When the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies face each other during this final spring training in Tucson, some gamesmanship will be on display.
Early this spring, pitchers are throwing few innings, and starters exit games well before the final pitch. But by the final week, players are closer to being season ready, and against NL West foes, the D-backs and Rockies might not send their top-notch starting pitchers to the mound to avoid showing their hands.
The teams play their Cactus League opener today at Tucson Electric Park.
Starting next year, the rivals will be housemates, sharing a $100 million, 140-acre complex near Scottsdale.
Team officials say it's not their preference to share with a rival, but the teams say they want to move from the two-team atmosphere in Tucson that diminishes competition and increases travel to the Valley.
"Early in camp, I don't worry about it as much. Later in camp, we have a game at the end of the month, it'll be a little interesting pitching choices on both sides," said Arizona manager A.J. Hinch, referring to the final spring game in Tucson on March 31. "But we probably know them as well as we know anybody."
Next year, the teams will have separate clubhouses and offices and will likely face each other less because 13 other teams train in Phoenix. Hopefully, the D-backs will avoid their rivals during the final week of spring, Hinch said.
"It'll be nice to see different teams we may only see once (in Tucson), to see a lot of American League teams that are up there that we only get to see once," Hinch said.
Today, the D-backs will pitch No. 5 starter candidate Billy Buckner, and the Rockies will throw last year's No. 5, Jason Hammel, and 16-game winner Jorge De La Rosa, a lefty.
"(We're) not necessarily showing everything, but we're still working on things," Hammel said. "But you're still seeing (hitters') early approaches, so you're kind of looking for stuff they're doing, too."
Hinch said he is not hiding too much early - No. 2 starter Edwin Jackson will face the Giants on Saturday, and ace Dan Haren will likely face the Dodgers once.
When the players are closer to being season ready, Hinch said he will worry more about matchups on March 29 against the Padres and March 31 against the Rockies.
"I'm anticipating later that Rockies game on the 31st will probably be the only game I really, really try to hone in on who's the starting pitcher on that date. … By then our pitchers are going five or six innings. It'll be a chess match," Hinch said.
As the only teams training in Tucson, the D-backs and Rockies can't sidestep each other too much, and both will likely send major-league pitchers to "B" games, scrimmages on back fields.
For example, last year, Colorado pitched minor-league prospect Jhoulys Chacin at TEP while regular starter Aaron Cook threw in a "B" game. In another "B" game, the D-backs pitched Jon Garland against mostly Rockies minor-leaguers.
Colorado starter Jeff Francis said pitchers are focused on improving themselves, and they can benefit from facing a rival.
"It helps when we know those hitters a bit and we can work on certain things, but you don't want to show your hand too much. That's true," he said.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy opted to start Francis on Friday against the Giants, instead of ace Ubaldo Jimenez, citing the important games the Rockies played against their rival last season. Instead, Jimenez will face the Angels.
"You get that far down in the spring, regardless of the opponent, you're into the big boys," Tracy said. "You're paring down to the point where you've got significant people who need to get their work in, so opponent is immaterial. Keep your secrets or hiding this or that or whatever, we've got to be ready to play."
Buckner, who will start today, said he has to focus on getting outs while possibly not showing too much to hitters.
"You want to get them out with as little as possible," he said. "I'm not worried about showing too much, because they know what I have anyway."
• What: Rockies at D-backs
• Where: Tucson Electric Park
• When: 1:05 p.m.
• Radio: 1490-AM