Chris Owings the favorite over Didi Gregorius for D-Backs’ starting shortstop job

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ESPN’s Jim Bowden hears that Chris Owings is the favorite over Didi Gregorius for the Diamondbacks’ starting shortstop job. Owings, 22, has not had a particularly great showing this spring, but has out-hit Gregorius in OPS, .698 to .541.

Gregorius, 24, wasn’t particularly impressive in his rookie season in 2013, posting a .704 OPS. Owings wasn’t noticeably better at the big league level last season but only had 61 plate appearances with which to work. He performed well with Triple-A Reno, slashing .330/.359/.482.

Bowden expects Owings to wind up as a candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year award at the end of the season. Additionally, he expects the D-Backs to shop Gregorius. He could, perhaps, be an option for the Tigers.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.