February 2012

Day 9: Feb. 27

WHAT HAPPENED:

– Stephen Drew took grounders once again.

– D-backs pitchers threw live batting practice sessions.

WHAT WE LEARNED:

– Drew will not be on the field for at least the first few Cactus League games. This, of course, we pretty much knew already, but D-backs manager Kirk Gibson confirmed it.

“No, no, not even close,” Gibson said when asked if Drew would play in the first few games.

That said Drew did take 40-50 grounders moving more to his left and right than he had so far and he did a reverse pivot and also planted in the hole to throw to first.

“I didn’t see him do that in his other sessions so it kind of tells you that he’s starting to become more comfortable with what he feels,” Gibson said. “When you have surgery like that you’re going to feel it for a while. He’s going to be playing and he’s still going to be feeling stuff. That’s just the way it is.”

The goal right now is to get Drew integrated into his regular work group and though he won’t do as many reps of things as they do it will be with greater intensity. He is likely to have Wednesday off as a recovery day.

“He’s pretty fluid out there,” Gibson said. “I don’t think he missed one ball that I saw. He’s got his hands and feet pretty good.”

– Chris Young learned what it’s like to face Josh Collmenter.

Young had said he was looking forward to facing Collmenter after standing in center field all last year and watching the right-hander’s unorthodox delivery flummox hitters.

– More on this tomorrow, but Collmenter’s third-best pitch, his curve, is coming along and Gibson had a word of warning for those who question whether Collmenter can repeat the success he had last year.

“Don’t doubt Collmenter if that’s what you’re doing,” he said.

– J.J. Putz is looking good.

So says Gibson, who watched the right-hander throw to hitters.

“He threw the ball really well today,” Gibson said. “Had good movement on his ball. I thought he threw the ball very good.”

Ken Kendrick is thankful for what his team accomplished last year.

There will be some room in the payroll for a midseason acquisition.

The D-backs season ticket sales are up.

My colleague, Lyle Spencer, thinks the signing of Joe Saunders could prove crucial for the D-backs.

WHAT’S COMING UP:

– More of the same as the Young Guns will face hitters for the second time Tuesday.

– Reminder: workouts are open to the public. They are free as is parking before games get underway.

You can park in the Desert Parking Lot and walk to any of the fields.

That’s all for today.  Remember…
You can follow me on Twitter
5 days until spring opener
39 days until Opening Day vs. Giants

Day 6: Feb. 24

WHAT HAPPENED:

– Stephen Drew hit on the field for the first time.

– D-backs pitchers threw bullpens and went through drills.

– We got to talk with GM Kevin Towers.

WHAT WE LEARNED:

The D-backs are going to say all the right things when it comes to Ryan Braun’s appeal.

Drew is still a ways away from getting into a game.

It also appears that the D-backs are going to leave the decision of when he can play largely in Drew’s hands.

The roster certainly seems pretty set heading into the first full-squad workout.

Keep in mind that things can always change. Remember at this time last year we thought Xavier Nady was going to be the starting left fielder and Geoff Blum was going to get the majority of the time at third base.

No progress has been made on an extension for Miguel Montero.

– Towers will continue to search the waiver wire, but feels comfortable right now with the 60 players he has in camp.

WHAT’S COMING UP:

– Saturday is the club’s first full-squad workout, but the pitchers will not throw making it a bit of a shorter day.

– The team will have a meeting in the morning that could delay the start of stretching, but they should be out there by 10 a.m. Things should wrap up by 11:45 a.m.

– Reminder: workouts are open to the public. They are free as is parking before games get underway.

You can park in the Desert Parking Lot and walk to any of the fields.

That’s all for today.  Remember…
You can follow me on Twitter
8 days until spring opener
42 days until Opening Day vs. Giants

Day 5: Feb. 23

WHAT HAPPENED:

– Stephen Drew took grounders again at shortstop.

– D-backs pitchers threw bullpens and went through drills.

– The last of the position players reported early.

WHAT WE LEARNED:

Kirk Gibson is going to defend Jason Kubel’s defense early and often this spring.

Drew took some steps forward in his rehab.

Look, this is going to be a long process and it still seems like a stretch to say he’s going to be ready by Opening Day, but still everyone, Drew included, appears to be pleasantly surprised by where he’s at in his rehab.

J.J. Putz leads by example.

— Ian Kennedy is going to start Opening Day for the second year in a row.

OK, truth be told, we don’t know that for sure, though, I did try to get Gibson to commit to it during his media session Thursday. Didn’t have any luck pinning him down.

“He had a pretty good year for us last year,” Gibson said. “We haven’t really talked about that. It’s probably fair to assume he’s a candidate (laughs). We’re not there yet. We haven’t really started setting up the pitching [or] locked in what we’re going to do yet. We’ve got a long spring to get through, but the time will come for that.”

I’d be shocked if anyone other than Kennedy was on the mound April 6 against the Giants.

– The D-backs will continue to temper the enthusiasm that everyone has when it comes to young hurlers like Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs.

“I know they’re young so don’t push them into anything where they’re not prepared to go,” Gibson said. “What we aim to do here is put them in a position to learn a lot, improve a lot and have a better understanding of what it’s going to take for them to be a big leaguer and come up here and stay and contribute and have a huge impact on what we do.

“They’ve all got great attitudes, they’re attentive and they want to learn. There’s a lot to understand and be able to execute throughout a Major League season. We’re happy they’re in our organization.”

– Takashi Saito does not like special treatment.

The D-backs want to go slowly with the veteran, who struggled with injuries last year, but the 42-year-old does not want to slack. Wednesday, the coaches tried to get him to run five laps rather than the 10 the other pitchers in his group were doing. He wound up running 10.

As a way of combating that, the coaches moved Saito’s entire group indoors Thursday for their conditioning and they did a modified low-impact version.

“He does not want to be away from his group,” Gibson said.

Geoff Blum has lost 10 pounds to try and ease the pressure on his balky knee.

– I’m always looking for ways to improve my coverage and this blog so do not hesitate to email me things you’d like to see talked about: steve.gilbert@mlb.com.

WHAT’S COMING UP:

– The workout should start with stretching around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and run till noonish. More bullpen sessions.

– The position players technically report Friday, though the team announced that all had already done so as of Thursday. The first full-squad workout is not until Saturday.

– Reminder: workouts are open to the public. They are free as is parking before games get underway.

You can park in the Desert Parking Lot and walk to any of the fields. The best vantage point for the covered batting cages and the pitching mounds — where the bullpen sessions happen — can be accessed by walking up the ramp behind them.

That’s all for today.  Remember…
You can follow me on Twitter
9 days until spring opener
43 days until Opening Day vs. Giants

Day 4: Feb. 22

WHAT HAPPENED:

– Quiet day on the Stephen Drew front. He was given a break from grounders today.

– D-backs pitchers threw bullpens and went through drills.

– Position players continued to report early.

WHAT WE LEARNED:

Gerardo Parra is going to say all the right things about losing his starting job.

You have to believe he’s not happy with being a fourth outfielder, but Parra handled things with class Wednesday. I think it helps that he came to camp last year without a job and wound up being the starter in left.

– J.J. Putz is working on a cutter.

He didn’t sound overly thrilled with where he was at with the pitch, but is going to use it in games this spring.

“I don’t even know if it’s going to turn into anything,” Putz said.

Putz would mainly use the pitch as a way to keep the ball in on lefties. His fastball has a tendency to fade back over the plate when he’s trying to get it inside against lefties so even if the cutter doesn’t move a lot, if it at least prevents the fade, he will take it.

Manager Kirk Gibson does not like the talk of expectations.

This one is not a surprise for anyone who has heard or read Gibson’s comments about Justin Upton over the past year and a half. Gibson went out of his way to mention that he does not want unfair expectations to be placed on No. 1 pick Trevor Bauer.

Ryan Roberts appears to be in good shape again.

Remember Roberts slacked during the offseason following his success in 2009 and it cost him in 2010. It’s a lesson he apparently has not forgotten.

WHAT’S COMING UP:

– The Young Guns will be throwing again Thursday.

– The workout should start with stretching around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and run till noonish. More bullpen sessions.

– Reminder: workouts are open to the public. They are free as is parking before games get underway.

You can park in the Desert Parking Lot and walk to any of the fields. The best vantage point for the covered batting cages and the pitching mounds — where the bullpen sessions happen — can be accessed by walking up the ramp behind them.

That’s all for today.  Remember…
You can follow me on Twitter
10 days until spring opener
44 days until Opening Day vs. Giants

Day 3: Feb. 21

WHAT HAPPENED:

– Stephen Drew took grounders for the second straight day and second time since his injury.

– D-backs pitchers threw bullpens and went through drills.

WHAT WE LEARNED:

– Takashi Saito will be the primary seventh-inning guy.

So said manager Kirk Gibson on Tuesday. He kind of just dropped that in his answer to a question about J.J. Putz. As with everything, though, it’s subject to change and Gibson did say he wasn’t ruling out throwing Saito earlier than the seventh.

– The D-backs have some nasty arms coming up through their farm system.

OK, so maybe we already knew that, but we got to see some of them up close Tuesday. Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, Evan Marshall et al threw and were extremely impressive.

It was clear that Gibson was impressed with what he saw, but also that he didn’t want to get too carried away.

“You don’t want to get too excited about it,” Gibson said. “They threw the ball good, we all know what their abilities are.”

– Trevor Cahill’s sinker is really, really good.

OK, yeah I wrote this yesterday as well, but today I had the chance to briefly talk to Miguel Montero about what it was like to catch Cahill for the first time Monday. Montero said he felt like each time he caught a sinker he was “catching a hammer.”

– Drew is on pace so far.

Talked briefly with him after he finished taking grounders and he said again that he had a good day and was encouraged. He will get a day off from that Wednesday.

– David Hernandez is not sure how he got the nickname “Hardball.”

He thinks it was Daniel Hudson who gave it to him, but he doesn’t seem to be too bothered by it.

“I guess I’m alright with it,” he said. “It’s better than being called ‘Slowball.'”

LINKS:

Speaking of Hernandez…

Putz will be on different schedule this year…

Bauer learns about “Gibby Time”…

Skaggs impressive in first bullpen session…

WHAT’S COMING UP:

– The workout should start with stretching around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and run till noonish. More bullpen sessions. The pitchers who threw Monday — Ian Kennedy, Hudson, Joe Saunders etc. — will throw Wednesday.

– For those of you who have asked, yes, workouts are open to the public. They are free as is parking before games get underway.

You can park in the Desert Parking Lot and walk to any of the fields. The best vantage point for the covered batting cages and the pitching mounds — where the bullpen sessions happen — can be accessed by walking up the ramp behind them.

That’s all for today.  Remember…
You can follow me on Twitter
11 days until spring opener
45 days until Opening Day vs. Giants

Day 2: Feb. 20

First day of actual action out at Salt River Fields today. Let’s get right to it…

WHAT HAPPENED:

Stephen Drew took grounders for the first time since his injury.

– D-backs pitchers had a relatively light day with some throwing bullpens and going through drills.

– Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers both addressed the media.

– Both men said that pitchers will have to earn their roles.

WHAT WE LEARNED:

– D-backs fans are fired up about 2012.

I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout for the first workout. I can’t remember this many fans being here last year. The enthusiasm Monday and at FanFest has not gone unnoticed by the players.

“It was great to see that kind of turnout at FanFest,” Justin Upton said. “To keep those kind of fans locked in we have to play good baseball.”

Takashi Saito did not have to take a physical upon signing. That caught me off guard. Can’t remember ever hearing that before.

– Trevor Cahill’s sinker really does look heavy.

Was impressive watching him throw his bullpen session and you can see why some people say his sinker is like Brandon Webb’s.

“Good arm, I mean, c’mon what’s not to like?” Gibson said when asked what he thought after watching Cahill throw.

– Chris Young is fired up for the season.

“I agree completely with him,” he said referring to Gibson’s comments Sunday about the team not accomplishing enough last year. “We didn’t win a World Series last year so there’s a lot to improve on and a lot of things we have to get better at. Last year’s results don’t have anything to do with this year. We have to continue to work to get better. Nobody is going to give us anything. We’re going to have to earn every bit of it.”

– The D-backs are still looking for catching and middle infield depth at the upper levels of their system.

“If we were to make a trade,” Towers said. “Those are areas that we think we need to kind of fill a void that we currently have in our system.”

WHAT’S COMING UP:

– The workout should start with stretching around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and run till noonish. The Young Guns — Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs et al should be throwing bullpens.

– For those of you who have asked, yes, workouts are open to the public. They are free as is parking before games get underway.

You can park in the Desert Parking Lot and walk to any of the fields. The best vantage point for the covered batting cages and the pitching mounds — where the bullpen sessions happen — can be accessed by walking up the ramp behind them.

That’s all for today.  Remember…
You can follow me on Twitter
12 days until spring opener
46 days until Opening Day vs. Giants

 

Day 1: Feb. 19

Greetings everyone. Today was technically the day pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report, but they didn’t actually have to show up at Salt River Fields and with this being a Sunday, all but a few stayed home.

Things start in earnest Monday and I just wanted to give you an idea of what you can expect from the blog this year.

For starters, there will be actual posts. I know, I know my posting frequency was not good last year in large part because so much of my notes content winds up on the site before games anyway.

So with that in mind, I’m going to change things up a little bit and try something different. Each day I’ll try to do a daily wrap up of what happened, maybe a tidbit or two or three that didn’t get into one of my stories and some information for the next day. In the mornings, I’ll try to get some links posted for you from the coverage of the day before and of course some photos.

My intention is that this blog will be a good place for you to go a couple of times a day to keep tabs on all things D-backs. You can also follow me on Twitter at @SteveGilbertMLB for updates and random thoughts/photos throughout the day.

I’m also always open to suggestions for what you want to see here, because after all this exists for you. So hit me with any thoughts you have at steve.gilbert@mlb.com.

Here’s a recap of the first day such as it was…

WHAT HAPPENED:

– A handful of pitchers worked out at Salt River Fields, among them Takashi Saito, Mike Zagurski and Joe Martinez.

– Kirk Gibson took question from the media for around a half hour.

– That’s it. Told you it wasn’t an action-packed day.

WHAT WE LEARNED:

– D-backs camp should be every bit as intense as last year.

You’ll remember that one of the reasons cited for the team’s dismal Spring Training record in 2011 was the fact that they were beat by the time the games rolled around in the afternoon.

Gibson is far less worried about the spring record than he is about getting the team tougher mentally and physically so while he might let up a little bit in terms of the time spent, it won’t be by much and he’s certainly not going to worry about what the record might be.

– Pickoffs and holding runners are going to be a big point of emphasis again.

Varying their hold times makes pitchers uncomfortable and forces them to focus on something other than throwing a pitch. But last year’s emphasis on this did pay off as the D-backs were a much harder team to run on so look for it to continue this year.

– Stephen Drew will take grounders Monday.

This will be his first time doing so since his surgery and as with everything that involves Drew this year, it will be watched closely.

– Gibson has not talked to Gerardo Parra about the acquisition of Jason Kubel.

This one still perplexes me. Parra had a very good year at the plate, won a Gold Glove and winds up losing his starting job. Gibson has yet to explain things to Parra, but said Sunday that he is certain Parra will have a great attitude this spring.

One other note on Parra is that Gibson mentioned he would like to see him become better in center field. He’s obviously very good at the corners, but the organization feels he could improve in center, which will be important since he figures to get more playing time there than last year.

– Gibson is loathe to talk about roster spots this early.

Yes, it sure looks like the 25-man roster is virtually set heading into camp, but Gibson will do his best to downplay that throughout camp and drum up competition.

He pointed out Monday that last heading into last spring, Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Collmenter and Bryan Shaw were not talked about as being key contributors for 2011. They all opened the staff’s eyes during camp and voila there they were during the season.

“There are Goldys, Shaws and Collmenters in our locker room,” Gibson said. “Who are they? That’s one of the things that Spring Training is all about.”

WHAT’S COMING UP:

– The workout will be shorter than usual Monday and it won’t get started until around 1 p.m. as the team undergoes physicals in the morning. Below is a picture of the full schedule just as the players see it each day.

– For those of you who have asked, yes, workouts are open to the public. They are free as is parking before games get underway.

You can park in the Desert Parking Lot and walk to any of the fields. The best vantage point for the covered batting cages and the pitching mounds — where the bullpen sessions happen — can be accessed by walking up the ramp behind them.

Generally workouts start around 9:15 or so with some stretching, but of course that can vary from day to day. I will try and keep you posted each day on what to expect for the coming day.

That’s all for today.  Remember…

13 days until spring opener

47 days until Opening Day vs. Giants

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