TUCSON, Ariz. -- Five things to know about the Arizona Diamondbacks:
1. Above all, the Diamondbacks need to catch the ball this year. Manager A.J. Hinch is stressing it. And it was the point when general manager Josh Byrnes signed first baseman Adam LaRoche and second baseman Kelly Johnson as free agents over the winter. The D-Backs' 124 errors ranked 15th in the NL last season, only Washington (143) committed more. LaRoche's presence will help: Arizona first basemen last season compiled the worst fielding percentage in the majors and tied for the second-most errors. Meantime, Arizona's outfielders compiled the worst fielding percentage and committed the most errors of any NL outfield.
2. Hinch on emphasizing improved defense this spring: "In order to get better, the quality of work you do in spring training is paramount. Not just check mark the box, 'we did 30 minutes of ground balls'. That doesn't mean you're getting better. That just means you practiced. The mentality of, 'Do it right, and get something out of every drill defensively, catch every baseball' is an attention to detail portion of our spring training that I've harped on. ... We've invested a lot of money into our rotation. We've added bullpen pieces. We can score. The better we catch the baseball, the more likely we are to be in games and to win games. It's very fundamental. It's very basic."
3. If Brandon Webb comes back strong, as the Diamondbacks expect (still no timetable), Webb, Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson will make Arizona one of only six teams in the majors to boast three All-Stars in its starting rotation. The other five are the Cubs, Giants, Phillies, Red Sox and Yankees.
4. Key item: Chris Young. The Arizona center fielder regressed badly in 2009, to the point where Arizona had to option him back to Triple-A Reno. This a guy who smacked 32 homers in 2007 and collected 22 homers and 85 RBI in '08. This also from a guy who was awarded a five-year, $28 million deal in April of 2008. "I think last year is behind him," left fielder Conor Jackson says. "I think he just got down and wasn't having fun anymore. That's a bad position to be in in baseball. Over 162 games, it wears on you. He showed a lot of heart and dedication when he came back from Triple-A. He raked in September. Last year was not the player he is." For the Diamondbacks' sake, it better not be.
5. Since his major league debut on May 16, 2007, Mark Reynolds leads all third basemen with 89 homers, and he ranks second with 261 RBI (in '09, he walloped 44 homers and has 102 RBI). He remains an anomaly, however, because he has set a major league strikeout record in each of the past two seasons, with 204 in 2008 and 223 in '09. Yes, he would like to keep improving. "This year, I hope to keep progressing," he says. "I'm not saying 50 home runs. But I can be a better average hitter (.260 in '09) and a better contact hitter." And yes, he would like to reduce his K's, though he does get sick of talking about it. "If I cut down my strikeouts by even 25 and put that many more balls in play, that will raise my average by even that much more," he says. "And then I won't be viewed as an easy out at the plate -- at least, viewed as easy but dangerous."