March 2009

Busy day

Busy today here in camp…

The pitching staff was set after the game and there were no real surprises. I’ll have more to say on this subject tomorrow.

Here are a couple of things Bob Melvin told us following the game…

– RHP Bobby Korecky, who was claimed off waivers from the Twins early in camp, has pitched better of late, but it wasn’t enough to win a spot on the staff.

“He got off to a little bit of a rough start coming into a new place and probably put a little too much pressure on himself early on,” Melvin said. “But pitched well the last couple of times out. Certainly a guy that we wouldn’t be afraid to call on at some point during the season.”

– Brandon Webb threw in a Minor League game and pitched around four innings (hard to say exactly since they tacked on a few outs in an inning or two). He threw 57 pitches, intentionally lower than his last few starts to keep him fresh.

“My fastball location was pretty good I thought,” Webb said. “Kind of working with the new catcher, threw a few more breaking balls than I would have, so I got some of those under my belt.”

Webb may throw two bullpen sessions between now and his start Opening Day on Monday.

– Tom Gordon continues to progress. He’ll throw a bullpen session on Wednesday and then a few more on just one day’s rest rather than the two days rest he has been working on for most of the spring.

We should know more about a possible timetable for his return in the coming days.

– Jon Garland threw around five innings in a Minor League game on Monday and Melvin said the right-hander continued to work on his cut fastball and curve.

– It wasn’t really a ringing endorsement when Melvin was asked if he would still use Jon Rauch as a setup guy despite his poor spring.

“Based on his history I think we’re pretty much locked into that,” Melvin said.

Lineup

Here’s today’s starting lineup for the D-backs against the Dodgers at TEP. Brandon Webb is throwing in a Minor League game across the street this afternoon.

Lopez (2b), Byrnes (rf), Young (cf), Tracy (1b), Jackson (lf), Montero (c), Reynolds (3b), Wilson (ss), Buckner (p).

Heading down to talk to Bob Melvin now so I’m sure I’ll have an update in a bit.

Some more clarity

With Travis Blackley no longer a candidate, the pitching staff is beginning to look a lot clearer.

There are four spots open in the bullpen, but it’s all but certain that Yusmeiro Petit and Juan Gutierrez are going to nab them.

Petit did not have a great first inning on Monday — he allowed four runs — but it appeared to be a mechanical issue. He was getting his hand under the ball, which caused his pitches to be up in the zone and he does not have the kind of velocity it takes to get away with that.

Once Petit made the adjustment the improvement was evident as he threw a couple of shutout innings.

If Gutierrez makes the team, and like I said it sure looks like he will, a big reason will be because he is out of Minor League options. The club loves his arm and 95 mph fastball.

As I speculated in the story, it sure looks like the other two spots will go to Doug Slaten and Billy Buckner.

The team would love to carry two lefties, which helps Slaten and he has pitched better of late.

“It’s good to see him pitching a little better especially when there’s some pressure on him,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Since changing his arm angle, Slaten’s performance has been much better.

Ryan Roberts helped his chances of making the team by showing he could go behind the plate and catch. He did it on Sunday in a Minor League game and in the seventh inning today against the Rockies he caught Slaten and then Gutierrez.

It was a successful debut, but one of the things he will need to work on is framing pitches and the way he catches breaking balls, but after watching him today Melvin said he considers him better than an emergency catcher i.e. someone you would only put behind the plate in a dire situation.

“Each and every time he goes out he’ll learn more,” Melvin said.

 

 

Lineups

Here’s a look at today’s D-backs lineup against the Rockies at Hi Corbett Field:

Parra (cf), Upton (rf), Drew (ss), Jackson (lf), Whitesell (1b), Reynolds (3b), Snyder (c), Ojeda (2b) and Petit pitching.

The Rockies are running their “A” lineup out there: Spilborghs (cf), Podsednik (lf), Helton (1b), Atkins (3b), Hawpe (rf), Tulowitzki (ss), Iannetta (c), Barmes (2b) and Marquis pitching.

Sunday notes

Here are a few notes on this beautiful Sunday morning…

– Conor Jackson was possibly heading over to Minor League camp to get some extra at-bats. I talked to him just before batting practice and he said whether he did so or not would depend on how his BP session went.

I’ll have more on his struggles this spring in a story later on.

– Manager Bob Melvin fielded questions about Mark Reynolds defense on Sunday. The third baseman has committed six errors in Cactus League games this spring and one against Team Mexico, which led a reporter to ask Melvin if he would replace Reynolds with Augie Ojeda for defensive purposes late in games.

It sure sounded like Melvin would be hesitant to do that at least early in the season because of the impact it could have on Reynolds’ confidence. I mentioned earlier this spring and I’ll say it again, I think the biggest challenge for Reynolds this year is going to be mental.

“He’s been a little bit hit and miss,” Melvin said of Reynolds at third this spring. “I moreso look for if he does make an error how he reacts to that. How does he handle the next ball?”

– Tony Clark was back in the lineup on Sunday after missing a few days with a sore right hand. Melvin said he would probably limit Clark to hitting right-handed on Sunday and hopefully have him in the lineup again on Monday.

Clark has swung the bat very well this spring compiling a .375 average with four doubles and a homer. If he can once again be the late-inning threat off the bench that he was from 2005-07 that would certainly be a big boost for the D-backs.

– Speaking of swinging a good bat, Chad Tracy has looked good all spring. On Saturday he did a nice job going to other way against a left-hander.

– Stephen Drew (abdominal strain) was back in the starting lineup on Sunday.

– There is plenty of debate inside the organization as to whether they will carry 11 or 12 pitchers to start the season.

Melvin has tended to like having seven pitchers in the bullpen, which usually means a 12-man staff, but with Max Scherzer set to begin the year on the DL, the club could still have seven relievers with just 11 men on the staff.

Lineup

Here is a look at the lineup for today’s game against the White Sox at Tucson Electric Park:

Lopez (2b), Drew (ss), Young (cf), Clark (1b), Byrnes (lf), Upton (rf), Tracy (3b), Montero (c) and Davis (p). 

Roster news

OK, so this is not exactly breaking news here because we’ve all expected it, but Max Scherzer will start the year on the disabled list.

I’ll post a full story on this later this afternoon, but since they don’t need a fifth starter until April 14 they will have him pitch in an extended Spring Training game before activating him for his big-league start.

That could mean there are now four spots open in the bullpen, or it is possible the D-backs could instead carry an extra bat on the bench for the season’s first eight days.

Bonus notes

Here are some additional notes from Friday:

– Justin Upton played in a game over at Minor League camp today. No report yet on how he did.

As for why they sent him over there for some at-bats, manager Bob Melvin said that they wanted to give him some ABs in a less pressurized situation. Upton has been struggling at the plate this spring and though he does not lose confidence when he struggles, he does tend to get angry. Then things feed on themselves and snowball.

“Some guys handle not being successful differently,” Melvin said. “I’d rather he get angry then down on himself.”

– Here’s how you know a pitcher had a tremendous outing: he is the one that has to tell the media afterward that he really did make some mistakes during the game.

That’s the position that Dan Haren was in after striking out 10 Angels in seven innings on Friday.

“Obviously good results,” he said. “But more importantly I got my pitch count up and got up and down seven times.”

Haren threw 93 pitches and the team will likely back that number down a bit in his final spring outing on April 1 so that he is fresh for his first start of the year on April 7 against the Rockies.

The D-backs are slated to face the Brewers in Maryvale on April 1, but it’s possible Haren could throw in a Minor League game that day.

– Ryan Roberts will start behind the plate in a Minor League game on Saturday and James Skelton will get a look in the outfield.

Drew update

Just heard from Bob Melvin that Stephen Drew’s ultrasound came back with good news. The strain is not thought to be serious and Drew could be in the lineup as soon as tomorrow.

I’ll post a story with more details soon.

Lineup (minus Drew)

Here’s a look at today’s lineup against the Angels at Tucson Electric Park. Note that shortstop Stephen Drew (abdominal strain) is not in it once again. D-backs manager Bob Melvin said yesterday that he hoped Drew would be back in there today after seeing Dr. Michael Lee yesterday.

Talked briefly to Drew this morning and he said he had an ultrasound taken of his abdomen and the results had not come back yet. I’ll ask Melvin about it when we meet with him shortly.

For whatever it’s worth, Drew is listed in the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Indians.

Lopez (2b), Byrnes (rf), Jackson (lf), Montero (c), Reynolds (3b), Whitesell (1b), Parra (cf), Ojeda (ss) and Dan Haren.

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