August 2009

There are losses and then there are losses

There have been plenty of tough losses for the D-backs this year, but last night’s 4-3 loss to the Giants seemed to be particularly brutal.

Maybe it was because of how upset closer Chad Qualls looked having given up the lead for his good friend Doug Davis after throwing just three pitches. I really felt for Qualls listening to him talk about how upset he was to have watched his team work for two hours to get a lead and then have it disappear in a span of a minute or two.

Tough job being a closer, certainly not for those who do not have a lot of mental toughness.

Snyder a late scratch

Chris Snyder was scratched from the starting lineup after batting practice when he experienced tightness in his left glute.

Not sure if this is related at all to the lower back strain that put him on the disabled list — and opened the door for Miguel Montero to claim the starting catching position.

It seems to me that the D-backs need Snyder to not only be healthy, but to start swinging the bat better down the stretch. Not so much because of what it would mean on the field for the team, but because of what it will do to his trade value this offseason.

If the D-backs do intend to go with Montero as the starter next year — and it sure appears they do — then they will almost certainly see what they can get on the trade market for Snyder in the offseason. From that standpoint it is important that Snyder not only be healthy, but also producing if the team hopes to maximize the return they could get for him.

It will certainly be a juggling act for A.J. Hinch to try and give Snyder enough playing time to try and get him going a bit offensively, while still giving Montero the playing time he has earned.

Brandon Allen promoted

HOUSTON — When the D-backs acquired first baseman Brandon Allen from the White Sox last month, they viewed him as their first baseman of the future.

The future, it turns, out is now.

Allen was promoted from Triple-A Reno on Saturday and the first baseman was in the starting lineup, batting fifth, against the Astros.

“It’s exciting to have him here,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. “He knows what he’s doing at the plate, he’s got a lot of power, he’s got a lot of strength through his swing, he plays a good first base, he’s pretty athletic, he runs better than his body would indicate because he’s big. He’s a very gifted player.”

The 23-year-old figures to get the overwhelming majority of playing time at first with Chad Tracy taking a seat on the bench.

The team’s other first baseman, Josh Whitesell, was demoted to Reno to make room for Allen. Whitesell was hitting .194 with one home run.

Allen, who was born about 45 minutes from Houston, has hit .324 with 12 homers in 145 at-bats since joining the D-backs organization. He found out Friday night that he was going to be headed to Houston and had trouble sleeping.

“I was real excited, nervous, but it’s all for the better,” he said.

Allen head the talk about being the organization’s first baseman of the future when the trade happened, but he said that did not change his approach.

“I’m still a minor league player,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do. Hopefully I can stay in the big leagues but I’ve got to keep working my butt off.”

Gonzo to be honored

HOUSTON — The D-backs will honor the hero of the 2001 World Series  on Aug. 29 when they host Luis Gonzalez Appreciation Night at Chase Field.
 
That the D-backs have scheduled the event is probably an indication that a deal is close for Gonzalez to return to the organization.

The D-backs are known to have discussed having Gonzalez, who was arguably the most popular player in franchise history, take a role in the front office.

It seems likely that the Luis Gonzalez Appreciation Night will celebrate that fact with a retirement ceremony coming at a later date in which the club would invite people important to his career to also attend.

“This organization has meant a lot to me,” Gonzalez said.

There had been speculation that Gonzalez would be activated for one game similar to what the Giants did with J.T. Snow last season, but according to team president and CEO Derrick Hall, Gonzalez did not wish to do that.

Instead, the team will honor Gonzalez with a video tribute during on on-field pregame ceremony and the first 25,000 fans through the gates will also receive a commemorative “Gonzo” t-shirt.

In an interview with MLB.com recently, Gonzalez said that his playing career was all but over after waiting through the summer for a chance to play one more season.

“My family has helped me out tremendously with the adjustment,” Gonzalez said. “I know that they would have liked me to have played again, but you know it is what it is. I can’t look back at it. I’m very happy with my career, the years that I played. Where I grew up baseball was a strong passion. I got to play for a long time, I got to meet a lot of great people, played against a lot of great players and played with some Hall of Famers.” “This organization has meant a lot to me,” Gonzalez said.

The game will also feature a one-hour post-game concert featuring country recording artists Montgomery Gentry followed by a fireworks show, presented by Gila River Casinos.

Fans can purchase tickets to the game at the Chase Field ticket office, by phone at 602-514-8400 or online.
 

Clark may join front office

Former D-backs first baseman Tony Clark has joined the MLB Network as a studio analyst.

Clark has also had discussions with the D-backs about possibly joining the club in a baseball operations role. After being released by Arizona on July 12, Clark was told by the organization that it would like him to remain involved in some way.

“It’s an area of the game that I would like to learn more about,” Clark said of baseball operations. “At the end of the day I am hopeful that something will work out that will allow me to do that.”

While Clark has not officially retired, he has begun in earnest to explore post-career opportunities. As articulate as he is, it is no surprise well-respected player, there have been several offers.

Clark and his wife Frances, along with their three children Kiara, Jazzin and Aeneas have become ensconced in the Phoenix-area community and will continue their charitable endeavors regardless of whether he continues to play.

“I told my wife after I got the news that my playing career may be done,” Clark said. “And if it is I’ve gone from being an old player to a young non-player at 37. If it is time to move on to the next chapter it could be a 30-year one so I want to get it right.”

Webb not on next trip

Spent some time catching up with Brandon Webb this morning. The right-hander is not going to be on the upcoming road trip with his teammates because his wife Alicia is due to give birth to the couple’s second child soon.

Webb will continue to work on his shoulder rehab. He said he has had no discussions with the D-backs regarding his $8.5 million option for next year.

The D-backs have to make the decision within five days after the
completion of the World Series. Webb should be able to play catch by
that point, but he will not be throwing off the mound, which will make
the decision a tough one.

D-backs GM Josh Byrnes was asked about it Sunday when he was on the team’s FOX Sports Arizona broadcast and said that if the decision is close that Webb “will probably get the benefit of the doubt.” Byrnes said that was based on what Webb had done in the past for the D-backs.

Warning altered Qualls’ approach slightly

Home plate umpire Jerry Layne walked to the mound to talk to D-backs’ closer Chad Qualls last night before the start of the ninth inning and appeared to be explaining something to the right-hander.

I asked Qualls before batting practice what Layne had said to him.

“He just wanted me to know that both teams had been warned,” Qualls said. “He said he wasn’t going to take the inside part of the plate away from me, but he wanted me to know that if I hit someone he was going to throw me out of the game. I told him there was no way I was hitting anyone on purpose, I promise.”

Knowing that hitting a batter would result in an immediate ejection changed how Qualls approached certain hitters that inning. Without wanting to get into specifics lest he let Dodger hitters know how his game plan against him, Qualls was leery about using his two-seam fastball inside to right-handers.

“My two-seamer is going to go in on a right-hander,” Qualls said. “So if I go into a righty and run one too far in and it gets away from me, they turn into heat-seeking missiles and they just go right at them. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t hit a guy with a fastball. Because if you hit a guy with a slider in the foot or something even with warnings out, it’s up to the umpire’s discretion to kick you out or not because if it’s an off-speed pitch they know you’re not trying to hit a guy.

“But if I hit a guy with a 92 mph fastball, I’m gone. So I just had to make sure if I did go in on a righty I was real careful.”

Qualls went inside with a fastball to Orlando Hudson, who was hitting left-handed. He was less cautious against lefties because the natural movement on his fastball would have taken it away from the batter even if he did throw it a little too far inside.

Just a little bit of information I found interesting and wanted to pass along and something to keep in mind next time you see warnings issued in a game.

Borchering takes BP

A couple of photos of Bobby Borchering, who took batting practice on Friday at Chase Field after signing his contract. (Photos courtesy of the legendary Jon Willey)

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Davis wants 3-year deal

It appears Doug Davis will remain an Arizona Diamondback for the rest of the season.

Whether he will be after that remains to be seen.

Davis was placed on waivers a couple of days ago according to SI.com and claimed by the Brewers. Foxsports.com reported that the waivers period ended Friday at 10 a.m. MT. A player cannot be placed on waivers again for another 30 days so that means Davis is staying put.

If it were up to the left-hander, he would be around longer than that.

“I’m still looking for the three-year deal I was looking for two months ago,” Davis said. “If I can’t come to terms on that then I’ll test the free agent market.”

Davis said he presented the three-year concept to the D-backs, who seemed more inclined to do a one-year deal with an option for 2011.

Neither side seems inclined to bend at this point and you can understand that from both perspectives.

The D-backs are figuring that the free agent market this year will be similar to last year’s so if they can’t get Davis signed for one-year at a price they think is reasonable then they will wait and see what the free agent options will be.

It’s similar to what they did last year when they set a price they felt was reasonable for a starting pitcher and made offers to Randy Wolf and Jon Garland and eventually Garland decided to accept their offer.

From Davis’ perspective, he’s thinking the free agent market is going to be better this offseason so he stands a chance at getting a multi-year deal. If he doesn’t and has to take a one-year offer somewhere he’s probably thinking that it will be for at least what the D-backs are offering right now.

As for why a deal to the Brewers did not work out, the D-backs were not simply going to give Davis away. Sure they would have saved close to $3 million, but they didn’t need to move the money. In addition, they feel like if the market does improve in the offseason they can simply offer Davis salary arbitration and as a likely Type B free agent they would be entitled to a compensatory Draft pick should he sign elsewhere.

In other words, unless they got back a player they deemed of equal value to a comp pick they were going to hang onto him.

Gonzalez nearing retirement?

It’s looking more and more like Luis Gonzalez has played his last Major League game.

The former D-back great, who is expected to take a position in the team’s front office when he officially decides to announce his retirement, was at Chase Field for Wednesday afternoon’s game between the D-backs and Mets.

“This organization has meant a lot to me,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez will always have a prominent place in franchise history. It was his single to left in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees that propelled the D-backs to Arizona’s first major sports championship.

After spending last year with the Marlins, Gonzalez was hoping to play one more season, but he did not receive any offers and as the summer has worn on, the reality has also sunk in for the 41-year-old.

This is the first summer since 1988 that he has not been playing professional baseball somewhere.

“I still feel like I can play,” Gonzalez said. “It’s been different this year because 22 years of my life has been structured around time and having to be somewhere so it’s been an adjustment.”

He has filled the void by spending time with his wife Christine and their three children Alyssa, Megan and Jacob.

“My family has helped me out tremendously with the adjustment,” Gonzalez said. “I know that they would have liked me to have played again, but you know it is what it is. I can’t look back at it. I’m very happy with my career, the years that I played. Where I grew up baseball was a strong passion. I got to play for a long time, I got to meet a lot of great people, played against a lot of great players and played with some Hall of Famers.”

No one has worn Gonzalez’s No. 20 since he left following the 2006 season. Jeff Suppan wore the number during the franchise’s inaugural season in 1998.

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