Now that the holidays are history and the calendar has flipped to the new year, it's time for Diamondbacks' general manager Kevin Towers to get serious about Opening Day.
In a rare occurrence, the Diamondbacks have two "Opening Days."
One is late March against the Dodgers in Sydney, Australia and also at home on March 31 at Chase Field against the Giants. In any event, players and staff will begin to formally assemble for spring training in about five weeks. Until now and then, Towers indicated he has one order of unfinished business.
"I still would like to get a starting pitcher," he said during a recent Diamondbacks holiday event. "I think we're okay with the moves we made and have strengthen our team. I still would like to add a starter."
That may be difficult because the Diamondbacks' organization likes to offer relatively short contracts, like a year or two. Those pitchers currently sitting in free agent land, like Matt Garza and David Price would command multi-year deals.
If Towers does not acquire a starting pitcher, he will likely go with a marginal staff and inexperienced pitching coach.
If the Diamondbacks opened the season today, the starters would likely be right-handers Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and Randall Delgado along with leftys Wade Miley and Patrick Corbin. This corps will be under the direction of newly hired Mike Harkey as the D-backs pitching staff. Coming from the Yankees as their bullpen coach, Harkey arrives in the desert with a history with Towers,
Both go back to the Padres' organization in the late 1990s, and Harkey's major league experience has been strictly out of the bullpen. Plus, the addition of closer Addison Reed, in a deal with the White Sox, is no guarantee that the bullpen will be set on a right course.
Keep in mind D-backs relievers topped the majors in blown saves (29) a year ago and the main culprit, Heath Bell, was shipped to the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this off-season.
Save the probable pitching staff, Towers goes into spring training with a creditable line-up. Then again, it's up to players to execute and up to manager Kirk Gibson to put them in a position to succeed. In the past two years, Gibson's penchant for "resting" players and juggling the batting order has been detrimental toward overall success.
After the Diamondbacks defeated the Rays in early August last season, Eric Chavez, who delivered the walk-of single, said at the time the pennant race was heating up and Gibson needed to run the same eight, position players out every day.
That never happened and for the second year in a row, Arizona finished with an exact 81-81 mark.
If the Diamondbacks are to improve and challenge for the National League Division title, two things need to happen.
First, Harkey needs to pull a few rabbits out of his hat and dramatically turn the pitching staff around. The starters need to be more competitive and the relievers more consistent.
And two, Gibson needs to create a stable batting order and run the same eight players out there game in and game out Sure, he should have the liberty of giving players a day off, from time to time and allow for injuries. Yet, the everyday line-up needs to be set without daily alteration and Gibson needs to give his team the best chance to win every night.