Pollock not intimidated by outfield depth
Prospect likely to begin season at Reno, just a phone call away from big leagues
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When thinking of the crowded D-backs outfield and which player in the organization suffers the most from it, Gerardo Parra is typically the first guy to come to mind.
But for Parra, being the fourth outfielder still means receiving consistent playing time in the big leagues. Being slotted as the fifth or sixth outfielder, however, is another story.
That's A.J. Pollock's role coming into camp, despite being ranked as the club's No. 8 prospect by MLB.com. With Parra backing up Jason Kubel, Adam Eaton and Cody Ross, and with Eric Hinske available as an emergency outfielder, Pollock's chances of making the 25-man Opening Day roster are pretty slim, barring injury.
So does the 25-year-old get frustrated with the lack of opportunity, even though he's a well thought of prospect? Not really. He embraces the competition.
"You never want anything handed to you, so it's a good thing we have so many quality players," he said. "It's always good to have depth and you never know when it'll be your turn. We all work great together and we're all competing. I like it."
Last season, Pollock got his beak wet in the Majors, as the D-backs called him up to the big leagues five separate times throughout the year, twice for just a single day. He made his debut on April 18 and finished the season batting .247 with eight runs and eight RBIs in 81 at-bats. The short stints with Arizona gave Pollock a good sense of the atmosphere and competition level, but not being able to stick around for any lengthy period of time didn't let him fully adjust.
At Triple-A Reno, he played every day, but during his time with the D-backs, he found himself in the unfamiliar situation of only being used sparingly.
"It's part of the game. I knew if I got up, that was my role," Pollock said. "You just have to make it work. You can either say it's real hard or you can try to work with it and compete every day. For me, though, meeting the guys and just getting comfortable up there was the biggest thing."
Drafted in the first round out of Notre Dame in 2009, Pollock made a quick ascension through the D-backs' farm system. In each of his last two Minor League campaigns, he has hit above .300 with his most productive year coming last season when he posted a .369 on-base percentage at Reno, which won a league championship.
"It was fun. I had a great time with those guys," he said. "Things worked out down there and to finish what we started, it was great. Everyone was on the same page, everyone was working toward the same thing, which was making the players better and winning games."
Manager Kirk Gibson has liked Pollock since the first time he saw him. So much so that he has even reached out to one of his old college coaches at Notre Dame, Graham Sikes, who now coaches Gibson's son at Michigan State.
"I've talked with him a lot about A.J.," Gibson said. "A.J. is a guy whose thought process is similar to Goldy [Paul Goldschmidt]. He's curious about a lot of different things, he wants you to point out something when you see it. Some guys, you have to develop a relationship with before they take it the right way, but A.J. is certainly a guy who will listen."
So far this spring, Pollock has a .278 on-base percentage in 16 at-bats, but he isn't concerned with his production just yet. He's more worried about getting back into a rhythm at the plate.
"I'm getting everything in order right now. You kind of have a check list you go through," he said. "As a hitter, it's hard to fully focus on results from the start. You just want to make sure you're seeing pitches well, your timing is good and everything feels right up there. Hopefully, I'll be peaking toward the end of spring so I can flow right into the season."
Whether that means beginning 2013 in Reno again, Pollock isn't sure, but according to his manager, the outfielder won't be far off the club's radar regardless of where he is.
"He's right there, so if nobody gets hurt and somebody goes to the Minor Leagues, they are right there," Gibson said. "He's just a solid ballplayer, what doesn't he do well?"
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.