For the past few weeks, Diamondbacks wide receiver Carson Kelly has been walking past Salt River Fields and dealing with the weirdness of the situation. While big leaguers were locked out of the facility, locked out in a labor dispute, Kelly saw minor leaguers practice and play games.
“Seeing the work in progress and the people playing it makes you itch,” Kelly said.
He was finally able to scratch it on Friday. A day after owners and players reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, Kelly arrived at Salt River Fields with a handful of teammates and took part in a light workout.
Half a dozen pitchers threw bullpens, a few position players hit into a covered batting cage. Major league coaches once again donned uniforms and bounced from station to station to interact with their players.
It was the start of what is expected to be an opening day rush on April 7. Players must report to camp by Sunday, and the Diamondbacks will hold their first official practice on Monday. Three days later, they will play their first exhibition, facing the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields in the first Cactus League spring training game.
The schedule, released Friday afternoon, calls for the Diamondbacks to play 21 exhibition games through April 5. They will be out April 6 before opening the season at Chase Field on April 7 against the San Diego Padres. The spring program includes a pair of days in which they will organize matches in split teams.
Players say the rush to start the season in the pandemic-delayed 2020 season should prove beneficial in this year’s abbreviated spring.
“We talked about it,” Kelly said. “The guys are ready. We trained. We talked a lot about what we need to do when we get to camp (and) how can we speed things up and prepare things? I think we are in a very good position to move forward.
Infielder/outfielder Josh Rojas, whose AC joint in his left shoulder was surgically “cleaned up” in November, is entering camp with no restrictions on his activities.
“I’m all in,” he said. “It feels really good. I’m really happy to have had the operation.
Rojas isn’t sure how he injured his shoulder, but he said he started feeling discomfort about a week before the all-star break. He said the pain was gradually increasing, preventing him from doing the type of work he needed to maintain his strength over the last month or two of the season.
He said it “probably limited the power numbers a bit.”
Rojas had a .263/.335/.451 line with 10 homers in his first 75 games, but connected for just one homer and hit just .367 in his last 64 games.
The new collective agreement will include an amateur draft lottery for the top six picks, but that won’t go into effect until 2023. The Diamondbacks will pick second in the July draft.
* As part of the collective bargaining agreement, the parties have agreed to cancel this year’s Rule 5 draft, an event that allows clubs to select certain players who are unprotected from rosters of 40 players. The Diamondbacks would have also chosen second place, but that also prevents them from losing talent. Infielder Buddy Kennedy was perhaps their most notable unprotected hope.