Roster decisions loom for D-backs
Final outfielder, last two bullpen spots still up for grabs
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The D-backs don't have many roster decisions left to make, but the ones they do have will be tough ones.
Wednesday, the D-backs optioned right-hander Juan Gutierrez to Triple-A Tucson, which pared the roster down to 34. That's likely where the roster will remain when the team leaves Tucson after Thursday's game for a pair of exhibition games at Chase Field.
"Electric stuff," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said of Gutierrez. "A good fastball that jumps on you, good sharp slider when his mechanics are good. He's got to work on some things as far as holding runners and so forth and throwing his breaking ball out of the stretch, but we were very impressed with his stuff."
Melvin and the baseball operations staff must decide on whom to keep for the final position-player spot and what to do about the last two spots in the bullpen.
As far as the position player battle, it's down to veteran Trot Nixon and Minor League outfielder Alex Romero. Nixon seemed to have the edge as recently as Tuesday, but Romero continues to impress the staff with his ability.
Romero had three hits Wednesday to raise his average this spring to .352. At 24, it would seem the team might want him to open the year in Triple-A, where he could play every day rather than sit on the bench at the big league level. But that might not be the case if the organization sees his long-term future as that of a fourth or fifth outfielder. In that case, it would make more sense to keep him rather than Nixon.
"Based on some of the results we're getting, Romero is making a nice case for himself," Melvin said. "Every time out he seems to get good at-bats, whether it's against right-handers, left-handers, can play all three outfield positions. I would be remiss if I didn't applaud the spring that he's having. For a guy that came in here way on the outskirts of potentially having a chance to make this team, he's going to make it potentially all the way down to the wire."
In the bullpen, there are two spots open, and they could be filled with Brandon Medders and Dustin Nippert, both of whom are out of Minor League options and would therefore need to be placed on waivers before being sent down.
But keeping both of them limits the in-season roster flexibility, so it's possible the team could decide to try and pass one of the two through waivers and keep the other. That would leave a spot open for someone like Yusmeiro Petit or Jailen Peguero.
Nippert's chances took another hit Wednesday as he allowed two runs in one inning of work. The right-hander had seemed to turn a corner somewhat in his last Cactus League outing, when he worked out of a runner-on-third, no-out jam, but his ERA is now 14.40 this spring.
"Continues to struggle," Melvin said. "I really thought he got by some barriers last time out, but his fastball was centered pretty good today. He got behind and had to throw his fastball down the middle, and that's a pretty good fastball-hitting team over there. He has a string of tough outings going now."
And the D-backs, it appears, have some tough decisions still to make.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.