SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. >> After signing one of baseball's best pitchers in Zack Greinke, the Arizona Diamondbacks begin spring training with justifiable optimism.
Manager Chip Hale could see the difference during informal workouts in recent weeks.
"What I've noticed out on the field is just a little more intensity," he said, "just in their eyes, the way they've been going about the bullpens the guys have been throwing, some of the BPs (batting practices) we've watched. There's a real seriousness to it. I think they feel something special."
Now the preparation officially begins.
Pitchers and catchers reported on Wednesday, and Hale said pretty much all the position players have arrived, too.
There will some competition.
Greinke, newcomer Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin have the first three spots in the rotation. Incumbent starters Rubby De La Rosa and Robbie Ray are most likely for the other two starting jobs, but Hale listed Zack Godley and Archie Bradley as contenders.
Godley went 5-1 with a 3.19 ERA in 10 starts last season for the Diamondbacks, his first experience in the majors.
Bradley, who has been one of baseball's top pitching prospects, made the roster out of spring training last year and was off to a strong start before getting hit in the face with a line drive. His effectiveness suffered and he was sent down to the minors before shoulder inflammation ended his season.
Hale said no one has been working more in the offseason than Bradley.
"There's no reason, the way he's throwing the ball out there right now, that he shouldn't be in the mix," Hale said.
Corbin's workload was kept down last season, when the left-hander was coming back from Tommy John surgery.
"We talked about having the training wheels on, almost to the point where he was frustrated at times," Hale said. "This year, we'll let him go."
The late-inning jobs in the bullpen are set, with Brad Ziegler back as closer. Daniel Hudson and newly signed Tyler Clippard will work the seventh and eighth innings, although their precise roles are to be determined. Josh Collmenter returns as the long reliever, with Randall Delgado and left-hander Andrew Chafin likely to fill bullpen positions.
That would mean only one reliever job is open. Hale said he'd like to enter the season with 12 pitchers and 13 position players.
Among position players, David Peralta will switch from left field to right, swapping with Yasmany Tomas.
"As long as I play, I don't care," Peralta said. "It's not going to be a big difference."
There will be competition in the infield, particularly at second base. Chris Owings returns, as does Phil Gosselin and Brandon Drury. Jean Segura, acquired in a trade with Milwaukee, will see some action at second but the Diamondbacks see him more as a shortstop. That job was held last season by slick-fielding, light-hitting Nick Ahmed.
"I'm always coming into camp looking to earn a job and not expecting anything to be handed to me," Ahmed said, "so it doesn't really affect how I prepare or go about my business day to day."
Hale said Jake Lamb is ahead at third base, where Drury also can play.
Center fielder A.J. Pollock, coming off a breakout season, opens spring training as the leadoff hitter following the trade of Ender Inciarte to Atlanta in the deal that brought Miller to Arizona.
"But if somebody (else) could fill that hole," Hale said, "boy, that would be great to be able to hit A.J. second and Paul (Goldschmidt) third, or A.J. third and Paul fourth. So we'll experiment and play around with it and see if anybody grabs that leadoff spot."
Hale said his preference is to keep Goldschmidt batting third with Peralta fourth.
Hale said he believes the Diamondbacks could have the soundest fundamentals in baseball.
"So if we play that type of baseball," he said, "with the talent that we have, the wins should come."