CHICAGO — Kevin Towers looks at the team that he put together and the D-backs general manager is as perplexed as anyone at the dismal start.
“I’ve been a part of some bad clubs, but most of the time I knew they were bad clubs, knew going into the season that we were going to struggle,” Towers said.
The D-backs had far higher hopes for this season with a club-record payroll of $110 million, but they entered Wednesday afternoon’s game with the Cubs with a Majors-worst 5-18 record.
With that payroll came expectations and Towers knows that managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall might be running short on patience.
“I’ve talked to Derrick, Ken and they’re [frustrated] — rightfully so,” Towers said. “They should be. This organization has committed a lot of money. That’s what’s even more disturbing. You’ve got a payroll that exceeds $100 million and we’re off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. That’s tough to swallow when you’re an owner and you care and you’ve invested in a product and the product isn’t performing. I’m sure they’ve grown impatient and I don’t blame them.”
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson knows that there has been speculation about his job status, but he is trying to remain focused on getting his team turned around.
“I don’t worry about that part,” Gibson said of his job status. “I just come in here and am positive every day. We try to analyze what we can do [better] and we just prepare and try to get the guys to prepare and have a positive day and a good game.”
Regardless of how positive they are, or what Towers or Gibson do, the reality is that it is up to the players on the field and Towers issued a bit of a challenge Wednesday.
“It’s a team that should be performing a lot better than they are and it’s not like help is on its way,” Towers said. “These guys are the guys who are going to have to get it done. If not, your legacy is that you were part of one of the worst teams in Diamondbacks franchise history. To me, I’ve got incredible pride — and hopefully they do and they’re going to have to find a way to turn it around or that will be their legacy.”
When asked if he thought that he would be given a chance to continue as GM and be given a chance to fix what’s wrong with the team, Towers deferred the query to Kendrick and Hall.
“That’s a question you need to ask them,” Towers said. “I don’t think they dislike Gibby or myself. They’re good people. They’ve been great to us. But Gibby and I are smart enough to know that this is what you get paid to do. You get paid to hopefully go out and win ballgames. But I think we’re all accountable. Everybody. It’s players, it’s us, it’s coaches. We all should be wearing this right now and finding a way to turn this around.”
When he took over as GM in Sept. 2010, Towers inherited Gibson, who had been named interim manager in July.
The two quickly formed a bond and Towers elected after that season to rehire Gibson. The pair won a division championship together in 2011, which was followed up by back-to-back .500 seasons.
After last season the organization declined to pick up the contract options on the pair for 2015, but then announced extensions of unspecified lengths for both just before the start of Spring Training.
As of Wednesday, Towers was still standing behind Gibson.
“I think the world of Gibby,” Towers said. “He’s a fierce competitor. He cares. But ultimately, it’s how do they respond? Players may ultimately get GMs and managers fired, but they don’t do it, it comes from up above. But how they respond to different things, our livelihood kind of lies in their hands. That’s just the truth and it does. They perform good, we have job security. They don’t perform well, we don’t have job security. That’s probably what makes it tough on Gibby and myself. You can’t go out and swing the bat or throw a ball. You’re sitting and evaluating, watching. You try to find different ways to get it done but you can’t go out and play the game for them.”
Gibson, for his part, continues to stand behind his players in terms of the effort they’re putting forth.
“Yeah, they’re busting their [butts],” he said. “When you don’t score runs it looks bad. When you don’t pitch, it looks bad. It always will. It always has. Things are magnified when we make an error and somebody hits a home run. It looks bad. Anybody going to question anybody on our team’s attitude and dedication and how they prepare when they make an error? They better not.”
A few thoughts from report day…
– They really shouldn’t call it report day, because the pitchers and catchers don’t actually have to show up at Salt River Fields. They simply need to check in to say they are in town.
In addition, almost all the guys — even position players — have been working out at the complex for days if not weeks.
– Speaking of which, the quote of the day on that subject came from pitcher Brandon McCarthy: “It’s just good because in the last month is when you start to hit that boredom point of you’re done with the offseason, you’re sick of your loved ones, you want to get out of your house, you kind of want to get back at some competitive outlet.”
– And while we’re on the subject of McCarthy, his comments about the determination in the clubhouse this spring really jumped out at me. You can read them here.
Look every team sounds optimistic during Spring Training especially early in camp, but this sounded different, there was an intensity and specificity about what needed to change that caught my attention.
Maybe it means nothing, but in listening to McCarthy and then to manager Kirk Gibson later, it seemed like things are quite different than they were last year.
– Here’s a link to today’s notebook with information on the closer competition, Mark Trumbo’s signing and Henry Blanco.
– The D-backs will go out to stretch and begin Friday’s first workout at 9:30 and they will be on the field until close to noon.
– All spring long workouts are free and open to the public. Fans can park in the Desert Parking Lot.
– For photos, schedule updates and news throughout the spring, follow me on Twitter.
44 days until opener in Sydney
53 days until opener vs. Giants at Chase Field
234 days until the end of the 2014 regular season
Today is report day for D-backs pitchers and catchers so I wanted to give a quick rundown of what you can expect today on the site and at the ballpark:
Pitchers and catchers will not necessarily be there today: Report day is a bit misleading, because all players have to do to “report” is to call the organization and let it know they are in town. Pitchers and catchers don’t have to be at the ballpark until Friday when the workouts start.
Nothing to see here: That means there’s a good chance there won’t be any activities out on the fields. Now, that being said, there are players who have been working out at the complex for months so I’m not sure if they will be there or not, but your best bet is to come out Friday.
Site content today: They will open the clubhouse to the media mid-morning today, but there is no guarantee there will be any players to talk to. However, Kirk Gibson will be meeting with us at 11 a.m. so you can check back this afternoon for his thoughts as camp opens.
Arroyo watch: As always, we’ll be on top of whatever breaking news there is throughout the day. The D-backs are planning on meeting with Arroyo (not sure when) but it’s something we’ll keep an eye out today and going forward.
Workout times this spring: I will try and have the blog updated daily during the spring, but your best bet for staying on top workout times and any changes to them will be to follow me on twitter.
Spring Training preview: Here’s my preview of the D-backs as they head into Spring Training.
PHOENIX — As it turns out, D-backs general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson will not be entering the final year of the contracts in 2014.
The team on Monday said that it had extended the contracts of both men. The length of the extensions as well as the financial terms were not disclosed.
“Over the past couple months, Ken Kendrick and I have had continued conversations about extending both Gibby and KT’s contracts and we are pleased to have come to an agreement,” D-backs President/CEO Derrick Hall said in a statement. “We continue to be impressed by their loyalty, dedication, work ethic and track record of success during their big league careers and are glad that their contract status will not be a distraction as we open up Spring Training this week.”
Towers, who was hired in Sept. 2010 and Gibson, who took over for A.J. Hinch on July 1, 2010, both had future contract options declined by the organization following the 2013 season leaving them both with just 2014 left on the deals they signed following the 2011 National League West championship season.
Both Towers and Gibson said entering the final year of their respective contracts would not be an issue.
“We’re very happy with both of them,” Hall said of Towers and Gibson at the time the options were not picked up. “They’re under contract and they can still be extended. It’s not a big deal. We’re all on the same page.”
Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick echoed Hall’s comments in an interview with MLB.com in November.
“I think we have good leadership starting with Derrick and in the front office and on the field with K.T. and Gibby,” Kendrick said at that time. “I’m comfortable with those guys. I think it’s important for them to go out and prove themselves once again. I hope and believe they’re going to be long-term Diamondback people.”
If they didn’t then, they should now.
Gibson has a 290-279 record with the D-backs, including going 34-49 in the second half of the 2010 season.
Towers, meanwhile, retooled the D-backs after taking over for Josh Byrnes and turned a 97-loss team in 2010 into a 94-win team in 2011.
The past two seasons the D-backs have finished with identical 81-81 records.
“I would say it’s disappointing really because our expectations are very high,” Towers said following last season. “I think they have been since Gibby and I have been together since 2011. We fully expect to be in the postseason each and every year, and the last two years we’ve been .500.”
PHOENIX — With just three days remaining before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, the D-backs might not be done adding to their roster.
D-backs team president and CEO Derrick Hall said that the team will make one more pass through their free agent list to see if a match can be found.
“We owe it to ourselves to at least see what the remaining free agents are looking for,” Hall said.
The D-backs had hoped to add a frontline starter this offseason and were one of the finalists for the services of right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who eventually signed a $155 million deal with the Yankees.
Matt Garza was another pitcher the D-backs had interest in, but he was able to get a four-year deal from the Brewers. Arizona general manager Kevin Towers had said during the Winter Meetings that he did not anticipate offering a deal of longer than three years to any free agent pitcher other than Tanaka.
Free agent pitchers Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez are tied to draft compensation meaning the D-backs would have to surrender their first-round pick in this year’s Draft should they sign one of them.
Right-hander Bronson Arroyo, however, is not tied to draft compensation and therefore might be more attractive to the D-backs.
As it stands right now, the D-backs rotation consists of Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy. Top prospect Archie Bradley and Randall Delgado are expected to be among the leading contenders for the fifth spot.
Arroyo was 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA last season for the Reds. He has been a workhorse in his career. Over the last nine seasons he has thrown at least 199 innings.
ST. PETERSBURGH — You can count the Angels and Padres among the teams interested in D-backs right-hander Ian Kennedy according to a baseball source.
Kennedy is scheduled to start tonight’s game against the Rays and how serious the trade talks are involving him could become clear as he would be scratched if something were imminent.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Cubs could also be a possible destination for Kennedy.
Both the Angels and Padres have people in their organization who have a history with Kennedy. Padres GM Josh Byrnes traded for Kennedy when he was GM of the D-backs and Angels GM Jerry Dipoto was interim GM of the D-backs during Kennedy’s time there and was assistant GM in Arizona when Kennedy won 21 games in 2011.
– Steve Gilbert
I got the news when I was 35,000 feet up in the air on my way to New York. On my way to a big series with the Yankees, because every series in the ballpark in the Bronx feels big.
Headline: Explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Suddenly the series with the Yankees felt small.
Watching the news coverage that night in my hotel room I couldn’t get my mind around it. Three people dead, one of them an 8-year-old, whose 6-year-old sister lost her leg in the explosion. Lives shattered, ripped apart.
The questions begin to fly through the mind — How does this happen? How could someone do such a thing? — and then heart aches for the people killed and the loved ones who are left behind to try and somehow pick up the pieces.
And so I woke up Tuesday and wondered. Why go to the ballpark tonight? For a baseball game? Who cares?
And then I thought of Jack, as passionate a baseball fan as there is. He lives in China now, but he still follows the D-backs staying up late (or is it getting up early?) to watch their games. He needs these games to stay connected to his home to stay connected to his country.
There’s Jenny in San Francisco, her body confined to a wheelchair, but her passion for the game knowing no limits. She’s always got questions about why certain decisions are made and somebody needs to get the answers.
There’s Lubo here in New York. Sure he says he’s sworn off the D-backs since the Justin Upton trade, but judging by his interest level I have my doubts about that.
And there’s a 9-year-old in Phoenix, who is trying to make sense of what he sees on the news. He loves when I send pictures of the ballparks I visit. I can’t disappoint him.
I could go on and on.
But it reminds me again of baseball’s importance. Not because the games in and of themselves mean anything, but because of what they provide people — a way of dealing with the stresses and sometimes tragedies in their own lives.
I go to the ballpark and I talk with pitcher Ian Kennedy, who heard about the Boston bombings when his wife, Allison, called him.
“My thoughts and prayers are really, really with them,” Kennedy told me. “Allison and I prayed for them. It was all we could do.”
But it’s not all he will do, not really.
He went through his between-start routine Tuesday. He will do so again Wednesday and Thursday. There will be video study as well and scouting reports to pore over. And then, Friday, he will take the mound at Coors Field against the Rockies and give everything he has in pursuit of a victory.
Why? Because it will mean something to baseball fans. It will mean something to someone who drafted him on his Fantasy League team. Because it could bring a smile to someone’s face somewhere. Because it is a gift to be able to throw the ball like he does so he will share it with the rest of the world.
I can’t throw the ball like he can, but I have the privilege of access to places that fans cannot go. It is my job to be your eyes and ears and to provide you with information and make you smile.
No, it’s not as important as the emergency workers, who rushed to help the victims Monday. It’s not as vital as the runners, who continued to run to local Boston hospitals to donate blood in the aftermath.
But it’s my role, it’s my contribution, my one stitch in the fabric that makes up this country. It’s what I have to give and so I treat it as though it is important.
That’s why I went to work Tuesday.
And why I will again today.
Thanks for reading.
Happy Opening Day, or in the case of the D-backs, Happy Opening Night.
I’m going to try and do a better job of keeping this blog going during this season. While there will be baseball stuff on it, it will also be a chronicle of life on the road and some personal observations. As always, your feedback is always welcome. Feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day or night, there is something special about the opener. Every team can seemingly convince themselves that maybe, just maybe, they will be the one left standing in October. Everything is fresh and anything seems possible.
Opening Day was always a holiday in the Gilbert house when I was growing up. My parents would allow me to miss school and we would head to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs. Those outings with my father, who passed away in 2004, are some of my most treasured memories.
There are plenty of things to keep an eye on this year for D-backs fans. Here are a few things that I’ll be interesting to watch:
– How will they handle the loss of Adam Eaton?
Losing Eaton for the first eight weeks or so of the season is a real blow. This was a guy they built their offense around having at the top of the lineup.
– Is the bullpen as good as we think it is?
J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Heath Bell and Brad Ziegler at the back end with a pair of lefties in Tony Sipp and Matt Reynolds along with the versatile Josh Collmenter seems — on paper at least — to be one of the better pens in the league.
– Will they score enough runs?
No Justin Upton, Chris Young, or Stephen Drew. The team has made a decision to move away from reliance on the home run and towards a more contact-oriented lineup. Will they still score enough runs?
I could go on and on — Paul Goldschmidt’s development, does Trevor Cahill’s improved conditioning help him on the mound? — but you get the idea.
Remember you can follow me on Twitter.
PHOENIX – With their first selection on day two of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, the D-backs drafted shortstop Jose Munoz in the second round (pick No. 90 overall) from Los Altos High School in Northern California.
The San Diego State commit was tabbed as the 86th best prospect by ESPN.com.
At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Munoz hit .419 this season with a slugging percentage of .814.
“He’s an infielder with some offensive potential,” Baseball America’s Jim Callis said on MLB.com. “He has all average to solid tools.”
The 90th pick has a slot value of $540,000.
For the D-backs, the 18-year-old Munoz was the second high school player they took in as many picks after they drafted catcher Stryker Trahan in the first round.
Round 3, 120 overall: RHP Jake Barrett, Arizona State
A local product who was also drafted in the third round coming out of Desert Ridge High School by the Blue Jays, Barrett is hard throwing junior reliever for ASU.
Ranked by MLB.com as the 55th best overall prospect in the draft, the 21-year-old’s fastball peaks in the upper 90′s and his 6-foot-4, 220 pound frame draws body comparisons to the likes of Heath Bell and Jonathan Broxton.
Barrett began his ASU career as a set-up man as a freshman but transitioned to a starting role as a sophomore. The righty started 14 games for the Sun Devils, going 7-4 with a 4.14 ERA. He struck out 72 batters in 76 innings that year but a shoulder injury caused him to miss the final portion of the season.
In 2012 as a junior, Barrett moved back to the bullpen as the Sun Devils’ closer. His size, maximum effort delivery and often spotty command suited him well for the relieving role. He recorded 11 saves and made 31 appearances with a low 1.62 ERA.
“There’s a surprise he went behind some of the other guys,” Callis said. “He’s another college arm that could be in the Majors soon.”
The 120th pick has a slot value of $392,900
Round 4, 153 overall: CF Chuck Taylor, Mansfield Timberview High School (TX)
Taylor, a 5-foot-9, 185 pound outfielder, was the third high school position player the D-backs selected through their first four picks.
A UT-Arlington commit to play baseball, Taylor also was the quarterback for his school’s football team for three seasons.
The 18-year-old threw for 1,998 yards and 16 touchdowns this year while also rushing for 1,972 yards and 23 touchdowns in leading his squad to the state semifinals.
The 153rd pick has a slot value of$285,800.
Round 5, 183 overall: C Ronnie Freeman, Kennesaw State (GA)
The 21-year-old joins first round pick Trahan as the D-backs’ second catcher choice of the draft.
As a freshman at Keennesaw State, Freeman hit a team-high .365 and was a 2010 Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. A season later, Freeman set the Kennesaw State record for the longest hitting streak at 42. He also played for the USA Collegiate National Team that same year.
As a junior in 2012, Freeman enjoyed continued success, batting .348 with 54 RBIs, six homers and 13 doubles. His power hitting status makes him a valuable prospect behind home plate.
Round 6, 213 overall: 3B Jacob Lamb, Washington
Coming out of high school ranked by Baseball America as the top prep prospect in Washington, Lamb was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 38th round of the 2009 Major League draft.
As a freshman for the Huskies in Seattle, Lamb started 54 games for the school and was named to the Freshman All-America team by Collegiate Baseball after batting .363 in Pac-10 play.
In 2011, he led Washington in in at bats, games, hits, triples, homers and RBIs. This season as a junior, the 21-year-old batted .343 in conference games and earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors.
Round 7, 243 overall: SS Andrew Velazquez, Fordham Prep School (NY)
After Munoz in the second round, Velazquez was the second high school shortstop the D-backs selected.
The 17-year-old, standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 170 pounds, is committed to play at Virginia Tech next season.
On May 12 in a regular season prep game, the switch-hitter put together a three home run day in a unique fashion. He hit one out of the park from the right side, one out of the park from the left side and a third one that stayed inside the park.
Also this year, he has written bimonthly diary blog for NYPost.com detailing his senior campaign.
Round 8, 273 overall: CF Evan Marzilli, South Carolina
A key contributor to South Carolina’s back-to-back College World Series titles in 2010 and 2011, Marzilli is still playing with the Gamecocks as they try to capture their third straight NCAA crown.
As a freshman in 2010, the 21-year-old was named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team after hitting .370 (10-for-27) with seven runs scored and a .514 on-base percentage in Omaha. The following season, Marzilli, who is six feet tall and weights 185 pounds, hit .291 for South Carolina with 31 RBIs and 39 runs scored.
So far in 2012, Marzilli is batting .288 with a team-high 12 stolen bases in the pitching-dominated Southeastern Conference.
Round 9, 303 overall: RHP Jeff Gibbs, Maine-Orono
A Toronto native, Gibbs won a Canadian national title with his youth team before heading to the states for college ball.
The 21-year-old’s first two collegiate campaigns were outstanding, as he started a combined 28 games, winning 13 of the them and having season ERA’s of 3.94 as a freshman and 3.42 as a sophomore.
This year as a junior, however, things did not go well for the 6-foot-4, 215 pound righty. Although serving as a team captain, Gibbs had an ERA of 8.40 over 60 innings and 10 starts.
Round 10, 333 overall: OF Daniel Poma, Hofstra (NY)
Poma put together one of the best seasons in the nation this year as a senior, batting .430 with 102 hits, 79 runs, 32 doubles, seven home runs, 48 RBIs and 29 steals.
His efforts earned him a place on Collegiate Baseball’s First Team All-American squad. He is also a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which is college baseball’s version of the Heisman Award.
At 23 years old, Poma is the oldest player the D-backs selected so far in the 2012 draft. The right-handed hitter stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 210 pounds.
Round 11, 363 overall: RHP Ben Eckels, Davis Senior HS (CA)
Eckels had a stellar senior season for his San Francisco area school, finishing 7-2 with a 2.36 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings.
The 18-year-old finished his prep career on a high note with a complete game shutout performance. He isn’t committed to a college but has drawn interest from the likes of Fresno State, Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton.
Round 12, 393 overall: CF Keith Alex Glenn, Arizona Christian
Originally drafted in the 37th round by the Marlins in 2009 out of high school, Glenn began his collegiate career by playing two seasons at Southern California.
He started 40 times and played in 77 games for the Trojans, totaling 24 hits in 126 career at-bats (.190) with five home runs, 17 runs scored and 18 RBIs.
In 50 games with Arizona Christian this year, the 20-year-old batted .351 with 36 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.
Round 13, 423 overall: C Phildrick Llewellyn, Trinity Christian Academy (FL)
Born and raised in the Caribbean island Curacao, Llewellyn’s parents offered to send him to America before high school to further his baseball career. After four terrific prep seasons, the 17-year-old is committed to play at Florida International next season.
The 6-foor-1, 205 pound switch hitter was the third catcher the D-backs selected in the 2012 draft.
Round 14, 453 overall: RHP Derrick Stultz, South Florida
Finishing his senior high school season with a 1.76 ERA, Stultz was drafted as a prep player in 2007 in the 38th round by the Red Sox.
After two successful collegiate seasons as a freshman and sophomore, the 23-year-old missed the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons due to shoulder surgery.
This year as a redshirt senior, the 6-foot-3, 190 pound starter led the Big East conference with nine wins. In his final start of his career, he shutout Connecticut in the Big East tournament. Stultz finished 2012 with a 3.29 ERA over 87.2 innings.
Round 15, 483 overall: Michael Blake Forslund, Liberty (VA)
Forslund was drafted just a year ago by the Red Sox in 17th round but opted to return to school.
In 20 appearances out of the bullpen this season, the 22-year-old boasted a 3.74 ERA with 34 strikeouts over 32 2/3 innings.
At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Forslund pitches with a big presence on the mound.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com
I took a walk around Marlins Park with D-backs PR guru Casey Wilcox (had to pry him away from his laptop for it) and took some more photos.
Here you go…