Inside Reno’s Roster: Starting Pitching

Without question, starting pitching is the biggest question mark for the Diamondbacks as spring training heats up. With that being said, it also puts Reno’s starting pitching in flux.

Who the Aces have in their rotation on April 9 will stem directly from what happens over the next month in Arizona. Right now, there’s two, maybe three locks for the D-backs rotation. That’s Jeremy Hellickson, Josh Collmenter and possibly Vidal Nuno.

Collmenter is the veteran of the group. A 29-year-old home grown talent, drafted by the D-backs in 2007. The revamped D-backs Front Office put a lot of effort into remaking the staff over the offseason, acquiring depth after injuries decimated the team last year.

Along with Hellickson, the D-backs added Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Robbie Ray through trades over the offseason. Those three guys, along with Andrew Chafin, Chase Anderson and Trevor Cahill will battle for the two remaining spots in the rotation.

Chip Hale has named Chafin his starter for tomorrow’s exhibition game against Arizona State University. Listen to more from Hale on tomorrow’s expectations and how playing time will be divided up:

Then there’s Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo. Both guys coming back from Tommy John Surgery that will surely land in Reno at some point in 2015. There’s also prospects Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley, Aaron Blair and Yoan Lopez. The Diamondbacks are giving every pitcher ample opportunity to grab one of those two, or even three spots in the rotation.

That brings us to the Aces rotation, possibly consisting of guys like De La Rosa, Ray, Webster, Chafin and Anderson.

De La Rosa and Webster came over from the Red Sox organization in exchange for Wade Miley. Both have limited Major League experience, with De La Rosa having more success. The 25-year-old right-hander went 4-8 with a 4.43 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) in 101 2/3 innings for Boston in 2014. He split time between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket where he made 12 starts and went 2-4 with a 3.45 ERA. Between the two, De La Rosa racked up nearly nine strikeouts per nine innings.

Webster, also 25 years old, debuted in 2013 with the Red Sox. In 19 games Major League games in 2013 and 2014, the right-hander went 6-5 with a 6.25 ERA. He had more success in Pawtucket, making 41 starts over the last two seasons, compiling a 12-8 record. In 721 minor league innings, Webster has tallied 684 strikeouts.

Ray was part of the three-team trade that sent Didi Gregorius to the Yankees. The left-hander made his Major League debut in 2014 for the Tigers but struggled to a 1-4 mark with a 8.16 ERA. Pitching for Triple-A Toledo, Ray was 7-6 with a 4.22 ERA in 20 games (19 starts). He was ranked by Baseball America as the 88th ranked prospect in baseball heading into the 2014 season.

A.J. Schugel is another name to keep an eye on for the Reno rotation. The right-hander started 26 games for Double-A Mobile last year and went 6-4 with a 3.48 ERA over 147 1/3 innings.

As the games start to be played and pitchers get innings, tough decisions will have to be made at Salt River Fields. Steve Gilbert of MLB.com says Hale would prefer to carry 12 pitchers instead of 13, but they may be forced to carry the extra arm.

Here’s a look at the rest of the position preview schedule:
Friday, March 6: Relief Pitchers
Monday, March 9: Catchers
Friday, March 13: First Base
Monday, March 16: Second Base
Friday, March 20: Shortstop
Monday, March 23: Third Base
Monday, March 30: Outfield

D-backs & Aces Spring Training Update

Last week was pitchers and catchers report date, and today is all position players report date. Most players are in camp already as we’ve seen a number of position players taking part in drills down at the Diamondbacks’ spring training facility.

With the D-backs roster in a transition phase, it’s hard to say what players will make the big league club and who will be shifted down to Reno and Double-A Mobile. The main questions in camp focus on the starting pitching, and position battles at second base, third base and shortstop.

Listen to Chip Hale’s opening media session here:

As Hale indicates, there is about 15-18 pitchers the Diamondbacks are stretching out to be a starter. The problem with those 15-18 pitchers is there’s only five spots to fill a rotation. Two of those will come from Josh Collmenter and the recently-acquired Jeremy Hellickson. Top prospect Archie Bradley is one of the 15-18 guys competing for one of the spots. D-backs beat writer Nick Piecoro takes a look into Bradley’s mindset this year as compared to last:

Archie Bradley aims for a spot with the big league club out of spring training.

Along with the starting pitching, there’s a logjam of viable infielders looking to make the big league club. We know first base is set with Paul Goldschmidt, fully healed from a hand injury that prematurely ended his stellar 2014 season.

Across the diamond at third base is where things start to get tricky. Youngster Jake Lamb was fast-tracked to Arizona last year after crushing Southern League pitching. He spent five games with the Aces before getting the call-up in early August. At just 24 years old, Lamb looked to be the third baseman of the future, but then Arizona went out and signed Cuban Yasmany Tomas to a six-year deal.

It’s entirely possible for Tomas to end up at one of the corner outfield spots, with Lamb sticking at third base. It’s also entirely possible for Tomas to start the season in Reno and get more work defensively at a variety of positions.

Then there’s the middle of the infield with veterans Aaron Hill and Cliff Pennington and youngsters Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings. Where all fit remains to be seen. Hill could play second and third, while Owings and Ahmed can both play shortstop or second. Ahmed has the best glove at short, but his bat may be the furthest behind at the plate. Owings seems to be the opposite in terms of at the plate and in the field.

Over the course of the next month as spring training heats up, we’ll take a look at each position as it relates to who could potentially be in an Aces uniform this year. Stay tuned for the following previews:

Monday, March 2: Starting Pitchers

Friday, March 6: Relief Pitchers

Monday, March 9: Catchers

Friday, March 13: First Base

Monday, March 16: Second Base

Friday, March 20: Shortstop

Monday, March 23: Third Base

Monday, March 30: Outfield

The Aces open the 2015 season Thursday, April 9 at Albuquerque, and host the Isotopes Friday, April 17 at 6:35 p.m. in the home opener at Aces Ballpark. Ticket packages are on-sale now at www.renoaces.com or by calling (775) 334-4700. For additional up-to-date news and notes throughout the offseason follow the club on Twitter (@aces) or like the team on Facebook.

Spring Training: Pitchers & Catchers Report

Pitchers and catchers report. It’s a phrase that signals the official start of the baseball season. Today was that day for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Included in that group is former Reno Aces and future Reno Aces.

2015 is the beginning of a new era at Chase Field. Many new faces including Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa, Senior Vice President & General Manager Dave Stewart, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations De Jon Watson, and of course Manager Chip Hale.

A big question going into big league camp is the pitching rotation. Everything that happens in Arizona has a direct impact on what players will be in Reno. In his press conference today, Hale said they have 18 guys getting stretched out as starters competing for one of five spots in the rotation.

Many think Jeremy Hellickson and Josh Collmenter are locks, and the rest is up for grabs. Guys fighting for spots include Chase Anderson, Archie Bradley, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Chafin, Rubby De La Rosa, Randall Delgado, Vidal Nuno, Robbie Ray and Allen Webster. Then there is Patrick Corbin, David Hernandez and Daniel Hudson, all who have dealt with major injuries that will factor into the equation at some point. Check out what Steve Gilbert with MLB.com had to say about the competition in camp.

As Corbin and Hernandez come along, there’s a good chance both will pitch for the Aces at some point during the 2015 season. Hudson made a pair of rehab appearances for the Aces in 2014 and looks like a good bet to be with Arizona full-time out of spring training.

Here’s a look at the upcoming schedule for the Diamondbacks:
Friday, February 20: First workout for pitchers and catchers
Tuesday, February 24: Position players report
Wednesday, February 25: First full-squad workout
Tuesday, March 4: First Cactus League game against Colorado

For updates on all things Aces and Diamondbacks throughout spring training, come back to the “Not Just Baseball…Aceball” blog every day!

Catching up with the Aces: Kevin Munson

Kevin Munson’s dominant 2014 season earned him a spot on Arizona’s 40-man roster over the offseason. The right-hander went 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA over 56 appearances with the Aces in ’14. A 4th-round pick by the Diamondbacks in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of James Madison University, Munson was named the Aces’ pitcher of the month by the D-backs in June and August. Munson will head to big-league spring training with an opportunity to improve on his breakout 2014 season. We recently caught up with him as he readies himself for camp.

Aces: Well the offseason has pretty much come and gone. How did you spend it, did you get enough rest and down time?

Kevin Munson: I spent time in Roanoke, Phoenix, and a short stint playing in the Dominican Republic. I feel great and am ready for camp to start.

Aces: 2013 was a good season for you, but 2014 was stellar. Do you feel like you took a big step forward?

KM: Yes, I was able to put it together last year. Having Blake Lalli and Bobby Wilson behind the plate made things a lot easier. Munson300

Aces: You were named Aces Pitcher of the Month in June and August by the Diamondbacks. Is there a gratification that goes into being recognized by the organization?

KM: Yes, it felt great to have a good individual stretch and help the team win. August especially, was a really fun month for the Aces. I’m glad I was able to contribute.

Aces: Many people thought you were a prime candidate to be called up and deserved it. I’m sure there was disappointment when it didn’t happen, but how did you channel that energy into something positive?

KM: It reminded me one good season doesn’t mean the job is done. I’ve still got a lot to prove.

Aces: Your offseason started with being placed on Arizona’s 40-man roster. What was that day like for you, emotional at all?

KM: It was special having that happen with the club that drafted me. I’m excited they showed confidence in me, and I hope to help the D-backs win games this year.

Aces: Team wise, the 2014 Aces club was highly successful. Tied a franchise win mark, went to the PCL Championship Series. Every day that clubhouse was loose and enjoyable, what made you guys click so easily?

KM: Phil (Nevin), Bird (Mike Parrott), and GG (Greg Gross) are all great baseball guys that set the tone. The veteran guys in the locker room, like Mike Jacobs, really brought the energy everyday.

Aces: We’ll switch to one-word answers here:

My 2014 was:
KM: Memorable.

Aces: My 2015 will be:
KM: Better.

Aces: I’m a _______ type of pitcher:
KM: Intense.

Aces: My hometown of Roanoke, Virginia is:
KM: Growing.

Aces: When I was growing up, my favorite player was:
KM: Pudge.

Aces: Favorite place to be in Reno:
KM: Aces Ballpark would sound cliche, so Michael’s Deli.

Catching up with the Aces: Danny Dorn

Danny Dorn’s 2014 season was up and down as he fought injuries that started in spring training. When he was on the field, Dorn was a huge part of a potent Aces lineup. The left-handed hitting first baseman hit .304 with 12 home runs, 13 doubles and 6 triples. In 73 games, Dorn collected 47 RBI and scored 42 runs. Dorn quickly signed with the Diamondbacks after the season, and as he notes, the decision was quick and easy. With an invite to spring training, Dorn will have an opportunity to impress in the coming weeks. We caught up with him over the weekend.

Aces: How’s the offseason going, are you back in California?

Danny Dorn: My off-season went well. It went rather quickly. Currently, I am in San Diego for my brothers wedding. I spent time between Kentucky, California, and Puerto Rico throughout the off-season.

Aces: You played for the Gigantes de Carolina in the Puerto Rican Winter League. What was that experience like?

DD: Puerto Rico was very enjoyable. It was my first time playing winter ball in that league. It was a lot of fun and we were able to stay on a beach, so I spent a lot of time hanging out there in the sun and water. My wife was able to come down for a good amount of time, and we were able to explore the countryside during our All-Star break and days off.

Aces: Very few people experience winning a National Championship at the collegiate level, let alone for a powerhouse baseball program like Cal-State Fullerton. Can you take us back to 2004 when you and your teammates at Fullerton won the College World Series?

DD: The College World Series was an unbelievable experience. I was fortunate to go there three out of the four years I played at Fullerton, and we won it my sophomore year. I know it’s changed a lot since they built the new stadium out there, but the old Rosenblatt was where every college player wanted to end their season. I have a lot of great memories and great friendships from that team who I still keep in touch with today. RENO

Aces: Speaking of Fullerton, that is something you and Phil Nevin have in common. You’ve been with Phil in Toledo and now Reno, what is it like playing for him?

DD: Phil is great, I love playing for him. If you play hard and do your job, he will do whatever he can for you. He played a long time and had a lot of success in this game as a player and understands the game of baseball very well.

Aces: You were putting up some huge numbers in Reno when you hurt your shoulder on somewhat of a freak play July 20. Do you remember that play and what you went through, thinking the injury was a serious one?

DD: Yes, last year I had a difficult season of trying to stay healthy, with breaking my hand in spring training and then injuring my shoulder in July. It was actually on my birthday and the field was wet, and I kind of just slipped and landed on my elbow awkwardly and jammed my shoulder. I was extremely worried at the time because of the amount of discomfort I was feeling and also because I had injured that shoulder playing football in high school. I have to give credit to the medical staff and Joe Metz, our trainer, for getting me healthy and back on the field.

Aces: You signed back with the Diamondbacks’ organization this offseason and it happened rather quickly. How big of a decision was that for you and your family?

DD: It was a big decision but also a very easy one. The Diamondbacks reached out to me before the World Series was even over with and told me they wanted to re-sign me. It’s a great organization and one I’m very proud to be in. I’m excited for the opportunity and can’t wait for spring training to start.

Aces: We’ll switch to one-word answers here:

My 2014 was:

DD: Injury-plagued.

Aces: I’m excited for 2015 because:

DD: It’s a great opportunity.

Aces: Greg Gross is:

DD: Awesome.

Aces: When I was growing up, my favorite player was:

DD: Ken Griffey, Jr.

Aces: Favorite place to be in Reno:

DD: Aces Ballpark.

Aces: Funniest player on the 2014 Aces team:

DD: Bobby Wilson.

Catching up with the Aces: Matt Stites

Diamondbacks reliever Matt Stites jumped three levels of professional baseball during the 2014 season. The Festus, Missouri native started the season in Double-A, proceeded to dominate Triple-A hitters, then spent the final three months of the season with the D-backs.

The 24-year-old right-hander was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 17th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Baseball America ranked Stites the ninth best prospect among Arizona farmhands entering the 2014 season.

We caught up with Stites in Arizona in this edition of “Catching up with the Aces.”

Aces: How’s the offseason going, are you back in your hometown of Festus, Missouri?

Matt Stites: The offseason is going well. Nice to relax for a few months and rest up for the 2015 season. Yes, I was in Festus for a few months of the offseason. I came out to Arizona to get out of the cold weather and do my workouts at our spring training complex on January 20th.

Aces: When do you sort of “ramp it up” for the season? Did you give yourself some down time when the season ended?

MS: I took two weeks off right after the season to just relax and enjoy the off time. After that I started running and lifting until right around Christmas. That’s when I started my throwing program and started to get my arm in shape for the next season.

Aces: Before we get into the 2014 season, I want to go back to July 31, 2013. You were traded by San Diego to Arizona as part of the Ian Kennedy trade. What do you remember from that day? What’s the difference like moving from one organization to another?

MS: I remember everything from that day, one of the craziest days I’ve had. I had just been discharged from the hospital from having my appendix removed whenever the Padres GM called me and gave me the news. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play the rest of that season up until the Arizona Fall League. Moving organizations was not as difficult as I thought it would have been. Everyone in the Diamondbacks organization was very polite and helpful to me whenever I was traded. I thought it would be difficult to transition to a new organization with new players and personnel, but it was really all the same. Everyone going after one common goal.

Aces: The Diamondbacks have restructured their front office with very successful former players, most recently Randy Johnson. What will it be like having a Hall of Fame pitcher giving you some tips?

MS: When I first heard Randy was going to be a part of the front office, I was very excited to get out to Arizona and start our workouts. Having a guy like that with the experience and success he had on your side is incredible and I am really looking forward to that.

Aces: Last year was a huge year for you. Started in Double-A and spent the final three months in the big leagues. Can you sum up the season in an overall sense?

MS: Last season was the most fun I’ve had in baseball since being drafted in 2011. Making my debut was by far the greatest accomplishment I’ve made.

Aces: You made your Major League debut on June 19 against Milwaukee. From the time you got called up to when you stepped on the mound, take us through that time frame.

MS: That was an eventful day to say the least. I found out around 10:30 pm that I had been called up, and right after I found that out, I also found out the Diamondbacks had an afternoon game the next day. I packed my stuff up at the field and headed to my apartment to pack up my stuff there. I landed in Arizona the next morning around 8:30 am and went straight to the ballpark with all my luggage and stuff I had flown with. Sat down in the bullpen until I was called to warm up and get the last two outs of the eighth inning against the Brewers.

Aces: We’ll switch to one-word answers here:

My 2014 was:
MS: Memorable.

Aces: My 2015 will be:
MS: Improved.

Aces: The best hitter I have faced is:
MS: Miguel Cabrera.

Aces: When I was growing up, my favorite player was:
MS: Ken Griffey Jr.

Aces: Funniest guy on the team (Mobile, Reno or Arizona):
MS: Oliver Perez.

Aces: If I wasn’t a professional baseball player, I would be:
MS: …It’s a good thing I’m a professional baseball player.

Catching up with the Aces: Nick Ahmed

Nick Ahmed has always been known for his slick defensive abilities. Ahmed’s glove was steady as always in 2014, making the difficult look routine. It was his bat that may have surprised people around the game.

In 104 games with Triple-A Reno, Ahmed hit .312 with 26 doubles, 4 triples and 4 home runs. Primarily hitting lead-off, Ahmed added 37 walks and 14 stolen bases to his stat-line. The shortstop became the 10th player in Aces franchise history to collect 5 hits in a single game when he accomplished the feat June 24th against Colorado Springs. It was just 5 days later when Ahmed got the call to the big leagues for the first time.

Although the stay was short (25 games), Ahmed held his own with the Diamondbacks before returning to Reno to finish the Triple-A season. He cracked his first big league home run July 31st against Pittsburgh.

Ahmed’s faith and natural teaching ability have kept him busy during the offseason. We catch up with him in this edition of “Catching up with the Aces.”

Aces: How’s the offseason going, what are you doing to stay busy?

Nick Ahmed: My offseason has been great. Working out and training hard 6 days a week to prepare for the upcoming season. Also, spending a lot of quality time with my family. My wife and I have been connected and invested with a new church back home called LifePoint church.

Aces: I noticed you have been running some camps back in your hometown. How has that process been going? Have you always liked the instruction part of the game?

NA: My brother Mike (who is in the minor leagues with the Dodgers) and I ran a defensive camp in December. We had about 40 kids and the camp went really well. We’re going to try to make it an annual camp. Yes I love the instruction side of the game. I enjoy passing on the information and skills that I have been taught over the years to the next generation of players.

Aces: You took a big step forward this year, especially with the bat. With an advanced glove, has hitting been a focal point for you lately?

NA: Improvement in every part of my game is always a focal point. Baseball has so many different skills and sides to the game. I take great pride in being good in all areas of the game and work extremely hard and smart to improve all areas of the game.

Nick Ahmed accepts his MiLB Gold Glove award with manager Phil Nevin

Nick Ahmed accepts his MiLB Gold Glove award with manager Phil Nevin

Aces: Speaking of your glove, you were named the top defensive shortstop in all of Minor League Baseball and presented the award during this past season. What do you remember from that day and what does it mean to win an award like that?

NA: That award is very special to me. I was very humbled to receive that award as there are so many amazing shortstops in minor league baseball. I remember the day very well, it was special to share the award and day with my teammates and coaches.

Aces: Was there a player you looked up to when you were growing up? Your manager, Phil Nevin, said you are the best defensive shortstop he has seen since Omar Vizquel. When you hear something like that, what goes through your head?

NA: Nomar Garciaparra of the Boston Red Sox. My brothers and I loved watching him. He was a dynamic shortstop on both sides of the ball. That’s a great compliment from a guy who has been around a lot of great players. I hope that with continued improvement each day I will be able to win several Gold Gloves in the Big Leagues like Vizquel did.

Aces: You made your Major League debut on June 29 and collected your first big league hit during the game. What were the emotions like for you?

NA: The emotions that day were crazy. I was anxious, excited, relaxed, and nervous all at the same time. Once the game started and the juices got flowing I was able to relax a lot more. I felt like I was able to compete and play the way I wanted to. It was great to get my first hit in my first game. It would have been nice to win that game and not ground into a double play my first at bat even though it was a quality at bat.

Aces: One-word answers here.

Favorite offseason place to be:
NA: Home (East Longmeadow, MA)

Aces: The 2014 Reno Aces team was:
NA: A tight knit group

Aces: Phil Nevin is:
NA: Competitive

Aces: I wouldn’t be who I am today without:
NA: My family

Aces: In 2015 I will be:
NA: Dominant

Catching up with the Aces: Andrew Chafin

The dream of every young baseball player is to one day play in the big leagues. Very few do, and a select few make their Major League Baseball debut in their hometown. Left-hander Andrew Chafin can say he did both.

Stringing together successful stints in Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno, Chafin was called up by the Diamondbacks in early August and made his debut at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on August 13th. RENO

Chafin went to High School in Collins, Ohio, about an hour drive to Cleveland. He later went on to pitch at Kent State University.

Chafin started that day in Cleveland and fired five shutout innings in the D-backs 1-0 win. He was sent back to Reno and threw a complete-game shutout against Las Vegas in the first round of the PCL Playoffs, then threw six shutout innings against Omaha in the PCL Championship Series.

We pulled Chafin away from hunting and fishing in this edition of “Catching up with the Aces.”

Aces: How’s the offseason going, what are you doing to stay busy?

Andrew Chafin: My offseason has been pretty good. I spend a lot of time working on my boat and jeep. As always I’ve spent a lot of time hunting and fishing.

Aces: You’re big into hunting, fishing…pretty much anything outdoors. How did you get started with all that stuff?

AC: My grandpa was the one that got me into hunting and my dad was the one that always took me fishing. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved the outdoors. If I’m outside I’m happy, simple as that.

Aces: You’re from Ohio and went to Kent State University. Considering their recent National Championship in football, is there any allegiance to Ohio State with you or your family?

AC: I grew up a fan of Ohio State, but going to Kent State I became a Golden Flash and that’s where my allegiance lies. However if we don’t win a championship I’m happy that it’s another Ohio team.

Aces: On to the baseball stuff. You took a big step forward this year, moving from Double-A, to Triple-A and eventually your Major League debut. How would you assess your season overall?

AC: I was happy with how the season turned out. I learned a lot and have developed more as a pitcher. Getting a taste of the big leagues at the end of the season was a great way to go into the offseason. I’m excited to come into this season knowing what I know now and look forward to competing this spring for a starting position.

Aces: You got to make your Major League debut in Cleveland, not far from where you grew up. What was the process like from being called up, to taking the ball in a Major League stadium for the first time?

AC: It was every kids dream. I get asked this a lot and to this day I can’t put it in words. The process itself was simple, but the mind blowing reality of it was a whole different animal. It’s a dream come true and that’s about all I can say about it.

Aces: After that start you came back to Reno and played a big role in the playoff push, then threw the complete-game shutout in game two against Las Vegas. You threw six more scoreless frames against Omaha in the PCL Championship Series. What did it mean for you to go out there and dominate those two games?

AC: Looking back on it, all I know is I went out there and gave it my all to try and help the team win. I was happy to be able to go out there and play a positive roll in the championship push.

Aces: Ok, one-word answers here.

In 2014 I was:
AC: 24

Aces: In 2015 I will be:
AC: 25

Aces: Best hitter you have ever faced:
AC: Cole Tilton

Aces: My favorite place to be in Reno is:
AC: Fishing

Aces: I wouldn’t be who I am today without:
AC: My Dad

Aces: If I wasn’t a professional baseball player I would be:
AC: A Mechanic

Aces Offseason Shuffle – Edition 4

The minor league transactions have slowed over recent weeks for the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, it’s not all quiet. The D-backs inked three players to 1-year minor league contracts with invites to Major League Spring Training in recent weeks. And the big splash – signing Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez who is likely to start in the minor leagues, but will also get an invite to Major League Spring Training.

At 6’4″, 190 pounds and 21 years old, Lopez signed for a record-setting $8.27 million bonus with Arizona this week. It’s the largest bonus under the new international guidelines. To read more about Lopez and watch video of his fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 90’s, check out this article from Jesse Sanchez at MLB.com.

In the article, D-backs GM Dave Stewart hints that Lopez will start the season with Double-A Mobile. A lot will depend on what he does in Spring Training, along with Archie Bradley, Aaron Blair and Braden Shipley. It sounds like there’s a very real possibility the four will all be in one rotation when the season begins.

As for the three players signed to minor league contracts, they were all assigned to Reno. Let’s take a look:

Dan Runzler - A left-handed pitcher, Runzler makes his money out of the bullpen. He spent 2014 with Fresno, the then Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. In 46 1/3 innings, the southpaw struck out 53 and turned in a 3.30 ERA. In 89 games big league games with the Giants, Runzler has a 4-2 mark with a 3.86 ERA.

Danny Worth - A right-handed hitting infielder, Worth comes from the Detroit Tigers organization where he played for Phil Nevin at Triple-A Toledo from 2011-13. A California native, Worth has 135 games of Major League experience.

Ben Francisco - At 33 years old, Francisco is a seven-year Major League veteran. He has played for Cleveland, Philadelphia, Toronto, Houston, Tampa Bay and New York (AL). Francisco was out of affiliated ball in 2014 and played for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League.

Catching up with the Aces: Bradin Hagens

Bradin Hagens took giant leaps in the 2014 season. Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Merced College (CA), Hagens went 9-7 with a 3.86 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. He started the year in Double-A Mobile, made one start for the Aces, then found himself in Miami making his Major League Baseball debut. The right-hander from California pitched twice for the Diamondbacks before returning to Reno to help during the playoff run.

On August 25, during a stretch in which Reno was both red-hot yet also needed every win they could get, Hagens went out and delivered a masterpiece against the Omaha Storm Chasers. He threw the first complete game of his career in a 5-1 win for the Aces. He scattered five hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out a pair on 109 pitches.

He delivered another gem in the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. After Omaha won game one in Reno, Hagens tossed six innings of one-run baseball to lead the Aces to a series-tying 4-2 win. Hagens

Here’s Hagens on his 2014 season and what he’s doing in the offseason:

Aces: You came into your own this year making two big leaps. First to Triple-A for the first time, then later in the year to the big leagues. What was the year like for you?

Bradin Hagens: This year was an amazing experience. I had such a great time with the opportunities I had. I was beyond blessed to make a big league debut and then throw the first complete game of my professional career in Reno!

Aces: Speaking of the big league debut, it came on August 14 in Miami. What do you remember about that day? The emotions, being with a Major League Baseball team, everything that comes with it?

BH: The emotions were through the roof, literally, considering it was in a dome stadium. That was also a first for me. I was feeling blessed, excited, nervous, and amazed all at the same time!

Aces: You started the year in Mobile which had a very talented roster and pitching staff, then came to Reno right in the thick of a playoff race. What was the transition to the clubhouse in Reno like?

BH: The transition was really easy, the guys in Reno weren’t hard to get along with, and it made a smooth transition because I had previously played with a lot of the guys.

Aces: It looks like there will be opportunities with the big league club out of spring training. What’s the mindset going into it this year?

BH: I’m trying to be very optimistic in that if I come in to camp ready, anything can happen! So whatever happens I will just go from there and keep working.

Aces: You pitched five games in the Puerto Rican Winter League about a month back. What was the experience like?

BH: Playing in Puerto Rico was pretty incredible! The environment is relaxed but everyone still wants to win. The guys were extremely nice and fun to be around. The talent level was good and you couldn’t get by without trying to improve and grow as a player.

Aces: One-word answers here, Bradin.

Favorite offseason place to be:
BH: Home

Aces: Funniest guy on the 2014 Aces:
BH: Bobby Wilson

Aces: Mike Parrott is:
BH: Knowledgeable

Aces: Best place to eat in Reno:
BH: Duffy’s

Aces: In 2015 I will be:
BH: Optimistic

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