D'backs acquire Walker, Marte from Mariners for Segura

D'backs acquire Walker, Marte from Mariners for Segura

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners finally landed the established shortstop they've long been trying to find.

To do it, they had to part with a talented young pitcher who still has the potential to blossom.

Seattle and Arizona pulled off a five-player trade Wednesday night, with the Mariners acquiring speedy infielder Jean Segura and the Diamondbacks getting right-hander Taijuan Walker as the centerpieces of the deal.

Segura immediately projects as Seattle's leadoff hitter and starting shortstop, solidifying an infield that already includes All-Star sluggers Kyle Seager at third base and Robinson Cano at second. But getting Segura meant the Mariners had to give up on the inconsistent Walker, a power arm who has showed occasional flashes of brilliance.

"It's hard anytime you give up talent like Taijuan," Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "Frankly, you have to give to get ... and Segura fit this club."

Arizona also obtained shortstop Ketel Marte, while Seattle received outfielder Mitch Haniger and left-hander Zac Curtis.

The addition of Walker could help a dreadful Arizona pitching staff that posted a 5.09 ERA last season, tied with Minnesota for worst in the majors. He joins a rotation that includes ace Zack GreinkeShelby MillerPatrick Corbin and Archie Bradley.

The Diamondbacks finished 69-93 last season, fourth in the NL West.

A touted prospect, the 24-year-old Walker went 8-11 with a 4.22 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 25 starts for Seattle last season. He would be outstanding one game and then struggle the next.

"Young, controllable pitching is hard to find, and adding Taijuan to the rotation gives us significant depth in that area," new Arizona general manager Mike Hazen said.

Segura, an All-Star in 2013 with Milwaukee, is an immediate upgrade at shortstop for Seattle, which went 86-76 last season and finished three games out of a playoff spot. He hit .319 with 20 home runs, 33 stolen bases and 63 RBIs for the Diamondbacks, who acquired him from the Brewers in a January trade.

Segura spent most of last season at second base for the Diamondbacks, but will move back to shortstop with the Mariners.

"This trade made more sense for where our roster is, and Jean Segura fit this club about as well as any player we were looking at," Dipoto said.

Going into the offseason, Seattle thought its starting pitching depth was enviable. Now the Mariners will need to find supplemental arms after dealing Walker.

"Most of our focus, if not our primary focus, from now until opening day is going to be left toward the pitching staff," Dipoto said.

That might not be so easy for Seattle. Hazen said the thin market for pitchers was one of the reasons the Diamondbacks made the trade for Walker.

"We felt this was the opportunity we were going to have to take due to the market," Hazen explained.

Whether it turns out to be a successful trade could ultimately depend on how Marte and Haniger develop.

Marte had many of the same problems with inconsistency as Walker, but also became a liability in the field. Marte hit .259 in 119 games last season, but hitting was secondary to being solid in the field. At times Marte was excellent, but too many routine plays were not made. He finished with 21 errors.

Still, the Diamondbacks were struck by his athleticism and the fact that 2016 was his first full season in the majors at one position.

"Our scouts loved his ability and athleticism in the middle of the field," Hazen said. "We think he adds a lot to the middle of our infield."

Haniger, who turns 26 next month, hasn't gotten much of a chance to prove himself at the major league level, but Dipoto believes he can play all three outfield positions. Haniger was the Diamondbacks' minor league player of the year after hitting .321 with 25 homers and 94 RBIs between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno. He made his major league debut on Aug. 16 against the New York Mets and appeared in 34 games, hitting .229 with five homes and 17 RBIs.

"We feel like Mitch, like so many of the guys we have acquired dating back to last year, there is not much left for him to do in the minor leagues," Dipoto said. "We really like our depth and potential for impact and feel good with where we are with our outfield."

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”