Arizona Diamondbacks rookie camp illustrates ‘lockout’ dilemma

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The term “lockout” hung over the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor camp on Monday like an unwanted neighbor. While talk of the protracted, and nearly impossible rift between players and major league baseball owners appears to widen, this camp, designed for simply workouts, seemed to turn into a referendum on the essence of the lockout.

After practice ended for the day, players, who were requested by the media for interviews, simply said they were unwilling to talk. Top prospects are here in camp, and several have a legitimate path to the major leagues. Their silence was not unnoticed, and the collective fear held whatever they said could be interpreted as words against the players’ union and the credibility of the players’ platform.

Nonetheless, this camp, originally scheduled for January, appeared as any spring training day. The contingent of 78 players assembled went through infield and outfield drills, batting practice, infield work and batters hit against live pitching.

All of which placed one player in an awkward position.

Right-hander Dan Straily, whose previous major experience included appearances with Oakland, the Chicago Cubs, Houston, Cincinnati, Miami, and Baltimore, was one of a few scattered veterans in this minor league camp. For the past two years, Straily, who compiled a 44-40 mark over eight major league seasons, pitched for the Lotte Giants in the Korean Baseball Organization. With the lure calling of another major league team, Straily signed with the Diamondbacks to a minor league contract on February 2, 2022.

Like several players facing the reality of the lockout, Straily made his decision to compete with a major league team based on his own best interest.

“I could have not signed and waited to see what would happen with lockout,” he told reporters Monday afternoon at the team’s Salt River training site. “Or, I could sign to a minor league deal and come to camp right away. I chose to come to camp and ready to compete.”

With one spot likely open in the Arizona rotation, Straily’s logistical move makes sense. After two seasons in Korea, he utilized the time to perfect his curve, change, and cutter. With a fastball last clocked with Baltimore in 2019, his last full season at the major league level, at 91 miles per hour, Straily, at 33-year-old, knows he needs to achieve deception. Clearly, a fall ball in the low 90s will not get too major league hitters out, and Straily used his decision to sign a minor league contract to his full advantage.

“My decision to sign with Arizona was based on two factors,” he said. “First, I had several offers, but chose to come here because of the opportunity and the geography.”

A native of Springfield, Ore., Straily said a 90-minute plane ride for his wife Amanda and their son Jaxon, was an easy alternative, and clearly the better option. No difference, he pointed out, between a short plane ride back to Oregon and the 5,300-mile excursion between Portland, Ore., and Seoul, South Korea.

Straily’s plight whether to wait out lockout negotiations or sign a minor league contract points to the sense of urgency exhibited by many players, The desire to get back on the field seems to outweigh any hard, political stance.

Elsewhere … Field manager Torey Lovullo and general manager Mike Hazen were both interested onlookers at Monday’s workout. Neither is permitted to speak with the media nor dress in uniform for this minor league camp. Lovullo watched activities in a long-sleeve Henley shirt and Dockers. … top prospects in camp on Monday included outfielders Corbin Carroll and Alek Thomas, infielder Buddy Kennedy and pitchers Blake Watson, Slade Cecconi, and Bryce Jarvis.

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