D-backs still have roster spots up for grabs

D-backs still have roster spots up for grabs

D-backs still have roster spots up for grabs
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As Opening Day continues to creep closer, the D-backs still have many things to sort out.

Manager Kirk Gibson, his coaching staff and general manager Kevin Towers had a lengthy meeting following Wednesday's game, and it sounds like they came away with more questions than answers.

"I don't think there's a real consensus at this time," Gibson said. "I'm not sure it's as clear as everyone thinks it is."

Is that a good sign or a bad one?

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"I think it's just the way it is," Gibson said. "Just a lot of things to take into consideration. You want to pick your best 25 guys. You have to weigh other things. Sometimes you get fooled by Spring Training performance. At this point, I would say that a lot of things are to be determined."

Here's a look at some of what remains unsettled:

Who's on first?

This is the hardest position to really handicap right now.

Juan Miranda has the edge over Russell Branyan defensively and at times has shown some positive signs at the plate. Branyan, meanwhile, has crushed the ball, and Towers all but said that if that continued, the club would find a way to get him in the lineup.

Brandon Allen has had a good spring at the plate and has the versatility to play both left field and first base.

The decision here will likely come by March 25, when the club must either add Branyan to the roster or allow him to move on.

"They've all played hard," Gibson said. "They all certainly have their strengths. It's good competition. They're all working extremely hard putting in extra work. It's going to be a tough one."

Is Xavier Nady the starter in left?

When camp began, it seemed like a lock that Nady would get the bulk of the time out there. Nady, though, struggled early in camp with his throwing, and he's hitting .189.

Meanwhile, Allen has played well there, and Gerardo Parra has come to camp in the best shape of his career. Parra is hitting .350 this spring.

"That's totally up in the air," Gibson said about the starter in left. "There's several people who have played well that can play left field. Certainly, [Parra has] been outstanding."

Nos. 4 and 5 starters are?

Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson will start the season's first two days, and Joe Saunders will be worked in there at some point.

That leaves Armando Galarraga, Barry Enright and Aaron Heilman competing for the final two spots. It would seem that the natural thing to do would be to shift Heilman back to the bullpen, but Gibson said this week that he was not ready "to pull the plug" on Heilman's quest to start.

A decision is likely by next week when the team has to start lining the rotation up for the first week of the season.

Now coming on to pitch is?

You can write in J.J. Putz, Sam Demel, Juan Gutierrez and David Hernandez for the bullpen, with the final three spots less certain.

If you assume Heilman is shifted back to the bullpen, that would narrow the openings down to two.

Gibson has said he would like at least one lefty, which at this point looks like Rule 5 Draft pick Joe Paterson. Don't count out Mike Hampton being kept as a second lefty. There's also Micah Owings to consider, as the D-backs seem to want someone who can throw multiple innings.

"We've talked about different scenarios in the bullpen," Gibson said. "We need some length in the bullpen, we need a long guy and there's different scenarios with that. It's not really clear on who that person might be of the people we have available."

Who's the 25th guy?

Justin Upton, Chris Young, Geoff Blum, Kelly Johnson, Stephen Drew, Melvin Mora, Miguel Montero, Henry Blanco, Nady, Willie Bloomquist, Parra and one of the three competing first basemen are on the team, which leaves one spot open.

The D-backs could keep one of the first basemen who doesn't win the starting job -- say Branyan for his thunder off the bench -- or an infielder like Ryan Roberts, who has had such an impressive spring.

"It's not clear where we're going to go there," Gibson said.

Time is running out for decisions to be made, but in reality, the Opening Day roster is simply the beginning, not the end.

"There might be some deserving people who aren't on the team," Gibson said. "You appreciate the effort, and we'll need more than 25 guys this season."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @dbackswriter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.