January 2010

Parting of ways best for Byrnes, D-backs

Like a bad marriage, the relationship between Eric Byrnes and the D-backs needed to come to an end and the sooner the better.

Initially I thought releasing Byrnes before Spring Training was not the right choice. Instead, it seemed better to have him come to camp and who knew maybe he would find the magic from 2007 and either play his way into a contributing spot on the roster or even improve his trade value to the point where some team might be willing to pay $1 million of the money he was owed for 2010.

In case you missed my tweet (@dbackswriter) on Wednesday, Byrnes was officially released after being designated for assignment last Friday.

The acquisition of Adam LaRoche changed my thinking. It pushed Conor Jackson back to left field and Gerardo Parra into a fourth outfielder. That meant that the best Byrnes could hope for was to come to camp and win the fifth outfielder spot.

In talking to both parties this past week that clearly was not in anyone’s best interests.

While I don’t think Byrnes would have intentionally been a distraction, I think the very fact that a player set to earn $11 million was trying to win a fifth outfield spot would have been a distraction in and of itself.

So for a team that needs to quickly gather round a young manager in his first Spring Training, it probably was best that the Byrnes question not hover over A.J. Hinch throughout camp.

From Brynes’ standpoint the release is a good thing. Rather than have to worry about coming getting enough time during the spring to win a fifth spot in the outfield or get released near the end of camp when most teams have their rosters already set, he has the next few weeks to find the right fit.

That essentially is what Byrnes and his agent are doing right now. Trying to find a team that will give him an invite to Spring Training with a chance to win a platoon or fourth outfield spot. And, well, he does still get his $11 million.

My apologies GREG

In my story about Day 1 of Fantasy Camp I mistakenly called Greg Colbrunn, Craig Colbrunn.

My typo got me fined in Kangaroo Court on Wednesday with Judge Mark Grace fining me $10 — a dollar for every year that I’ve known Colby.

In addition, I was asked to post a public apology.

Consider it done.

Grace loses mind; wins games

Fantasy Camp gives people an up-close look at some of their favorite D-backs’ players. Wednesday, during Day 3 of camp, even those of us who have spent significant time around him over the past nine years saw a side of Mark Grace we’ve never seen before.

Grace’s teams have not had a lot of success in previous years, going winless at during at least one camp, but that has never seemed to bother him.

This year I am on his squad and we won our first two games Tuesday. Anyway, Grace apparently enjoyed those wins so much that his style has gone from laid back to well a little intense.

We took on Greg Colbrunn and Damian Miller’s team Wednesday morning and as well as we played the first two games we were awful through the first four innings of this one. I mean we — and by we I definitely include me — were throwing the ball all over the field on defense, popping the ball up at the plate.

In short, it wasn’t pretty and we were trailing 9-0. At that point, Grace stopped talking to us. Of course, Mike Fetters, who was coaching with him, was not done. Fetters stood in front of the dugout and gave whoever at that moment was misplaying a ball, that same stare that made him a fan favorite on the mound at Chase Field.

“If you’re not going to listen to a word I say I’m done talking,” Grace said as we trooped into the dugout for the bottom of the fourth inning staring at a nine-run deficit.

Mind you at this point after hearing him yelling at us from the dugout, tossing his hat around the silence was kind of welcome. There was some chatter amongst the guys in the dugout that while we knew we weren’t playing well, Grace had clearly lost his mind and was turning into Buck Showalter before our eyes.

My personal favorite was after I was unable to get to a groundball hearing Grace yell, “Gilbert doggone it (or maybe it was a wee bit more colorful than that) you’ve got the range of a traffic cone.”

Long story short we rallied for a 10-9 victory and at some point during that rally Grace went back to talking to us and after the game said he was never more proud of a win at Fantasy Camp.

Photos from the trainer’s room

Here are a couple of shots from inside the training room courtesy of Jon Willey…

James Ready works on Jeff Johnson.

JJ Trainers room.JPG

Jim Southard (left) and P.J. Mainville  work on a camper Tuesday.

Fantasy Camp — Day 2

Wrote in today’s Fantasy Camp Diary about the training staff. It really is amazing the job that these guys do in getting a bunch of out-of-shape guys ready to play each day.

I can guarantee you from past experience that the training room on Wednesday will look like the Dept. of Motor Vehicles with all the people lined up in there. That’s because we played the first doubleheader of the week on Tuesday and guys are going to really feel that come Wednesday morning.

A couple of other notes from Tuesday:

— Luis Gonzalez had a rough first day as manager, losing both games by one run.

“We keep giving up first-inning runs,” Gonzalez said. “Tomorrow I’m going to change the lineup card to start in the second inning and see if that helps.”

— Gonzalez got a kick out of all the campers who chose to get in the “cold tub” at the end of the day. Sitting in the 50-degree water for eight or so minutes is a method that some folks swear by as a way to avoid some of the next-day muscle soreness.

There were about 12-15 people waiting their turns in the small room and a good majority were enjoying some adult beverages.

“I thought I walked into a bar,” Gonzalez said. “I thought they had the beer in the tubs and they were just sitting around it drinking.”

— It’s been a tough go of it for Greg Swindell as a skipper down here. The former D-backs lefty lost both games Tuesday running his Fantasy Camp losing streak to 13 games.

“That’s not easy to do,” he said.

— Matt Williams will join the Arizona coaching staff as a first-base/infield coach next year and it would be a good idea for him to sit down with D-backs’ scouting director Tom Allison to get some pointers.

You see when he drafted his team Williams did not realize how many left-handed throwers he had chosen. That explains why his team has the camp’s lone left-handed shortstop.

Fantasy Camp — Day 1

Here are some tidbits from Day One of Fantasy Camp:

— This is Luis Gonzalez’s first taste of camp after rejoining the organization late last summer following his retirement.

“I still think I can play,” Gonzalez said with a laugh to the team he drafted. “So let’s go out and win this thing.”

— During the evening “Bull Session” Mark Grace and Damian Miller were asked about the missed popups in Game 3 of the 2001 World Series. The first one, Miller misplayed behind home plate and the second involved a collision between he and Grace.

“After the game there were all these reporters around my locker wanting to talk about the foul pop,” Miller said. “I said, ‘Guys don’t you want to go talk to B.K. [closer Byung-Hyun Kim] instead?”

It was such a funny line no one wanted to point out that Kim gave up the big homers in Games 4 and 5, not in Game 3.

The following Spring the defending champs went through a popup drill and missed 13 straight popups.

“That’s it,” then-manager Bob Brenly yelled at them. “Get off the field, I can’t watch this anymore.”

— Miller also had a good story about Curt Schilling’s near no-hitter in San Diego in 2001. That was the game in which catcher Ben Davis broke up the Perfect Game with a bunt.

Anyway, Miller said it was so quiet at Qualcomm Stadium that at one point when a fan yelled, “Nice mullet, Schilling” the pitcher had to step off the mound to stop laughing and compose himself.

— Mike Fetters talked about a game late in his career when he gave up a double in the gap to Barry Bonds. It was the third straight double in the gap he allowed.

“Hey Fetters,” a fan yelled. “Instead of throwing this next pitch why don’t you just turn around and throw it into the gap, you know it’s headed there any way.”

Details on Howry’s contract

Tracked down some additional details on reliever Bobby Howry’s contract with the D-backs:

— The right-hander will make $2 million and the D-backs hold an option for 2011 at $3 million with a $250,000 buyout. However, if Howry is dealt in 2010 and the option is excercised, Howry can void the option and the team would not owe him the $250,000 buyout.

— In addition, if Howry finishes 40 games in 2010 the option becomes a mutual option and the buyout will be paid if either side declines the option year.

— The D-backs also agreed not to offer Howry salary arbitration if he is a Type A free agent.