Why I went to work Tuesday

I got the news when I was 35,000 feet up in the air on my way to New York. On my way to a big series with the Yankees, because every series in the ballpark in the Bronx feels big.

Headline: Explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Suddenly the series with the Yankees felt small.

Watching the news coverage that night in my hotel room I couldn’t get my mind around it. Three people dead, one of them an 8-year-old, whose 6-year-old sister lost her leg in the explosion. Lives shattered, ripped apart.

The questions begin to fly through the mind — How does this happen? How could someone do such a thing? — and then heart aches for the people killed and the loved ones who are left behind to try and somehow pick up the pieces.

And so I woke up Tuesday and wondered. Why go to the ballpark tonight? For a baseball game? Who cares?

View from the press box during Tuesday's D-backs-Yankees game.

View from the press box during Tuesday’s D-backs-Yankees game.

And then I thought of Jack, as passionate a baseball fan as there is. He lives in China now, but he still follows the D-backs staying up late (or is it getting up early?) to watch their games. He needs these games to stay connected to his home to stay connected to his country.

There’s Jenny in San Francisco, her body confined to a wheelchair, but her passion for the game knowing no limits. She’s always got questions about why certain decisions are made and somebody needs to get the answers.

There’s Lubo here in New York. Sure he says he’s sworn off the D-backs since the Justin Upton trade, but judging by his interest level I have my doubts about that.

And there’s a 9-year-old in Phoenix, who is trying to make sense of what he sees on the news. He loves when I send pictures of the ballparks I visit. I can’t disappoint him.

I could go on and on.

But it reminds me again of baseball’s importance. Not because the games in and of themselves mean anything, but because of what they provide people — a way of dealing with the stresses and sometimes tragedies in their own lives.
I go to the ballpark and I talk with pitcher Ian Kennedy, who heard about the Boston bombings when his wife, Allison, called him.

“My thoughts and prayers are really, really with them,” Kennedy told me. “Allison and I prayed for them. It was all we could do.”

But it’s not all he will do, not really.

He went through his between-start routine Tuesday. He will do so again Wednesday and Thursday. There will be video study as well and scouting reports to pore over. And then, Friday, he will take the mound at Coors Field against the Rockies and give everything he has in pursuit of a victory.

Why? Because it will mean something to baseball fans. It will mean something to someone who drafted him on his Fantasy League team. Because it could bring a smile to someone’s face somewhere. Because it is a gift to be able to throw the ball like he does so he will share it with the rest of the world.

I can’t throw the ball like he can, but I have the privilege of access to places that fans cannot go. It is my job to be your eyes and ears and to provide you with information and make you smile.

No, it’s not as important as the emergency workers, who rushed to help the victims Monday. It’s not as vital as the runners, who continued to run to local Boston hospitals to donate blood in the aftermath.

But it’s my role, it’s my contribution, my one stitch in the fabric that makes up this country. It’s what I have to give and so I treat it as though it is important.

That’s why I went to work Tuesday.

And why I will again today.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Opening Day

Happy Opening Day, or in the case of the D-backs, Happy Opening Night.

I’m going to try and do a better job of keeping this blog going during this season. While there will be baseball stuff on it, it will also be a chronicle of life on the road and some personal observations. As always, your feedback is always welcome. Feel free to drop me an email at steve.gilbert@mlb.com.

Day or night, there is something special about the opener. Every team can seemingly convince themselves that maybe, just maybe, they will be the one left standing in October. Everything is fresh and anything seems possible.

Opening Day was always a holiday in the Gilbert house when I was growing up. My parents would allow me to miss school and we would head to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs. Those outings with my father, who passed away in 2004, are some of my most treasured memories.

There are plenty of things to keep an eye on this year for D-backs fans. Here are a few things that I’ll be interesting to watch:

– How will they handle the loss of Adam Eaton?
Losing Eaton for the first eight weeks or so of the season is a real blow. This was a guy they built their offense around having at the top of the lineup.
– Is the bullpen as good as we think it is?
J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Heath Bell and Brad Ziegler at the back end with a pair of lefties in Tony Sipp and Matt Reynolds along with the versatile Josh Collmenter seems — on paper at least — to be one of the better pens in the league.
– Will they score enough runs?
No Justin Upton, Chris Young, or Stephen Drew. The team has made a decision to move away from reliance on the home run and towards a more contact-oriented lineup. Will they still score enough runs?

I could go on and on — Paul Goldschmidt’s development, does Trevor Cahill’s improved conditioning help him on the mound? — but you get the idea.

Remember you can follow me on Twitter.

D-backs day two draft selections: Rounds 2-15

Tyler Emerick/MLB.com

PHOENIX — With their first selection on day two of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, the D-backs drafted shortstop Jose Munoz in the second round (pick No. 90 overall) from Los Altos High School in Northern California.

The San Diego State commit was tabbed as the 86th best prospect by ESPN.com.

At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Munoz hit .419 this season with a slugging percentage of .814.

“He’s an infielder with some offensive potential,” Baseball America’s Jim Callis said on MLB.com. “He has all average to solid tools.”

The 90th pick has a slot value of $540,000.

For the D-backs, the 18-year-old Munoz was the second high school player they took in as many picks after they drafted catcher Stryker Trahan in the first round.

Round 3, 120 overall: RHP Jake Barrett, Arizona State

A local product who was also drafted in the third round coming out of Desert Ridge High School by the Blue Jays, Barrett is hard throwing junior reliever for ASU.

Ranked by MLB.com as the 55th best overall prospect in the draft, the 21-year-old’s fastball peaks in the upper 90’s and his 6-foot-4, 220 pound frame draws body comparisons to the likes of Heath Bell and Jonathan Broxton.

Barrett began his ASU career as a set-up man as a freshman but transitioned to a starting role as a sophomore. The righty started 14 games for the Sun Devils, going 7-4 with a 4.14 ERA. He struck out 72 batters in 76 innings that year but a shoulder injury caused him to miss the final portion of the season.

In 2012 as a junior, Barrett moved back to the bullpen as the Sun Devils’ closer. His size, maximum effort delivery and often spotty command suited him well for the relieving role. He recorded 11 saves and made 31 appearances with a low 1.62 ERA.

“There’s a surprise he went behind some of the other guys,” Callis said. “He’s another college arm that could be in the Majors soon.”

The 120th pick has a slot value of $392,900

Round 4, 153 overall: CF Chuck Taylor, Mansfield Timberview High School (TX)

Taylor, a 5-foot-9, 185 pound outfielder, was the third high school position player the D-backs selected through their first four picks.

A UT-Arlington commit to play baseball, Taylor also was the quarterback for his school’s football team for three seasons.

The 18-year-old threw for 1,998 yards and 16 touchdowns this year while also rushing for 1,972 yards and 23 touchdowns in leading his squad to the state semifinals.

The 153rd pick has a slot value of$285,800.

Round 5, 183 overall: C Ronnie Freeman, Kennesaw State (GA)

The 21-year-old joins first round pick Trahan as the D-backs’ second catcher choice of the draft.

As a freshman at Keennesaw State, Freeman hit a team-high .365 and was a 2010 Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. A season later, Freeman  set the Kennesaw State record for the longest hitting streak at 42. He also played for the USA Collegiate National Team that same year.

As a junior in 2012, Freeman enjoyed continued success, batting .348 with 54 RBIs, six homers and 13 doubles. His power hitting status makes him a valuable prospect behind home plate.

Round 6, 213 overall: 3B Jacob Lamb, Washington

Coming out of high school ranked by Baseball America as the top prep prospect in Washington, Lamb was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 38th round of the 2009 Major League draft.

As a freshman for the Huskies in Seattle, Lamb started 54 games for the school and was named to the Freshman All-America team by Collegiate Baseball after batting .363 in Pac-10 play.

In 2011, he led Washington in in at bats, games, hits, triples, homers and RBIs. This season as a junior, the 21-year-old batted .343 in conference games and earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors.

Round 7, 243 overall: SS Andrew Velazquez, Fordham Prep School (NY)

After Munoz in the second round, Velazquez was the second high school shortstop the D-backs selected.

The 17-year-old, standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 170 pounds, is committed to play at Virginia Tech next season.

On May 12 in a regular season prep game, the switch-hitter put together a three home run day in a unique fashion. He hit one out of the park from the right side, one out of the park from the left side and a third one that stayed inside the park.

Also this year, he has written bimonthly diary blog for NYPost.com detailing his senior campaign.

Round 8, 273 overall: CF Evan Marzilli, South Carolina

A key contributor to South Carolina’s back-to-back College World Series titles in 2010 and 2011, Marzilli is still playing with the Gamecocks as they try to capture their third straight NCAA crown.

As a freshman in 2010, the 21-year-old was named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team after hitting .370 (10-for-27) with seven runs scored and a .514 on-base percentage in Omaha. The following season, Marzilli, who is six feet tall and weights 185 pounds, hit .291 for South Carolina with 31 RBIs and 39 runs scored.

So far in 2012, Marzilli is batting .288 with a team-high 12 stolen bases in the pitching-dominated Southeastern Conference.

Round 9, 303 overall: RHP Jeff Gibbs, Maine-Orono

A Toronto native, Gibbs won a Canadian national title with his youth team before heading to the states for college ball.

The 21-year-old’s first two collegiate campaigns were outstanding, as he started a combined 28 games, winning 13 of the them and having season ERA’s of 3.94 as a freshman and 3.42 as a sophomore.

This year as a junior, however, things did not go well for the 6-foot-4, 215 pound righty. Although serving as a team captain, Gibbs had an ERA of 8.40 over 60 innings and 10 starts.

Round 10, 333 overall: OF Daniel Poma, Hofstra (NY)

Poma put together one of the best seasons in the nation this year as a senior, batting .430 with 102 hits, 79 runs, 32 doubles, seven home runs, 48 RBIs and 29 steals.

His efforts earned him a place on Collegiate Baseball’s First Team All-American squad. He is also a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which is college baseball’s version of the Heisman Award.

At 23 years old, Poma is the oldest player the D-backs selected so far in the 2012 draft. The right-handed hitter stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 210 pounds.

Round 11, 363 overall: RHP Ben Eckels, Davis Senior HS (CA)

Eckels had a stellar senior season for his San Francisco area school, finishing 7-2 with a 2.36 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings.

The 18-year-old finished his prep career on a high note with a complete game shutout performance. He isn’t committed to a college but has drawn interest from the likes of Fresno State, Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton.

Round 12, 393 overall: CF Keith Alex Glenn, Arizona Christian

Originally drafted in the 37th round by the Marlins in 2009 out of high school, Glenn began his collegiate career by playing two seasons at Southern California.

He started 40 times and played in 77 games for the Trojans, totaling 24 hits in 126 career at-bats (.190) with five home runs, 17 runs scored and 18 RBIs.

In 50 games with Arizona Christian this year, the 20-year-old batted .351 with 36 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.

Round 13, 423 overall: C Phildrick Llewellyn, Trinity Christian Academy (FL)

Born and raised in the Caribbean island Curacao, Llewellyn’s parents offered to send him to America before high school to further his baseball career. After four terrific prep seasons, the 17-year-old is committed to play at Florida International next season.

The 6-foor-1, 205 pound switch hitter was the third catcher the D-backs selected in the 2012 draft.

Round 14, 453 overall: RHP Derrick Stultz, South Florida

Finishing his senior high school season with a 1.76 ERA, Stultz was drafted as a prep player in 2007 in the 38th round by the Red Sox.

After two successful collegiate seasons as a freshman and sophomore, the 23-year-old missed the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons due to shoulder surgery.

This year as a redshirt senior, the 6-foot-3, 190 pound starter led the Big East conference with nine wins. In his final start of his career, he shutout Connecticut in the Big East tournament. Stultz finished 2012 with a 3.29 ERA over 87.2 innings.

Round 15, 483 overall: Michael Blake Forslund, Liberty (VA)

Forslund was drafted just a year ago by the Red Sox in 17th round but opted to return to school.

In 20 appearances out of the bullpen this season, the 22-year-old boasted a 3.74 ERA with 34 strikeouts over 32 2/3 innings.

At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Forslund pitches with a big presence on the mound.

Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com
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A tour of Marlins Park

I took a walk around Marlins Park with D-backs PR guru Casey Wilcox (had to pry him away from his laptop for it) and took some more photos.

Here you go…

 

Photos of Marlins Park

Here are some photos from Marlins Park…

 

Wrapping up the road trip — April 15

A couple of quick leftover notes from Sunday’s D-backs/Rockies game before I dash off to the airport to catch my flight out of this frozen tundra…

– I asked Kirk Gibson if the reason he stuck with Bryan Shaw in the ninth was because J.J. Putz was unavailable.

“It’s a long season,” Gibson replied. “You make your choice. I used four guys in one inning there. I just made the decision there to go with Bryan. He was up and he was warm. We’ve got a new series starting tomorrow. Kind of rested the other guys. We felt like he was a good guy to get it done quickly for us. J.J. and David [Hernandez], they’ve had a heavy workload early. Bryan Shaw, we had a good feel about it. At the same time, giving him a little late-inning experience. He’s fearless. You feel very confident with him in there.”

I can’t say for sure, but I believe it wasn’t just that Putz had pitched Saturday, but also because he had gotten up to get warm several times in the last few days.

Regardless, Shaw enjoyed the opportunity.

“I’ve closed in college, I closed in the Minors last year,” Shaw said. “It’s where I like to be. I like being in that role late innings, whatever, game on the line. I just love being in that spot.”

– We had asked Gibson about not running as much prior to the game and he said that teams were playing closer attention to them on the bases after the success they had last year.

Sunday they stole four bases in the first five innings off rookie Drew Pomeranz.

“If there’s something available, then you take it,” Gibson said. “We felt there was. He was a young kid and we pushed the envelope there and the guys did a good job of that. I think he got a little unraveled there from time to time. But they hung in there. In this park, in many games, it’s never over until it’s over. Fortunately for us we got the job done today.”

 

D-backs vs. Padres Notes — April 10

A few leftovers from D-backs manager Kirk Gibson’s pregame meeting with us as well as links and some photos from today…

– Gibson was pleased with the way his pitchers executed their pitches in the Giants series.

“One thing we did pretty good last series was when we had to make pitches we executed them overall when we needed to so it’s easier to defend,” Gibson said.

– Gibson also liked the way the D-backs kept the Giants running game in check. The Giants added some speed to their lineup this offseason with the idea of being more aggressive on the bases.

“We were able to keep for the most part keep those guys where they weren’t just running at will,” Gibson said.

– The D-backs have not had a chance yet to fully evaluate Josh Collmenter’s rough start from Sunday. They were off Monday and spent Tuesday preparing for the series with Padres.

“I’m sure we’ll have some conversation about it and try to get him on the right track and make sure he’s able to duplicate his pitches where he wants to throw them,” Gibson said.

– PETCO Park is relatively new to Jason Kubel, who only has three games of experience here after playing his entire career in the American League with the Twins.

“It’s going to be different for him to get around to different stadiums and different staffs,” Gibson said. “This is a new team and how we do things. It is different so he’ll catch on quickly and use the information to his benefit very shortly.”

Here’s the details on Justin Upton’s injured thumb.

Spring adjustments have paid off nicely for Lyle Overbay.

Gibson got a gift from a Navy SEAL.

– In case you missed this, Stephen Drew told a touching story about one of his first baseball gloves.

– Here are some photos:

A view from the roof of the Marriott across from Petco Park.

View from the Petco Park press box just before first pitch.

Random thoughts left over from Opening Day

Some random thoughts as I sit in the Chase Field press box early Saturday morning…

– Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum comments about his team wanting to make a statement in this opening game/series struck me as being a little strange.

Yeah, I get that the D-backs won the division last year and clinched it against the Giants and every win counts especially in this division. Still, last year the Giants won seven of the first nine games played between these two teams and the D-backs then won seven of the next nine.

I wouldn’t put too much stock into what happens in this series. There will be 159 games after at.

– It could be that the D-backs are in Lincecum’s head a little bit. Until the last few starts he had dominated the D-backs. They seem to have a really good approach against him though. I don’t know that he made a ton of mistakes yesterday, but the ones he did make the D-backs hammered.

Chris Young made a good point yesterday that the D-backs have the same core group of guys going up against Lincecum and they’ve now got 50-60 career at-bats against him.

Trevor Bauer had a nice debut Thursday night.

It was a cold Thursday night in Reno for their opener, but Barry Enright came through.

Archie Bradley (the No. 7 overall pick last year) had a very nice professional debut Thursday for South Bend.

– Here are some links to coverage from yesterday in case you missed anything…

It looked a lot like 2011 at the start of 2012.

Kirk Gibson’s decision to hit Chris Young second pays dividends.

Wade Miley was pleasantly surprised to be involved in big league opener.

There were plenty of festivities at Chase Field.

A preview of today’s game against the Giants.

Ziegler helping to support military families with Saturday event

Wanted to let everyone know about a fundraising event that Brad Ziegler has Saturday.

Ziegler will be joined by Craig Breslow, Trevor Cahill, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin on Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon (AZ time) at Hot Corner Sports Cards at the corner of Power Road and Main in Mesa.

For $20 you can get one autograph from each of the five players with the money going to benefit “Pastime for Patriots” a foundation he and his wife started to support members of the United States military and their families.

A portion of the proceeds from merchandise sold at the shop during that time will be donated to the foundation as well.

Sandwiches will be sold for $6 with $3 of that going to the foundation.

To make sure that everyone gets an autograph, if there are more requests than they can accommodate in the two-hour time period there will be a way for people to submit items they want signed and Ziegler will make sure they get taken care of.

Check out his web site or go to his Twitter timeline for more information.

D-backs Daily Wrap: March 14

WHAT HAPPENED:

– The D-backs dropped a pair of split-squad games.

They lost, 8-0, to the Padres in a day game at Salt River Fields.

They lost, 7-4, to the Rockies in a night game at Salt River Fields.

WHAT WE LEARNED:

The D-backs pitchers are serious about this sticking up for Justin Upton thing.

This is worth watching as the regular season gets underway. Teams clearly believe that the best way to get Upton out is to pitch him inside. The problem is when pitchers try to go in and don’t have good enough control and end up hitting him.

The guy was plunked 19 times last year and it got pretty ridiculous after a while. It’s not that all of the HBP’s were intentional, but after a while enough is enough. I think you’ll see the D-backs pitchers take care of it much earlier this season.

– On a related note, it will interesting to see if this adds any fuel to the D-backs-Padres rivalry. Remember, these two teams didn’t really like each other much in Arizona’s infancy as an organization. That’s cooled quite a bit, but with Josh Byrnes and A.J. Hinch now with the Padres organization and the little dustup on Wednesday…well maybe that will change.

Trevor Bauer and Patrick Corbin are pretty good.

OK, so we knew that already, but still…

Have to say watching Corbin on the mound while Bauer was throwing a simulated game in the bullpen was somewhat surreal.

It’s clear that Bauer feels very strongly about his routine and doing plenty of throwing. To this point there doesn’t seem to be a reason to change him. Why mess with success?

The D-backs are going to be featured on MLB Network’s 30-for-30 on Thursday.

– Josh Collmenter seems to be healthy after missing that start with tightness in his right forearm.

The results weren’t necessarily what he wanted, but again right now that’s not overly important.

– J.J. Putz threw well in his one inning of work in the night game.

– The D-backs finally got some hits and scored some runs in the night game. Gibson said he thought they were a little more aggressive in that game after taking too many pitches to this point in the spring.

WHAT’S COMING UP:

The D-backs travel to Mesa to take on the Cubs on Thursday with Opening Day starter Ian Kennedy set to take the mound. Kennedy has been battling flu like symptoms for the past week and allowed four runs in his last start. Barry Enright is also expected to pitch for the D-backs.

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

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