June 2009

D-backs and Brewers talk

The D-backs and Brewers have had some trade discussions recently according to Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash.

Without naming particular players, Brewers assistant Ash told Milwaukee reporters there had been  “conversations” between the Brewers and D-backs about potential matches.

“I think it speaks to what I talked about earlier, that because they are one of the few clubs that have available pieces, the asking price is way too high,” Ash said. “So they don’t have to make a deal yet.”

The Brewers are thought to be in the market for both starting pitching depth as well as a second baseman. Whether that means Milwaukee could be interested in Felipe Lopez or lefty Doug Davis is unknown.

Byrnes has surgery

Eric Byrnes had successful surgery Friday to repair a broken bone in his left hand. The surgery was performed by hand specialist Don Sheridan.

The D-backs outfielder was hit by a pitch from Bruce Feldman on Thursday night and fractured the fifth metacarpal in the hand. A plate and screw were inserted into the hand, Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said.

Byrnes is expected to miss four to six weeks.

It’s a tough break for Byrnes, who battled through hamstring problems last year. It’s been a frustrating go for him since he signed a three-year $30 million extension towards the end of the 2007 season. Last year was basically a lost year for him and now this one could be as well.

Rauch figuring it out

In his last 12 appearances, D-backs reliever Jon Rauch has allowed just two earned runs in 13 1/3 innings.

That’s a 1.35 ERA, quite a contrast to before that stretch when he had a 7.23 ERA.

I asked Rauch on Thursday what has been the difference.

“Just started throwing strikes,” he said.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that or it would not have taken him such a long period of time to get himself right.

“I think a lot of it was mechanics,” Rauch said. “Confidence also played into it. Obviously the more you get out and do something you better you become at it. It was a matter of getting back into the swing of the season and try not to put pressure on myself like I did at the end of last season. There was a lot that went into it.”

Rauch is reaping the rewards of it now. Once used in mop up roles, Rauch has begun to be used more in the eighth inning with the struggles of Tony Pena.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in myself but more wondering why I kept messing up,” he said. “I think that was the biggest part because you dig yourself into a hole where you’re so down on yourself that every time you go out to pitch you’re not mentally prepared for it. You automatically think you’re going to do bad so inevitably you do bad vs. having a couple of good outings and then putting a string together and you go that’s how you do it, that’s what it’s like. You remember the good things that you can do and then you go out and do it.”

Simple, but clearly not easy.

Webb inching towards mound

Brandon Webb is creeping closer and closer to that elusive first bullpen session.

If it seems like I’ve been writing about that possibility for a while now, well it’s because I have. Webb threw a side session on flat ground here at Kauffman Stadium before batting practice and told us afterwards that he expects to get on the mound for a bullpen session Friday.

“It’s the best I’ve felt since Spring Training,” Webb said. “I’m pretty pumped.”

The D-backs could sorely use their ace back. Webb has not pitched since Opening Day and they’ve been extra cautious with his rehab since he suffered a bit of a setback when he tried to hurry his return in late April.

D-backs manager A.J. Hinch was explaining to us before the game that bringing a pitcher back from a shoulder injury is tough because a shoulder is always going to have a little bit of soreness after throwing and the question is how much that soreness is normal and how much is related to the injury itself.

It sounds like right now the D-backs want to make sure almost all the soreness is out of there before they let him get back on the mound.

Mathmatically it’s probably still possible for Webb to make it back before the All-Star Break, but it seems far more likely that it will come sometime soon after.

Upton injures left shoulder

D-backs outfielder Justin Upton left Sundays’ game after the top of the 10th inning with an aggravated left shoulder.

Upton swung and missed at a 1-1 offering from Padres closer Heath Bell and winced. After being looked at by a trainer and manager A.J. Hinch, Upton stayed in and swung at the next pitch to strikeout.

Upton was then replaced by Gerardo Parra in right in the bottom of the 10th.

Losing Upton would be a huge blow to the D-backs. The 21-year-old was recently named the NL Player of the Month for May.

D-backs to honor RJ

Randy Johnson will not get his 300th victory at Chase Field having done it already last week and he may not get the chance to get 301 there either due to a bruised shoulder.

However, the Big Unit’s accomplishment will be recognized by the D-backs.

The club is putting together a video tribute of Johnson’s career, which included two stops in Arizona, and hopes to show it in game during Tuesday’s series opener. The reason to do it in game would be to make sure there are fans in the stands to give Johnson the ovation he deserves. Sometimes with pregame ceremonies the attendance is sparse because fans have not filtered in yet.

The D-backs are planning to talk to Johnson to inform him of their plans and hope that he will step to the top step of the dugout to acknowledge the fans as they hope there will be a big ovation.

“Becoming one of just 24 Major League pitchers in history to reach such a milestone is a tremendous feat and one that we are proud of because he amassed so many of those in a Diamondback uniform,” D-backs team president and CEO Derrick Hall said. “It will be an honor and pleasure to salute him when the Giants arrive in front of the fans who enjoyed watching him pitch in their park for so many years.”

D-backs tweak draft prep

The D-backs scouts and front office officials went behind closed doors Tuesday at Chase Field to begin discussing the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and they will meet every day between now and next Tuesday.

We’ll have our D-backs’ draft preview tomorrow, but one thing that I did not get to fully get into in the piece was how the process has changed from previous years.

This year, the D-backs have had their pro scouts look at amateurs and vice versa as a way of getting a number of different looks at players by people with different perspectives. That also means that vice president of player personnel Jerry Dipoto has been more involved in the process this year.

It’s kind of a back-to-the-future way of doing things as most scouting departments were not as specialized a decade ago. Nowadays teams have pro scouts, amateur scouts and international scouts and they don’t often crossover.

“I think we kind of wanted to go back to that,” D-backs GM Josh Byrnes said. “Sort of crisscross their assignments, which is different than how teams have done it in recent years. We kind of liked having different sort of sightlines over the course of the spring.”

In addition to providing the organization more looks at the amateur players, it gives the amateur scouts a reminder of what big league players look like for when they evaluate high school and college players.

The concept seems to make a lot of sense and it will be interesting to see how it works out.

Qualls hurting

Closer Chad Qualls may, or may not, be available for Monday night’s game against the Dodgers.

The right-hander has been experiencing some stiffness in his forearm and manager A.J. Hinch told us before the game that he had given Qualls four straight days off in an attempt to take care of the issue.

As of batting practice, Hinch was not sure whether Qualls would be available for Monday night’s game or not.

“His forearm has been sore the last couple of days,” Hinch said. “He was a little bit sore and I think at this time of the season there’s just no reason to push it so we kind of have a scheduled plan to give him three or four days off. Now he’s on day four.”

Hinch didn’t sound overly alarmed, but certainly it’s something we’ll have to keep an eye on.