runs.

"I play the game the best I can and that's all I can do," Gregorius said after the Diamondbacks' workout Thursday afternoon. "I think I've made some adjustments and improvements but the results are not there. Really, there's nothing more I can do."

By contrast, Owings' spring numbers are not much better.

In 18 games this spring, Owings, who will be 23 in August, has collected 12 hits in 44 at-bats for a .273 average.

Last season, he torn up Triple A with a .330 average at Reno and named both the Pacific Coast MVP and captured the league's Rookie-of-the Year award.

After his recall in September, Owings managed a .291 average in 20 games and drove in five runs.

"Both are good players and this is not an easy decision," Gibson said after Thursday's workout. "There are many factors which goes into this decision and roster construction is a significant one."

While the Diamondbacks have 160 games remaining after the two here with the Dodgers this Saturday and Sunday, Gibson said he is not ready to commit to the future.

"We're here to play these two and focus on this," he added. "Then, we'll determine the rest of the season."

AND THE CLOSER IS ...

After practice Thursday, manager Kirk Gibson named Addison Reed to start the season as the Diamondbacks' closer.

With the Chicago White Sox a year ago, Reed, a 25 year-old out of Montclair, Calif. recorded 40 saves in 68 games. A third round pick of the White Sox in 2010, Reed has 69 major league saves in 136 games.

"(Reed) had those 40 saves last season for a losing team and has pitched very well this spring," Gibson said. "At this point, he's the closer."

All of which puts J. J. Putz somewhere in no man's land. Injured for most of last season, Putz appears on the bubble to even make the roster. With the season about to begin, Putz, the D-backs most recent closer, is clearly battling for a roster spot.

That's because the Diamondbacks have committed Josh Collmenter and Randall Delgado both as potential long relievers. Gibson said he plans to use Delgado in longer roles, such as multiple innings while Collmenter could throw an inning or partial inning one night and come back the next night.

"I don't plan to lean on (Collmenter) as much as last season," Gibson said. "Delgado has a real live arm and is also considered as a possible fifth starter."

FRIDAY NIGHT ...

In their exhibition game against Team Australia here on Friday night, Gibson said Archie Bradley will start and throw between 75 to 90 pitches. That would put Bradley in for at least five innings.

Gibson indicated that Zach Spruill and Scottsdale native Charles Brewer will follow Bradley on the hill.