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Arizona Diamondbacks

Updated Mar 7, 2013 - 6:41 pm

MLB.com columnist: 'Grittiness is real' for D-backs, expectations should be high

Arizona Diamondbacks' Wil Nieves stretches at a spring training baseball workout on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Spring training represents a time of renewed optimism for all 30 teams in Major League Baseball.

In the Valley, however, this spring has a little different feel to it when it comes to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Few teams went through as big a facelift in the off-season as the D-backs and with drastic change comes plenty of question marks for Kirk Gibson and Co.

Fresh off a subpar third place finish (81-81) in the National League West a season ago, the D-backs enter 2013 trying to compete with the heavy pockets of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the championship pedigree of the San Francisco Giants. It's a tough task for any team, but an even tougher task for a squad with plenty of new faces (Cody Ross, Didi Gregorius, Eric Chavez, Eric Hinske, Heath Bell and Martin Prado) on the roster.

But not everyone is skeptical of the D-backs' chances of competing in the division this season.

"When Kevin Towers sat down with Kirk Gibson towards the end of last season, they all came up with a plan of what they wanted," MLB.com columnist Richard Justice told Arizona Sports 620's Doug & Wolf Thursday. "They wanted a team that did things the way Kirk Gibson did them, and I think they have it."

It might only be March, but Justice said he has a hunch that the D-backs might be playing into October.

"This whole off-season blueprint, this idea of grittiness that has been somewhat poked fun of around the country, it's real," said Justice. "Those of us on the outside can never really know what goes on but just being around that team with Martin Prado, Cody Ross and those guys, I just have a great feeling about the Diamondbacks.

"The expectations should be to go to the postseason, because they're good enough. They were not designed with a long-term goal in mind."

Justice, who makes his home in Houston, said he'd love to watch the D-backs play on a daily basis and believes any qualms fans might have regarding the team's winter transactions will dissipate once Opening Day rolls around.

"I think you're going to see a team that's fundamentally sound," said Justice. "I think you're going to see a team that people appreciate. I think it's going to be a team that competes, and ultimately I think it's going to be a team that's in contention for a playoff berth."

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