SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP)Kole Calhoun gets to benefit from an atypical situation for a major league baseball player.
The veteran outfielder from the Phoenix area lives minutes from his hometown, goes to spring training every day near his hometown and will play regular-season games near his hometown all year.
The prospect of coming home helped the Diamondbacks land Calhoun in the offseason, as Arizona paid him $16 million for two years to take over in right field for the team he grew up rooting for.
These days more Phoenix locals wish Calhoun well and are familiar with the 32-year-old former Arizona State star after he spent six full seasons and part of two others with the Los Angeles Angels, the team that drafted him in 2010.
”That’s pretty cool,” Calhoun said. ”It used to be when I’d come home after the season, nobody knew who I was at all. So now a little bit more recognizable, which is pretty cool in my hometown.”
Calhoun smacked a career-high 33 homers for the Angels last season but the Angels didn’t pick up his 2020 option and bought out his contract. The Diamondbacks were one of the first teams to come calling, and now Calhoun is a big part of a revamped outfield that hopes to contend in the NL West.
”I wanted somebody that wanted to win and wanted me, and it didn’t hurt that it was the hometown team,” Calhoun said. ”Lived here and grew up loving the Diamondbacks and there was a need in right field, and it came together pretty easily for sure.”
The Diamondbacks now have an expected opening day lineup stocked with seasoned veterans. David Peralta is the only returning regular player from last season in the outfield, with Starling Marte and Calhoun new to the club.
Marte and Calhoun haven’t been playing together in spring training games, but Marte and Peralta have. That could change soon.
”I’m trying to piece together the combination of guys and keep guys together so they get to know voices and spacing, and it can be a little bit of a challenge,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. ”As we start to play on through the course of spring training, these guys will start to play together a lot. I think it’s real important that at some point that we start to get a little defensive continuity.”
Calhoun figures to make an impact defensively along with swinging a power bat. He has 58 career assists to 30 total errors and won a Gold Glove in 2015.
On Tuesday night, he hit his first home run of spring training. With Wednesday off, he is 4 for 10 with five walks so far.
”Good to get it out of the way, I guess,” Calhoun said of the home run and his swing. ”There’s still refining to do. But moving in the right direction, feels OK and keep going forward. So I have a few more weeks to get to where I want to be.”
NOTE: Diamondbacks ace Madison Bumgarner made his second start of spring training Wednesday, facing the Cleveland Indians. He gave up four runs on four hits with two strikeouts and a walk in 2 2/3 innings. One of the hits was Cleveland star Francisco Lindor’s three-run home run in the top of the third inning.
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