It’s been a long time coming, but the Arizona Diamondbacks finally got a chance to look at their shortstop of the future — Didi Gregorius — in game action.
No, it wasn’t on the field, but that the 23-year old got a chance to take a few at-bats as the team’s DH in a Cactus League game is a very positive sign of just how far along he is in recovering from a sore elbow.
Gregorius went 1-for-4 at the team’s ninth hitter on Thursday, and did not report and signs of the UCL strain that had kept him from throwing a baseball since January.
It’s just the first step in a long process, though. According to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, Gregorius has been playing catch over the last week, and is in a program to step up the intensity that will see him take the field sometime later in March.
Though he’ll definitely be looking to move up the team’s depth chart as quickly as possible, the Diamondbacks did confirm that Opening Day is by no means in play. Manager Kirk Gibson said that Gregorius is “several weeks away from throwing the ball across the diamond”, which will mean that he’s Triple-A bound when the season starts.
There, he’ll have to perform well enough to convince the Diamondbacks that he’s a better option than Cliff Pennington or Willie Bloomquist, which may be easier said than done, if the spring so far is any indication.
Pennington, a 1.4 fWAR player in each of his last two season, is currently on fire in spring, with seven hits over 18 at-bats that also include a triple, a home run, as well as a whopping team-leading five walks. For a player with a career 7.6 percent walk rate, the batting eye he’s showing is a minor revelation, even if it is just Spring Training.
Bloomquist isn’t far behind either, also with seven hits in 19 at-bats, including three triples. Even utility man John McDonald is doing pretty well, with a .357/.438/.429 so far over seven games.
All of which is to say that there are some major obstacles in Gregorius’ way, and there’s realistically no reason for the team to do anything to rush him to the majors.
Until then, Gregorius will keep hitting at the plate, and see if he can build up some goodwill in spring with his bat. The shortstop’s fielding ability is his best tool, after all, he will want to make sure his elbow is right before he shows it off to.