By Bob McManaman, azcentral sports
Oswaldo Arcia doesn’t wear black glasses, a bobble hat or a distinctive red-and-white-striped shirt. But if you start to look at all the places he’s been lately, the Venezuelan-born outfielder would be the perfect face for baseball’s version of “Where’s Waldo?”
Where’s Oswaldo? He’s been practically everywhere, thank you very much.
Can you say five different major league teams in six months? Oswaldo can. That’s the unpredictable journey it took Arcia to get here, where he’s hoping to win a job on the Diamondbacks’ 25-man roster after agreeing to a minor-league contract with the club in December.
Players bounce around all the time in professional sports, but Arcia has been a virtual human trampoline on wheels.
Signed as an amateur free agent by the Twins in 2007, his odyssey began last summer after spending parts of the past four seasons in the majors with Minnesota. On June 24, he was traded to the Rays for a player to be named later. He played 21 games for Tampa until being designated for assignment on Aug. 19.
Four days later, he was signed off waivers by the Marlins and added to Miami’s active roster. But he spent less time there than he did in limbo while waiting to be claimed. After just two plate appearances spanning two games, the Marlins designated him for assignment on Aug. 25.
Two days after that, Arcia was claimed by the Padres. He spent 14 games with San Diego, eventually was released once again, and his travels finally brought him here. That’s five teams in six months.
“I can’t say I ever remember seeing something like that,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said earlier in spring training. “I do know sometimes when you’re on the back end of a roster and there’s waivers claims that things happen. Guys can shift teams real quickly at this level.
“But it’s a credit that he’s come out the other end and he seems like he’s in a good place right now. I know there’s probably been some internal frustration that he’s dealt with. I just know I don’t want to look backwards on him; I want to look forward and move. What I’ve seen is a guy who looks like he’s ready to play some baseball and that’s what’s most impressive.”
Arcia, 25, doesn’t hold any grudges and refuses to say anything negative about his recent whirlwind escapade across the MLB landscape.
“I just feel really happy to be a part of this team right now, a part of this organization,” Arcia said Friday through an interpreter, Diamondbacks coach Ariel Prieto. “I know I’m coming from a lot of different places, but what’s important right now is that they’re giving me a lot of opportunities to make the team and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Asked if all the moving around was burdensome at the very least, Arcia again declined to mope or complain.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I’ve always had my head up. I’ve never given up on anything. Whoever I play for or wherever I play, I represent the jersey I’m wearing. No matter what team it is, that’s the team I’m on and where I’m trying to do my best.”
As he said, he’s getting plenty of chances to earn a spot on the bench as an extra outfielder. His chief competition is coming from former Giants sparkplug Gregor Blanco, but the Diamondbacks are also using an infielder (Chris Owings) and a catcher (Chris Herrmann) at the backup corner outfield slots.
Though he was batting only .222 entering Friday’s action, Arcia’s three Cactus League home runs were leading the team and it’s that constant threat of power from the left side of the plate that excites the front office and the coaching staff.
The Twins’ minor-league player of the year in 2012 (he hit .320 with 17 home runs and 98 RBIs in Triple-A), Arcia has long been considered a high-risk, high-reward type of hitter. He can pulverize a baseball and send it close to 500 feet, but he’ll also swing at almost every first-pitch offering and strike out a ton.
“Every time I go out to take at-bats, I try to do the best I can,” he said. “The power I have to hit the ball out of the park, I know as soon as I connect with the ball and the ball gets up that the baseball is gone. But for me, it’s really the most important just to connect and make good contact.
“So far it’s been great because they’ve been giving me a lot of at-bats and I’m starting to feel really good at home plate, very comfortable.”
Whether Arcia starts the year in the majors or at Triple-A Reno, the Diamondbacks are bound to rely on him at some point this season.
“We’re excited to have him,” Lovullo said. “… He’s very capable. He’s just going to have to go out and perform.”
And keep his bags packed if he doesn’t.
CACTUS LEAGUE: Coverage from azcentral sports and ASU’s Cronkite School
Reach McManaman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac and listen to him live every Wednesday night between 7-9 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.