SAN FRANCISCO — The series with the Giants is a homecoming for D-backs manager Chip Hale, who grew up in the Bay Area and also spent the past three seasons as bench coach for the A’s.
“Every time I come to this ballpark or play against the Giants or the A’s, it’s a warm spot for me,” Hale said. “I’ve got a lot of family and friends here, people that are the reason I’m here. I wouldn’t be here without all the coaching I had throughout my youth.”
Don Miller, who coached Hale at Campolindo High School and in American Legion ball was in the dugout and on the field while the D-backs took batting practice.
“He was just born to coach,” Miller said of Hale.
Miller said that when Hale was a freshman and his team won a semifinal game the coaches prepared to go scout the other semifinal game.
“And he says, ‘Hey Coach, could I come with you guys?’” Miller said. “So here’s a 15-year-old, 14-year-old kid wanting to go watch the other team and hang out with the coaches and see what we were doing. You just knew. It’s in his blood.”
PHOENIX — The D-backs acquired Minor League outfielder Mitch Haniger and Minor League left-hander Anthony Banda on Thursday from the Brewers in exchange for outfielder Gerardo Parra.
Haniger, 23, was ranked as the eighth-best prospect in the Brewers system prior to the season by MLB.com and was hitting .255 with seven doubles, 10 homers and 34 RBIs.
Haniger, who can play center field, is regarded as a patient hitter with decent speed and he has power potential. He was the 38th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and was a member of the Arizona Fall League’s All-Prospect Team last year.
Banda, who turns 21 in a couple of weeks, has appeared in 20 games (14 starts) for Class A Wisconsin and was 6-6 with two saves and a 3.66 ERA.
Parra was hitting .259 for the D-backs this year and hit .274 and won a pair of Gold Gloves during his six seasons in Arizona.
“I try not to think anything about it because I’m happy being here,” Parra said prior to Wednesday’s game. “I’m happy being with the Diamondbacks. But that’s baseball. Today you play and tomorrow you could play for another team. But I don’t want to think about it and put pressure on myself. I’m going to play hard today and play to win.”
PHILADELPHIA — Aaron Hill was out of the lineup Sunday after being hit in the right hand by a Justin De Fratus pitch in the sixth inning Saturday night.
Hill received treatment on the hand Sunday morning and said that it felt “good.”
Throwing was not a problem for him, but Saturday night he was unable to grip a bat. Sunday morning he was headed to the batting cage to try and take a few swings.
X-rays taken Saturday did not show a break, but that can be deceiving. Last year when he was hit by a pitch in April, X-rays were negative, but an MRI later showed a non-displaced fracture and he missed more than .
“Nah, I’ll be alright,” Hill said when asked if he was concerned about a repeat of last year. “Nothing you can do if it is, but I’ll be fine. It got me a little more square last year.”
For a baseball beat writer, the season is long. It starts in mid-February (early February for the D-backs and Dodgers this year) when pitchers and catchers report and it stretches through September and into October if the team you cover makes the playoffs.
Along the way there are deadlines to meet, endless airline flights, car rental counters, expense reports to do and multiple stories daily.
In other words, it’s a grind.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a column that complains about any of that, because this is the life that I’ve chosen and one that I love. My point in the above is to say that at times we all get a little worn down by it all no matter how much we love the game or our jobs.
And man was I there on the final day before the All-Star Break.
But I work for a company that encourages us to use a week of our vacation time at some point during the regular season. For the last few years I’ve chosen to take All-Star Break week off and the routine is fairly predictable.
First there’s relief Monday in turning off the phone and not checking Twitter every few minutes to make sure I’m not missing a D-backs trade rumor. But as the week wears on, though, I find myself turning the computer back on and checking on baseball not because I have to, but because I want to.
All of this is a long way of saying I’m back on the beat starting today and looking forward to another two-plus months of baseball. Sure the D-backs are out of the postseason race, but there is still plenty to watch out for in the second half as the organization tries to figure out who will be part of the team going forward.
My hope is to bring all that to you. Thank you for reading,
A few quick thoughts on the D-backs hiring of Tony La Russa as Chief Baseball Officer. Obviously we will have plenty more at dbacks.com following this afternoon’s press conference.
La Russa missed the wins and losses
La Russa had a great job with the commissioner’s office, but my guess is we’ll hear him say today that he missed the wins and losses that come with being involved with a particular team. He was a candidate for the Seattle Mariners team president position not too long ago and that was a good indication that he was itching to get back.
He’s not going to manage this team
From every indication La Russa is done managing and I would also believe that he is not interested in being a general manager either. Overseeing the entire baseball operations seems to fit what he has been looking for — a chance to put his stamp on an organization.
He will be fair in his evaluations of GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson
Keep in mind while La Russa has never held a position like this one he is extremely bright and you can expect that he will attack this new challenge very meticulously. He is a big believer in “doing things the right way” so you can bet he will be very even handed when it comes to deciding what to do with the baseball ops department going forward.
CHICAGO — Kevin Towers looks at the team that he put together and the D-backs general manager is as perplexed as anyone at the dismal start.
“I’ve been a part of some bad clubs, but most of the time I knew they were bad clubs, knew going into the season that we were going to struggle,” Towers said.
The D-backs had far higher hopes for this season with a club-record payroll of $110 million, but they entered Wednesday afternoon’s game with the Cubs with a Majors-worst 5-18 record.
With that payroll came expectations and Towers knows that managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall might be running short on patience.
“I’ve talked to Derrick, Ken and they’re [frustrated] — rightfully so,” Towers said. “They should be. This organization has committed a lot of money. That’s what’s even more disturbing. You’ve got a payroll that exceeds $100 million and we’re off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. That’s tough to swallow when you’re an owner and you care and you’ve invested in a product and the product isn’t performing. I’m sure they’ve grown impatient and I don’t blame them.”
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson knows that there has been speculation about his job status, but he is trying to remain focused on getting his team turned around.
“I don’t worry about that part,” Gibson said of his job status. “I just come in here and am positive every day. We try to analyze what we can do [better] and we just prepare and try to get the guys to prepare and have a positive day and a good game.”
Regardless of how positive they are, or what Towers or Gibson do, the reality is that it is up to the players on the field and Towers issued a bit of a challenge Wednesday.
“It’s a team that should be performing a lot better than they are and it’s not like help is on its way,” Towers said. “These guys are the guys who are going to have to get it done. If not, your legacy is that you were part of one of the worst teams in Diamondbacks franchise history. To me, I’ve got incredible pride — and hopefully they do and they’re going to have to find a way to turn it around or that will be their legacy.”
When asked if he thought that he would be given a chance to continue as GM and be given a chance to fix what’s wrong with the team, Towers deferred the query to Kendrick and Hall.
“That’s a question you need to ask them,” Towers said. “I don’t think they dislike Gibby or myself. They’re good people. They’ve been great to us. But Gibby and I are smart enough to know that this is what you get paid to do. You get paid to hopefully go out and win ballgames. But I think we’re all accountable. Everybody. It’s players, it’s us, it’s coaches. We all should be wearing this right now and finding a way to turn this around.”
When he took over as GM in Sept. 2010, Towers inherited Gibson, who had been named interim manager in July.
The two quickly formed a bond and Towers elected after that season to rehire Gibson. The pair won a division championship together in 2011, which was followed up by back-to-back .500 seasons.
After last season the organization declined to pick up the contract options on the pair for 2015, but then announced extensions of unspecified lengths for both just before the start of Spring Training.
As of Wednesday, Towers was still standing behind Gibson.
“I think the world of Gibby,” Towers said. “He’s a fierce competitor. He cares. But ultimately, it’s how do they respond? Players may ultimately get GMs and managers fired, but they don’t do it, it comes from up above. But how they respond to different things, our livelihood kind of lies in their hands. That’s just the truth and it does. They perform good, we have job security. They don’t perform well, we don’t have job security. That’s probably what makes it tough on Gibby and myself. You can’t go out and swing the bat or throw a ball. You’re sitting and evaluating, watching. You try to find different ways to get it done but you can’t go out and play the game for them.”
Gibson, for his part, continues to stand behind his players in terms of the effort they’re putting forth.
“Yeah, they’re busting their [butts],” he said. “When you don’t score runs it looks bad. When you don’t pitch, it looks bad. It always will. It always has. Things are magnified when we make an error and somebody hits a home run. It looks bad. Anybody going to question anybody on our team’s attitude and dedication and how they prepare when they make an error? They better not.”
A few thoughts from report day…
— They really shouldn’t call it report day, because the pitchers and catchers don’t actually have to show up at Salt River Fields. They simply need to check in to say they are in town.
In addition, almost all the guys — even position players — have been working out at the complex for days if not weeks.
— Speaking of which, the quote of the day on that subject came from pitcher Brandon McCarthy: “It’s just good because in the last month is when you start to hit that boredom point of you’re done with the offseason, you’re sick of your loved ones, you want to get out of your house, you kind of want to get back at some competitive outlet.”
— And while we’re on the subject of McCarthy, his comments about the determination in the clubhouse this spring really jumped out at me. You can read them here.
Look every team sounds optimistic during Spring Training especially early in camp, but this sounded different, there was an intensity and specificity about what needed to change that caught my attention.
Maybe it means nothing, but in listening to McCarthy and then to manager Kirk Gibson later, it seemed like things are quite different than they were last year.
— Here’s a link to today’s notebook with information on the closer competition, Mark Trumbo’s signing and Henry Blanco.
— The D-backs will go out to stretch and begin Friday’s first workout at 9:30 and they will be on the field until close to noon.
— All spring long workouts are free and open to the public. Fans can park in the Desert Parking Lot.
— For photos, schedule updates and news throughout the spring, follow me on Twitter.
44 days until opener in Sydney
53 days until opener vs. Giants at Chase Field
234 days until the end of the 2014 regular season
Today is report day for D-backs pitchers and catchers so I wanted to give a quick rundown of what you can expect today on the site and at the ballpark:
Pitchers and catchers will not necessarily be there today: Report day is a bit misleading, because all players have to do to “report” is to call the organization and let it know they are in town. Pitchers and catchers don’t have to be at the ballpark until Friday when the workouts start.
Nothing to see here: That means there’s a good chance there won’t be any activities out on the fields. Now, that being said, there are players who have been working out at the complex for months so I’m not sure if they will be there or not, but your best bet is to come out Friday.
Site content today: They will open the clubhouse to the media mid-morning today, but there is no guarantee there will be any players to talk to. However, Kirk Gibson will be meeting with us at 11 a.m. so you can check back this afternoon for his thoughts as camp opens.
Arroyo watch: As always, we’ll be on top of whatever breaking news there is throughout the day. The D-backs are planning on meeting with Arroyo (not sure when) but it’s something we’ll keep an eye out today and going forward.
Workout times this spring: I will try and have the blog updated daily during the spring, but your best bet for staying on top workout times and any changes to them will be to follow me on twitter.
Spring Training preview: Here’s my preview of the D-backs as they head into Spring Training.
PHOENIX — As it turns out, D-backs general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson will not be entering the final year of the contracts in 2014.
The team on Monday said that it had extended the contracts of both men. The length of the extensions as well as the financial terms were not disclosed.
“Over the past couple months, Ken Kendrick and I have had continued conversations about extending both Gibby and KT’s contracts and we are pleased to have come to an agreement,” D-backs President/CEO Derrick Hall said in a statement. “We continue to be impressed by their loyalty, dedication, work ethic and track record of success during their big league careers and are glad that their contract status will not be a distraction as we open up Spring Training this week.”
Towers, who was hired in Sept. 2010 and Gibson, who took over for A.J. Hinch on July 1, 2010, both had future contract options declined by the organization following the 2013 season leaving them both with just 2014 left on the deals they signed following the 2011 National League West championship season.
Both Towers and Gibson said entering the final year of their respective contracts would not be an issue.
“We’re very happy with both of them,” Hall said of Towers and Gibson at the time the options were not picked up. “They’re under contract and they can still be extended. It’s not a big deal. We’re all on the same page.”
Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick echoed Hall’s comments in an interview with MLB.com in November.
“I think we have good leadership starting with Derrick and in the front office and on the field with K.T. and Gibby,” Kendrick said at that time. “I’m comfortable with those guys. I think it’s important for them to go out and prove themselves once again. I hope and believe they’re going to be long-term Diamondback people.”
If they didn’t then, they should now.
Gibson has a 290-279 record with the D-backs, including going 34-49 in the second half of the 2010 season.
Towers, meanwhile, retooled the D-backs after taking over for Josh Byrnes and turned a 97-loss team in 2010 into a 94-win team in 2011.
The past two seasons the D-backs have finished with identical 81-81 records.
“I would say it’s disappointing really because our expectations are very high,” Towers said following last season. “I think they have been since Gibby and I have been together since 2011. We fully expect to be in the postseason each and every year, and the last two years we’ve been .500.”
PHOENIX — With just three days remaining before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, the D-backs might not be done adding to their roster.
D-backs team president and CEO Derrick Hall said that the team will make one more pass through their free agent list to see if a match can be found.
“We owe it to ourselves to at least see what the remaining free agents are looking for,” Hall said.
The D-backs had hoped to add a frontline starter this offseason and were one of the finalists for the services of right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who eventually signed a $155 million deal with the Yankees.
Matt Garza was another pitcher the D-backs had interest in, but he was able to get a four-year deal from the Brewers. Arizona general manager Kevin Towers had said during the Winter Meetings that he did not anticipate offering a deal of longer than three years to any free agent pitcher other than Tanaka.
Free agent pitchers Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez are tied to draft compensation meaning the D-backs would have to surrender their first-round pick in this year’s Draft should they sign one of them.
Right-hander Bronson Arroyo, however, is not tied to draft compensation and therefore might be more attractive to the D-backs.
As it stands right now, the D-backs rotation consists of Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy. Top prospect Archie Bradley and Randall Delgado are expected to be among the leading contenders for the fifth spot.
Arroyo was 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA last season for the Reds. He has been a workhorse in his career. Over the last nine seasons he has thrown at least 199 innings.