PHOENIX - The Arizona Diamondbacks officially locked up their latest poster boy, and general manager Kevin Towers said he wishes he could "mold 24 more" just like him.
"When you enter into these long-term commitments, character is very important, especially for this organization, and there's no better guy than Paul Goldschmidt," Towers said Saturday of Arizona's young first baseman, who agreed to a five-year, $32 million contract extension with a club option for a sixth year worth $14.5 million.
Goldschmidt joins a list of cornerstone players the franchise recently has signed to multiyear extensions, including second baseman Aaron Hill, third baseman Martin Prado, catcher Miguel Montero, outfielder Cody Ross and pitchers Trevor Cahill, David Hernandez and J.J. Putz.
But it's Goldschmidt who seems to have become a clear-cut favorite of the Diamondbacks' brass. Not only can he hit and field his position, but Goldschmidt has quickly developed into a trusted, team-first commodity who can easily help the franchise market its brand.
"I wish we could mold 24 more of him," Towers said. "It's what he embodies and the way he plays when it comes to preparation, attitude and selflessness. We had those coins built up a couple years ago about what we stood for - tenacity, team unity, selflessness, never quit. That coin is really Paul Goldschmidt.
"That's the way he plays the game and prepares for the game."
Goldschmidt, who will be 31 when he plays out the fifth year of his new deal, said he's glad the contract is now behind him and he can simply devote his time and energy to baseball.
Goldschmidt brushed off the suggestion he might now be considered the new face of the franchise, saying that's not what the Diamondbacks are about any more.
"Everyone that's here, they're here for the right reasons," he said. "We're all in it for the team, and we're looking forward to getting started. We've got a very talented team. Top to bottom, bullpen, pitching, defense, hitting, our guys are going to play hard and go out there and compete. Obviously we've got the goal to make the playoffs and we'll see what happens after that."
Batting order set
Asking manager Kirk Gibson to shed some light this spring about how his batting order might look felt more like pulling teeth. He doesn't like to divulge too much or get pinned down on details.
So it was a bit of a surprise Saturday that Gibson offered up his opening-day lineup without even being asked. Here's how he said it will look Monday night against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals:
Gerardo Parra will start in right field and bat leadoff. He will be followed by Prado, Hill, Montero and Goldschmidt. Left fielder Jason Kubel will bat sixth, followed by center fielder A.J. Pollock, shortstop Cliff Pennington and starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, making his third consecutive opening-day start.
Parra likely will be the table setter at the top of the order until center fielder Adam Eaton returns from an elbow injury sometime in May. Parra, though, has had a history of mistakes on the base paths, something he's worked hard to correct this spring.
"We'll have to stay on top of it," Gibson said. "…We've talked to him a lot about understanding when and when not to do things, not only on the diamond but at the plate, in the outfield, with his arm, with his glove. He's totally bought into the things we've talked about."
With left-handers Matt Reynolds and Tony Sipp earning the last two spots in the bullpen and utility infielder Josh Wilson the last spot on the five-man bench, there were just two final position battles left to be announced Saturday.
Gibson did just that following Arizona's 9-0 exhibition loss to the Reds, saying lefty Pat Corbin will be his No. 5 man in the starting rotation and that Alfredo Marte will open the season as the team's fourth outfielder.
It's where you finish
Gibson was asked how important a fast start to the season would mean to the Diamondbacks. Apparently, it wouldn't mean as much as one might think.
"Well, it's not the end of the world," Gibson said. "Everybody would like to get off to a quick start. In 1984, my Tigers team got off to a 35-5 start, but we were like two and a half games up at the All-Star break.
"You just want to hang in there, give yourselves an opportunity to close the deal, get into the playoffs and then win a World Series."
Gibson and the '84 Tigers finished 104-58 and won the World Series, beating the Padres four games to one.