March 2009

Bonus Thursday coverage

Here’s a few more notes from Thursday…

– Stephen Drew said his abdominal strain was feeling better and he was out on the field during batting practice. He was scheduled to see Dr. Michael Lee later in the day so I’ll probably have an update for you on Friday.

– Conor Jackson’s left elbow was fine one day after getting plunked there by a Vincente Padilla fastball. Jackson wasn’t in the lineup, but that was a scheduled off day and manager Bob Melvin said he could easily have played.

– Brandon Webb picked a good time to have his best outing of the spring as it should give him some momentum heading into the season.

As you may have read in my story about his outing Webb used a “BP” fastball so named because it’s not thrown with max velocity like a typical fastball and comes in at more the speed of a batting practice pitch. The key is the batter has to be expecting a pitchers regular fastball so he is out front of the BP one and rolls it over for an easy groundout.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is about how incredibly talented and gifted Webb is when it comes to picking up new pitches. A few years ago he started throwing that fastball that starts inside to a left-handed hitter — so much so it looks like it’s going to hit his hip — and then tails back over the inside corner for a called strike.

When I asked him how he developed the pitch he said he saw Greg Maddux throw it one day while watching television and thought it would be a good pitch so he just went out and threw it.

Back to the BP fastball. In his start prior to this one, Webb was on the bench talking with pitching coach Bryan Price about how maybe a BP fastball would be a good thing for him to work on so he could throw it in fastball counts when a hitter is sitting on the heater.

Webb went out for his next inning and threw a few good BP fastballs much to the surprise of Price.

“We were supposed to work on that in the bullpen not an
inning after we were talking about it,” Price told him when he finished the inning .

Just so long as no one suggests throwing a knuckler, he should be good to go on Opening Day.

– Reliever Tony Pena gave up four runs on five hits in two innings on Wednesday night against the Rangers, but Melvin praised the performance on Thursday pointing out that Pena did toss a scoreless first inning before giving up a grand slam the following one when he tried to throw back to back sliders to lefty Chris Davis.

“I saw a phenomenal first inning,” Melvin said. “Really good slider. The
second inning maybe just pitch selection more than anything else. The numbers
don’t suggest how he pitched. I was pleased with how he threw the ball
yesterday.”

– Travis Blackley pitched his way back into the competition for the final three spots in the bullpen with a scoreless inning on Thursday.

No one has asked me (and they most certainly will not) but if I had to pick those final three spots right now they would go to Yusmeiro Petit, Billy Buckner and Doug Slaten.

Buckner had another solid outing on Thursday and has really only had one poor one this spring.

“Buckner’s really pitched as well as anybody,” Melvin said.

Thursday’s lineup

Here’s your lineup for today’s game against the White Sox in Glendale:

Lopez (2b), Parra (rf), Young (cf), Tracy (1b), Reynolds (3b), Montero (dh), Snyder (c), Ojeda (ss), Frey (lf) and pitching is Brandon Webb.

More later…

Wednesday notes

First, thanks to those of you that responded to my call for blog suggestions. Please keep them coming

– Conor Jackson got plunked right in the left elbow by a pitch from Vicente Padilla in the fifth inning. Spoke with him a few innings later and he had ice on the elbow to keep it from swelling.

“I’ve been hit in the elbow before,” Jackson said. “I really don’t think it’s anything bad.”

Jackson was scheduled to get Thursday off even before being hit.

– Jon Garland numbers continue to not be overly impressive — four runs in five innings — but both he and manager Bob Melvin seem pleased with how he’s progressing with two new pitches, a cut fastball and a curve.

The right-hander said he has been experiencing a little bit of a “dead arm” period common for pitchers during Spring Training, though his velocity (or V-Lo as Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic likes to call it) didn’t seem down on Wednesday.

Garland’s location got better as the night went on and he said he was ready for the season to start though he will have two more spring outings.

“We can break right now,” he said.

Amen to that.

– Reliever Tom Gordon felt good one day after throwing his first bullpen session of the spring. He is due to take the mound again on Friday.

– Just when you thought Travis Blackley had pitched himself out of contention for a spot in the bullpen, the lefty tossed a scoreless inning in relief on Wednesday.

Blackley seemed to have better life on his pitches and kept them down in the zone, something he has struggled to do this spring.

– Spoke to GM Josh Byrnes after the game and he said the team made the decision to put outfielder Alex Romero on waivers and outright him to Triple-A Reno was because they thought they would have a better shot at getting him through waivers now rather than at the end of camp.

Like Melvin earlier, Byrnes said the move does not mean Romero could not play a role for the team at some point this year.

“It’s not the end of the road for him,” Byrnes said.

Roster move

We just got through meeting with manager Bob Melvin, who informed us of a roster move. The team announced that outfielder Alex Romero had cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Reno.

That ends Romero’s bid to win the final bench spot. Melvin said it’s still possible Romero could contribute at the big league level at some point this year.

Apologies and Lineups

Took a couple of days off so I apologize for the lack of posts the past two days. I’m back for the duration of spring so make sure to check back daily and don’t hesitate to let me know what information you would like more of on the blog. I hope this forum can be more of a two-way communication.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against the Rangers:

 Byrnes (lf), Young (cf), Jackson (1b), Tracy (3b), Clark (dh), Upton (rf), Montero (c), Roberts (2b), Ojeda (ss) and Jon Garland pitching.

This and that

Here are a few items that didn’t make it into any of the stories today…

– I had the day off on Saturday so I didn’t get to see it, but Travis Blackley’s line looked pretty ugly — three innings, eight hits and four runs.

“He struggled some,” D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. “He got behind some guys. He got out
of a couple of jams and a little bit later on, he didn’t get out of the
jams. Probably not what he was looking for.”

It seems like the entire competition for the final few spots in the bullpen has not been what the D-backs are looking for. Melvin went out of his way to say that there is still time for the pitchers to make an impression and that “everyone is in the same boat.”

Sometimes this spring it has seemed that boat had “Titanic” plastered along the side of it.

Anyway, these next couple of weeks are going to be pivotal in this battle.

“The significance of the outings are more so as we go on,” Melvin said. “You see how guys respond with some pressure on them.”

– Typically in this space we are very much in favor of outfielders hitting the cutoff man, but Justin Upton took that a little too literally on Saturday.

Again, I was not there Saturday, but this is the story that was going around the clubhouse.

Second baseman Felipe Lopez dove to his right for a ball that got through the infield and was fielded by Upton in right. Upton came up throwing to the plate to try and cut off a run and his throw nailed Lopez who was kneeling on the ground. Ouch.

–The sloppy play by the D-backs has certainly been a sore spot for Melvin especially with all the early work the team has been doing on fundamentals.

– Maybe it’s just me, but I like what I’ve seen from Mark Reynolds at the plate this spring. The strikeout total is still high, but it seems like he’s having better at-bats.

– And you heard it here first — Chad Tracy is going to have a very good season.

Lineup

Here’s your Arizona lineup for today’s game against the Padres in Peoria…

Lopez (2b), Ojeda (ss), Young (cf), Jackson (lf), Tracy (1b), Reynolds (3b), Montero (c), Romero (rf) and Dan Haren pitching.

Lineup

Here’s a sneak peek at the D-backs lineup for today against the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium:

Lopez (2b), Byrnes (cf), Drew (ss), Jackson (lf), Tracy (dh), Upton (rf), Clark (1b), Reynolds (3b), Carlin (c) with Jon Garland on the mound.

Worry or concern?

My late father always used to correct me when I would accuse him of being worried about something.

“I’m not worried son,” he would say. “I’m concerned. There’s a difference.”

I was thinking about that on the drive up to Phoenix from Tucson this morning while pondering the performance of the Arizona bullpen this spring. Should we be worried or concerned?

The truth is, I don’t know for sure and neither does anyone else. Look, there’s no getting around the fact that the numbers are ugly. Do they matter? Well, no in the sense that Spring Training numbers don’t count (this is the old “they don’t put Spring Training numbers on the back of your baseball card” deal). And there have been plenty of instances where a player has had a bad spring and then been terrific during the regular season.

So it’s certainly possible that Jon Rauch is working on a new pitch and when the bell rings he will be fine. But it’s also fair to be slightly concerned at some of these numbers that are being put up right now.

GM Josh Byrnes told me yesterday that he is not concerned about the competition for the final three spots in the bullpen at this point because each of the seven players battling for it have had some manner of success this spring. Again, that’s true and could be a very fair way of looking at it.

And the team is always quick to point out that it likes to focus on “track records” of players rather than the small sample of spring games. Of course then that does not necessarily hold when part of the rationale for optimism about Travis Blackley is how he pitched against Cuba in the WBC or how Juan Gutierrez pitched over the winter (as opposed to all last summer in Triple-A).

So to be fair let’s not be worried about the Arizona bullpen right now. Concern on the other hand, yeah we can have plenty of that.
 

Lineup

Here is your D-backs’ lineup for today’s game against the Brewers at Tucson Electric Park:

Oeltjen (rf), Ojeda (ss), Young (cf), Jackson (lf), Tracy (1b), Snyder (c), Roberts (2b), Wilson (3b) and Doug Davis (p).

Yovani Gallardo will start for the Brewers.

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