• Zack Greinke on his spring start vs. Cubs

    Zack Greinke on his spring start vs. Cubs

  • USA Baseball, Trubisky to Cards, Kurt Warner's stolen jersey

    USA Baseball, Trubisky to Cards, Kurt Warner’s stolen jersey

  • D-Backs' Robbie Ray says he's ready for start of season

    D-Backs’ Robbie Ray says he’s ready for start of season

  • Zack Greinke on his start vs. Netherlands

    Zack Greinke on his start vs. Netherlands

  • Shelby Miller strikes out 8 vs. Mariners

    Shelby Miller strikes out 8 vs. Mariners

  • D-Backs' Robbie Ray on spring start vs. Brewers

    D-Backs’ Robbie Ray on spring start vs. Brewers

  • Zack Greinke comments on his throwing session

    Zack Greinke comments on his throwing session

  • Diamondbacks' Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. White Sox

    Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. White Sox

  • Taijuan Walker after latest dominant start for D-Backs

    Taijuan Walker after latest dominant start for D-Backs

  • Zack Greinke on his diminished velocity in start vs. Mexico

    Zack Greinke on his diminished velocity in start vs. Mexico

  • Shelby Miller discusses latest start

    Shelby Miller discusses latest start

  • D-Backs' Taijuan Walker on his latest strong outing

    D-Backs’ Taijuan Walker on his latest strong outing

  • D-Backs lefty Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. Padres

    D-Backs lefty Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. Padres

  • Shelby Miller on his outing vs. Cubs

    Shelby Miller on his outing vs. Cubs

  • Archie Bradley on strong outing vs. Padres

    Archie Bradley on strong outing vs. Padres

  • Robbie Ray on his spring training debut

    Robbie Ray on his spring training debut

  • Spring training story lines to watch

    Spring training story lines to watch

  • Taijuan Walker throws two innings in spring debut

    Taijuan Walker throws two innings in spring debut

  • Some things about Spring Training season just haven't changed...

    Some things about Spring Training season just haven’t changed…

  • MLB changing intentional walks for 2017

    MLB changing intentional walks for 2017

  • Just the FAQs: Brewers at bullpen

    Just the FAQs: Brewers at bullpen

  • Projecting the 2017 MLB season

    Projecting the 2017 MLB season

  • MLB's 100 Names to Know for 2017

    MLB’s 100 Names to Know for 2017

  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on rule changes, MLBPA cooperation

    MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on rule changes, MLBPA cooperation

  • Diamondbacks' Ken Kendrick discusses team's lawsuit

    Diamondbacks’ Ken Kendrick discusses team’s lawsuit

  • D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo on Goldschmidt, team's core

    D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo on Goldschmidt, team’s core

  • Behind the scenes at Diamondbacks Photo Day

    Behind the scenes at Diamondbacks Photo Day

  • Cubs' Joe Maddon on why it's difficult to repeat

    Cubs’ Joe Maddon on why it’s difficult to repeat

  • Cubs' Joe Maddon on this season's preparation

    Cubs’ Joe Maddon on this season’s preparation

  • A look at Diamondbacks Fan Fest 2017

    A look at Diamondbacks Fan Fest 2017

  • Closer Fernando Rodney throws bullpen session

    Closer Fernando Rodney throws bullpen session

  • Baseball stadiums on the way out or in danger of extinction

    Baseball stadiums on the way out or in danger of extinction

  • Taijuan Walker throws bullpen session at Salt River Fields

    Taijuan Walker throws bullpen session at Salt River Fields

  • Shelby Miller throws bullpen session at Salt River Fields

    Shelby Miller throws bullpen session at Salt River Fields

  • D-Backs bench coach Ron Gardenhire diagnosed with prostate cancer

    D-Backs bench coach Ron Gardenhire diagnosed with prostate cancer

  • D-Backs manager Lovullo on getting started, Shelby Miller

    D-Backs manager Lovullo on getting started, Shelby Miller

  • D-Backs pitcher Archie Bradley talks about his beard

    D-Backs pitcher Archie Bradley talks about his beard

  • D-Backs skipper Torey Lovullo press conference

    D-Backs skipper Torey Lovullo press conference

  • D-Backs pitcher Patrick Corbin reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale

    D-Backs pitcher Patrick Corbin reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale

  • Diamondbacks' pitcher Archie Bradley: "New year. New team. New everything. We're excited."

    Diamondbacks’ pitcher Archie Bradley: “New year. New team. New everything. We’re excited.”

  • D-Backs near crossroads with Goldschmidt

    D-Backs near crossroads with Goldschmidt

  • The best MLB lineup realistic money can buy

    The best MLB lineup realistic money can buy

  • Montini: Diamondbacks' lawsuit is one big error

    Montini: Diamondbacks’ lawsuit is one big error

  • Cubs, coffee and cars: How things have changed since the North Siders last won the World Series

    Cubs, coffee and cars: How things have changed since the North Siders last won the World Series

J.J. Hoover’s career was supposed to take off. He had worked his way up to the closer’s job with the Cincinnati Reds, and he envisioned himself taking the opportunity and running with it.

Instead, last year was the worst of his career. He lost the closer’s job. He was sent to the minors, taken off the 40-man roster. He wound up with the Diamondbacks on a minor-league contract, a deal that came with no guarantees.

But Hoover came to camp with the belief that he was in a good situation, that things would work out for him. He is getting closer to making that a reality.

In 7 2/3 innings in the Cactus League, Hoover has yet to allow a run. He’s given up just five hits, walked one, struck out nine. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff – the right-hander’s fastball has sat in the low-90s – but he’s had no trouble getting outs, and he has put himself in good position to secure one of several open spots in the Diamondbacks bullpen.

“I think it’s just going out there and executing,” Hoover said. “It’s been working out pretty well.”

RELATED: Archie Bradley open to shift to bullpen

Hoover is understated, quiet. He says he is able to see the positives through his struggles from last year. He is guided by his faith, a believer that everything that happened was the result of a divine path.

“God showed me something different,” he said.

Hoover, 29, who spent five seasons with the Reds, still calls Ohio home. He and his wife, Megan, have a farm there. They have donkeys and horses, pasture-raised chickens and grass-fed cattle. They grow hops and have plans for an orchard. They have cats, dogs and even a miniature pig named Dozer as a pet.

“He brings a little bit of diversity to the house,” Hoover said.

Hoover loves his job, but he insists Megan’s is better. She’s an exotic animal trainer who’s on contract at the Cincinnati Zoo.

“She’s just amazing to watch work,” Hoover said. “I watched her train polar bears, rhinos, big cats.”

She also trained Harambe, the lowland gorilla whose death last year at the Cincinnati Zoo became a national story. In May, a child fell into an enclosure and was dragged around by the gorilla. Zoo workers, fearful the child’s life was in danger, shot and killed Harambe.

Hoover said the death was “difficult” but believes the zoo chose the only option it had in a bad situation.

“She had a 1-on-1 relationship with that gorilla and trained him when he first got over and was in quarantine,” Hoover said. “He was awesome. He was super smart and she really enjoyed working with him.”

In a Diamondbacks bullpen that has perhaps as many as five jobs up for grabs, Hoover seems to have an inside track at one of them. He and right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen appear to have separated themselves from the pack of veteran relievers who are in camp on minor-league deals.

Hoover is pleased with the way he has bounced back from last year. He traces last season’s struggles to a different workout program that he thinks left him with less stability in his delivery. He believes it led to diminished velocity and less life on his pitches.

MORE: SS Nick Ahmed drawing interest on trade market

“It wasn’t until July that I had really finally put my finger on it,” he said. “By that point it was too late. The Reds had already kind of moved on. But if you look back at my year, you’ll see after the second half, once I put my finger on what the problem was, I started to take off again.”

Hoover finished the year strong in Triple-A, posting a 2.30 ERA with 26 strikeouts and just two walks in his final 15 2/3 innings. He said he was pitching more like his old self; in his previous four years, he’d posted a combined 3.34 ERA in 223 innings for the Reds.

He doesn’t know for sure what’s going to happen with the Diamondbacks, but he said he’d have no regrets if it doesn’t work out.

“I feel like I’ve put in absolutely every ounce of work that I’ve needed to,” Hoover said. “I definitely want to be a part of this team. I love the group of guys here. It’s been such a breath of fresh air. It’s kind of renewed my excitement for baseball. I’m just hoping I can make this team.”

Short hops

  • First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is expected back in camp on Friday, manager Torey Lovullo said, and is scheduled to start against the Dodgers. Goldschmidt has been with Team USA the past three weeks at the World Baseball Classic. The U.S. won the tournament by beating Puerto Rico on Wednesday night, although Goldschmidt did not play the final three games.
  • Center fielder A.J. Pollock, who has been out since March 12 with a groin injury, is likely to return to the lineup on Friday, Lovullo said. Pollock was expected back Thursday, but he was pushed back due to concerns about the field being wet after overnight rain.
  • Left-hander Patrick Corbin will pitch in a minor-league game on Friday, as the Diamondbacks are keeping him away from the division-rival Dodgers. Left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin will start instead in what will be a “pen day,” Lovullo said. Relievers Fernando Rodney and Randall Delgado also will pitch on the back fields.

Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions