A year ago at this time, the Arizona Diamondbacks organization put a lot of faith in their young outfielder, A.J. Pollock. Going into that season, the center fielder who was one of the faces of the franchise was gone in Chris Young and the team had traded one of it’s top prospects, Adam Eaton. A move in which many questioned.
But Pollock was named the opening day and every day starter in center field and quietly took advantage.
While most were talking about how poor the season had begun, the only person anyone thought of in a positive light was Paul Goldschmidt. But that didn’t last long. Pollock hit .303 in April and then in May hit .375 with three home runs, ten RBI and eight stolen bases. In addition, he was playing a gold glove caliber center field for the D-Backs.
“I had been kind of working towards that,” said Pollock. “You go through different stretches and you have a couple bad games but I felt like I was real close. I had a bigger stretch of games where I felt really good.”
Pollock was cementing his place to be the center fielder not just for the season, but maybe the future as well. However all of that came to a screeching halt on the final day of May in a game against the Reds. Pollock was plunked on one of his hands by a pitch which broke his hand and kept him out until September.
“It’s something that I can get frustrated about or can keep building from,” he mentioned. “Mentally I am just going to keep doing what I am doing and hopefully it can get consistent and have longer stretches of playing good baseball.”
He returned to a Diamondbacks team in the final month of the season that was in last place and trying out some prospects when the rosters expanded and knew he was going to have to hit the ground running to get back to the success that he was sniffing back in May.
That mentality has now carried over to Spring Training 2015 as Pollock and the Diamondbacks prepare for the upcoming season. He is still slated to be that every day starter at center field based alone on how he played for basically a two month stretch. And while it is a position he has been working himself to get into his whole life, it does not mean to work stops.
“I still have a lot of things I need to get better at,” Pollock explained. “The thing about spring training is that you get to start from ground zero and get the foundation and the fundamentals down. I have never felt like I can stop working. I’ve never felt that in my career. I’d be happy if they told me I am the guy but that is not going to change how I work.”
There is a lot of uncertainty around this new look Diamondback team starting with their new manager Chip Hale and then down through a lot of new faces on their roster. The outfield looks stacked as players like Mark Trumbo in addition to Pollock returning after being injured for much of last season. The two that played well in their absence, Ender Inciarte and David Peralta, are working to make the Big Leagues their home. Plus add the big money acquisition of Cuban Yasmany Tomas and you have many players jockeying for just a handful of spots.
Pollock looks at this as a good thing for him and the team.
“When I got hurt, it was really unfortunate for me but you see a guy like David Peralta coming in the next day and he did a great job,” stated Pollock. “It was fun watching him and then Ender out there and see him grow and get better and better and confident as the year went on. So we’ve got a lot of competition and a lot of good players out there and it’s only going to help you.”
We are into the final days of spring training and the 2015 season is upon us. A.J. Pollock looks to start with a clean slate but at the same time, expects to pick up right where he left off in May of 2014 which would be very important to this Diamondbacks team.