February 2009

Sunday lineup

Here’s an advance look at the lineup for Sunday’s game against the A’s:

Ryan Roberts (2b), Justin Upton (rf), Stephen Drew (ss), Conor Jackson (lf), Chad Tracy (1b), Mark Reynolds (3b), Tony Clark (dh), Miguel Montero (c) and Brandon Watson (cf). Yusmeiro Petit will start and go two innings.

Just sign, no trade

So much for the great sign-and-trade experiment.

The Royals signed reliever Juan Cruz to a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $6 million with a club option worth $4 million for 2011.

This is good news for the D-backs, who now have two more draft picks to add to their collection. Arizona receives the Royals second-round pick in addition to a pick in the supplemental round between the first and second rounds.

Interesting that the Royals stepped up with the deal. The Twins had been the team that had been talked about the most and the Royals seemed to come out of nowhere.

Webb update

Brandon Webb is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Sunday and if all goes well he will start on Wednesday against the Team Mexico at Tucson Electric Park.

In other injury news, outfielder Alex Romero will have his broken right hand x-rayed on Monday and if it is healing the way they expect, he could hit off the tee on Tuesday, take soft toss on Wednesday and batting practice on Thursday.

Notes from Wednesday’s opener

Some notes from Wednesday’s game…

— I wrote about Chris Young’s performance with his new mechanics at the plate, but here a couple of quotes that didn’t make the story:

Young: “I was just trying to stay quiet at the plate and get a good
pitch and see as many pitches as possible. Just trying to stay a little more quiet where I can stay on
the heater but at the same time be back for the offspeed so we’ll see how it
works out.”

Melvin: It’s not important that he has to get off to a good start, but to work as hard has he has in the offseason and get some results right away certainly adds to [his] conviction.”

— Gerardo Parra made a laser throw from right field to nail a runner at the plate in the seventh inning.

Ironically, the runner Parra gunned down was former D-backs outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez.

— Juan Gutierrez, a candidate for one of the final spots in the bullpen allowed two runs on three hits over two innings, but Melvin said he pitched better than the numbers.

“I thought Gutierrez threw the ball pretty well too,” Melvin said. “I gave
him a plus grade today.”

— The D-backs collected seven hits in the game.

“We were a little early swinging in the count today,” Melvin said. “I don’t
think we were as patient.”

— Billy Buckner allowed one run on three hits in his two innings of work and did not use the cut fastball that he has been working on for the last several weeks.

— Miguel Montero was hit on the side of his right leg just above his knee with a pitch, but said after the game that he was fine.

Roster move

The D-backs made their first roster move of the spring when they assigned right-hander Reid Mahon to Minor League minicamp on Tuesday.

Bob Melvin announced the move on Wednesday. Mahon, a reliever who had a 3.07 ERA in 33 games for Double-A Mobile last year before earning a promotion to Triple-A Tucson, struggled mightily with his command during his bullpen sessions.

“Just had some mechanical issues he needs to deal with,” Melvin said.

Mahon had been scheduled to pitch in a “B” game on March 4, but now will not.

The real work

The real work in Spring Training takes place well before the games begin. In fact, it happens even before the day’s scheduled workout on the backfields at Tucson Electric Park.

The other day on the half field you had Justin Upton and Stephen Drew working on reading pitcher’s moves and their footwork while leading off first base. Doing the instructing were two of the better baserunners of their era, Kirk Gibson and Brett Butler.

Meanwhile on another field, third-base coach Chip Hale along with former D-backs infielders Jay Bell and Matt Williams worked with infielders Conor Jackson, Mark Reynolds, Ryan Roberts and Josh Wilson.

— Speaking of drills, first-base coach and outfield instructor Lorenzo Bundy came up with an amazing one for the outfielders.

Bundy and Butler fed four balls into a pitching machine from deep right-center for the group of four outfielders bunched in left field. The drill worked on a number of areas:

First, they had to battle a tough sun to even see the ball, but just as importantly it taught them the importance of communication as they had to decide before the balls went in the air who was going to take the first, second, third and fourth balls.

“It also helps the guys get comfortable moving around each other and being close to each other,” Bundy said.

Notes from the last couple of days

Here are some notes from the last couple of days:

— Billy Buckner will start Wednesday’s opener. The right-hander will throw two innings as will Juan Gutierrez and Hector Ambriz. Cesar Valdez, Leo Rosales and Esmerling Vasquez are slated to throw one inning apiece.

— Other pitching notes, Dan Haren will start Thursday and be followed to the mound by Doug Daivs. Brandon Webb will go on Friday along with Jon Garland.

— Good news for the D-backs today with Max Scherzer throwing his first bullpen of the spring without any problems.

It’s worth noting that the D-backs will not need a fifth starter until April 14, seven games into the season, so it will be interesting to see what they do with Scherzer at the start of the season.

— All 11 of the ailing D-backs were back in camp on Monday after experiencing stomach problems the day before.

They were not asked to take part in the normal conditioning on Monday and the pitchers who had been sick did not have to go through pitcher fielding practice drills.

— Tuesday will be a light day for the team — maybe 45 minutes shorter than usual — before Wednesday’s first Cactus League game. In past years, they have played an intrasquad game the day before the opener, but since Spring Training is so long this year they don’t think they need the another game.

Speaking of which there will only be one “B” game on March 4 against the Rockies. Garland, Jose Marte, Leyson Septimo, Reid Mahon and Brooks Brown are slated to pitch that game.

— The D-backs early camp for Minor Leaguers got underway on Sunday.

O-Dog finds a home and other Friday thoughts

It looks like Orlando Hudson has finally signed. The one-year deal for $3.38 million with $4.6 million in incentives.

The good news for the D-backs is they get the Dodgers’ first-round pick, but of course the bad news is their rival in the NL West just got better.

We’ll see how it works out for Hudson, truly one of the good guys in the game, but he’s got to be kicking himself right now for not taking the D-backs up on their four-year offer last year that was worth around $7 million per.

Curious to hear how D-backs fans feel about the signing.

— Watched Ryan Roberts swing the bat and as advertised, he can hit. It will be interesting, especially with the injury to Alex Romero to see how the battle for the final spot on the bench goes this spring.

Anyone want to make any predictions on that?

— I’ll write more on this next week, but Chris Young has tweaked his mechanics at the plate. He’s gotten rid of the toe tap, no-stride stance and is taking a short stride towards the pitcher. He’s also allowing the ball to travel a little further which allows him to hit the ball the opposite way, which should help him.

The hitters as a group are working on cutting down strikeouts this spring as my fellow writer Nick Piecoro wrote in a story today.

— Eric Byrnes may not be in the first couple of Cactus League games because the D-backs are going to make sure his hamstring is 100 percent and they don’t want him to try and do too much. That should be interesting, because Byrnes is eager to get out there and run again and he’s not a guy that seems to have a gear other than all out.

— With Josh Byrnes saying today that Tom Gordon is going to start the year on the DL, that leaves three spots open in the bullpen, one of which is going to go to someone who can pitch multiple innings and spot start.

Who are your picks to win those spots?

— Jailen Peguero cleared waivers and will be back on the field as a non-roster player on Saturday.

— D-backs left-hander Daniel Schlereth has a blog now on MLB.com.

Romero out for two weeks

One bit of news that I did not get into my three stories today was that manager Bob Melvin informed us today that outfielder Alex Romero has a broken bone in his right hand.

It seems Romero injured the hand during winter ball and although he knew it was sore he did not know it was broken until Tuesday night’s physical.

For now, Romero is unable to throw or swing a bat. He shagged some balls in the outfield today. We’ll see how this impacts his chances of making the team. He’s a contender for the final spot on the bench and is out of Minor League options.

More tidbits from Tuesday’s workout

Here are some notes from Tuesday:

— Look for James Skelton to play a number of different positions this spring. The Rule 5 pick is a natural catcher, but has spent time working in the infield over the last month with third-base coach Chip Hale here in Tucson.

Skelton will for sure play some second and also get a look in the outfield.

“We can at least try out a few things and see how he looks,” GM Josh Byrnes said.

Though he is of slight build, Skelton has already shown the staff some skills behind the plate.

“He has very soft hands, moves well and threw out about 40 percent of runners last year,” Byrnes said. “His defense behind the plate is solid.”

One of the attributes that led to Skelton’s selection in the Rule 5 Draft is his ability to get on base.

“A skill set we need,” Byrnes said.

— Max Scherzer threw a flat ground session and according to manager Bob Melvin even threw a few breaking balls.

Scherzer could throw his first bullpen this weekend, Melvin said.

— It’s best for both parties that the D-backs got a deal done with Conor Jackson before a hearing.

Jackson said all the right things this week about how he would not be bothered by what the club might say about him during a hearing, but he’s human and no one likes to hear negative things from their employer.

From the D-backs’ perspective they avoid a hearing where even if they had won they would have risked what they said in there weighing on Jackson during the year. Of course, clubs always prefer to settle before putting in all that work. Arbitration cases take an enormous amount of preparation and the D-backs were all but done with their work on the eve of the hearing.

— There will be fewer “B” games this year — maybe only one on March 4. That’s in part because the White Sox are no longer sharing the complex with the D-backs, but also because there are more spring games this year and fewer bodies once the WBC players leave on March 1.

— A happy anniversary to first-base coach Lorenzo Bundy and his lovely wife Lupita. The couple were married 18 years ago.

Lorenzo is one of the truly good guys in the game and he has worked hard and given much to get to where he is today.