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Arizona in need of a center fielder


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01/26/2005 2:15 PM ET

Around the Horn: Outfielders

Gonzalez, Green solid at corners, but who will play CF?

By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com

 

 

Luis Gonzalez will be playing with a pain-free elbow for the first time since early in 2003. (AP)

 

 

 

The following is the fourth in a series of weekly stories on MLB.com examining each Major League club, position-by-position. Each Wednesday until Spring Training camps open, we'll preview a different position. Today: Outfield.

PHOENIX -- Luis Gonzalez knows it's going to feel strange when he jogs out to left field on Opening Day.

 

Not because he missed the final two months of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but rather because of what he will see when he turns to his left -- center fielder Steve Finley won't be there.

 

Finley, who was the captain of the Arizona outfield from 1999 until being dealt at last year's trading deadline, signed a two-year deal with the Angels during the Winter Meetings.

 

"He kind of schooled me every day out there in how to play," said Gonzalez, who also teamed with Finley in Houston. "That's going to be the most difficult adjustment for me because I've played next to the guy for 11 of out of my 14 years."

 

The Diamondbacks started out the offseason wondering who would replace Finley and free agent right fielder Danny Bautista. Half of that equation was answered when the club managed to swing a trade for slugger Shawn Green.

 

Now, center field stands as the lone question mark on a team that has made a remarkable transformation from the squad that finished 51-111 last year.

 

The Diamondbacks have been pursuing various angles to fill the void in center with the possibility of trading for Oakland's Eric Byrnes topping the list of rumors. Arizona could also go the free agent route and sign Jeromy Burnitz, not a natural center fielder, but someone who has played the position.

 

Or the D-Backs could simply give the job to 24-year-old Luis Terrero, who has tons of talent, but showed during a 62-game audition last year that he has to work on harnessing that ability.

 

"I don't know if it's going to be Terrero or someone else," Gonzalez said. "If it's Terrero, he's key out there. This guy, he's got to help the corner guys, if the pitcher is going to pitch away or whatever he could see that, so he's got to tell us."

 

Playing Terrero in center seemed to make more sense when it looked like 2005 would be a rebuilding year for the D-Backs. But with the club hoping instead to reload by signing veterans like Troy Glaus, Russ Ortiz, Royce Clayton and Craig Counsell, as well as trading for Green, the front office seems to be leaning toward having an established player in center.

 

"The better your team gets and the more you think you're putting yourselves in a position to compete within your division, now all of a sudden you're looking at, 'Can we get better at that position?'" Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "Can we get another veteran guy there that we feel like is going to give us a little more stability and a little bit more 'you know what you're going to get'?"

 

However the Diamondbacks answer the center field question, they do feel good about what they have in the corners. Gonzalez will be playing with a pain-free elbow for the first time since early in the 2003 season, and Green is coming off a second half in which he hit .281 with 18 homers for the Dodgers.

 

Gonzalez and Green will hit three and four in the lineup, with Green giving Gonzalez the protection that Richie Sexson was supposed to last year. The pair, combined with Glaus, should give Arizona a formidable middle of the lineup.

 

When one of the outfielders needs a day off, look for Quinton McCracken or Robby Hammock to fill the void. McCracken is a veteran switch-hitter who runs well and can play all three outfield positions.

 

Hammock, meanwhile, will be used as a jack-of-all-trades, playing both outfield corners as well as third base. The 27-year-old will also be the club's third catcher.

 

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

 

Maybe we could ship encarnacion over there for Vazquez maybe? Or we could just ask for Bill Murphy back. As you can see i'm really sold on the idea of trading enc. Any ideas?

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Yeah. Vazquez would be a long shot. I wouldn't mind, however, getting Murphy or Shawn Estes in return.

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If the Marlins wanted Estes they could have just signed him a couple weeks ago.

 

Encarnacion has no value...you'd be lucky to get a used jockstrap to get someone to take his contract.

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Encarnacion's destiny (as a major league ballplayer) is in his own hands this spring. He knows it and everyone knows it. I've never been able to figure out whether his seeming lack of motivation is simply his demeanor or quiet makeup or something darker. No one knows what goes on inside a person's head.

 

It should one of the interesting side things to watch this ST how he handles himself. A healthy JE could benefit us or another franchise. Until then it's anybody's guess.

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Juan's instincts, speed and arm make him ideal for RF, although he could play CF as well.

 

He has shown moments of prowess at the plate. He has HR power and can hit the curveball. What he lacks is discipline.

 

I agree with 2003 that a healthy Encarnacion could really help this team.

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Juan's instincts, speed and arm make him ideal for RF, although he could play CF as well.

 

He has shown moments of prowess at the plate. He has HR power and can hit the curveball. What he lacks is discipline.

 

I agree with 2003 that a healthy Encarnacion could really help this team.

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I agree PB, but from my perspective what he needs is to take a foot off that enormous swing of his. If he could shorten his swing he could be a real offensive threat.

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