Results tagged ‘ A.J. Hinch ’
Took some photos today during batting practice and will try to have more of them on the blog this year…
The D-backs may have to battle Mother Nature on Thursday in addition to the Royals and Brewers.
Rain is forecast for the Valley throughout the day.
“What a terrible day for that too, we’re going to be all spread out all over the Valley,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’ve completely changed their workout across the street, Minor Leagues, and taken a lot of players for our benefit. Split squad late in the spring isn’t my favorite anyway.”
Edwin Jackson is slated to start against the Royals in Surprise, while Ian Kennedy is scheduled against the Brewers in Maryvale.
It’s important that Jackson in particular gets his work in. The right-hander is supposed to start Tuesday against the Padres so for him to stay on his regular turn he would need to throw Thursday.
Jackson’s regular turn would have been Wednesday, but Hinch did not want to give the Rockies an extra look at him so he was pushed to Thursday.
It is somewhat less urgent that Kennedy pitch, because he has an extra day built in to his schedule so he could pitch Friday and still be on regular rest for his first start of the regular season Wednesday.
“I’d like to keep Kennedy going,” Hinch said. “He’s on a roll. I’d like Jackson to get up to seven innings.”
There is a team function Thursday night at Chase Field so the field is not available to use for a simulated game either.
NORBERTO GOOD TO GO: Jordan Norberto played catch Wednesday and Hinch said he will pitch Thursday. The left-hander has been held out of action recently with tightness in his elbow.
SPEAKING OF NORBERTO: It looks like it could come down to he and Clay Zavada for a spot in the bullpen and Zavada did not help his case by walking the first batter he faced — to force in a run — Wednesday.
“He hasn’t had a good spring,” Hinch said. “He’s giving all he’s got, he’s trying, he wants to make this club, he’s coming off a very good year and he’s having a rough spring. It will down to the wire for all these decisions. He’s very much in the mix to make a team, but also guys are challenging for his roster spot so we’ll see on Saturday.”
Kris Benson will get his first chance to show the Major League staff what he can do in person Wednesday. Signed to a Minor League deal a few weeks ago, Benson seems to be a likely candidate to become the fifth starter when the D-backs need one April 17.
The right-hander will probably go five or six innings.
ISSUES: When it comes to whether or not the team should pick someone up on the waiver wire or via a trade before Monday’s opener, Hinch said the team is open to it on the pitching side, but cautioned against expecting too much.
“That person is probably getting squeezed out of somebody else’s camp so you have to grade that against your own,” Hinch said. “I don’t think we have to add someone from the outside. Specifically Kris Benson has provided depth as far as the rotation goes. We’re going to carry an extra reliever to start the season, which is somewhat of a free spot on the roster. I think the guys that we have are good enough to break camp. I think some of them haven’t played as well as we would have hoped which creates these questions or controversies whether it’s internal or external.”
FINAL BENCH SPOT(S): I still think Ryan Roberts is a good bet to make the team, but he certainly has not performed particularly well this spring.
If you were going strictly by numbers it would be Rusty Ryal and Tony Abreu, but like I said I still think Roberts gets one of those spots. We shall see come Saturday.
A.J. Hinch stopped short of saying that Rodrigo Lopez had locked up a spot in the rotation, but it sure seems like the right-hander did just that with 5 1/3 shutout innings against the Brewers on Sunday.
“Very good,” Hinch said of Lopez’s performance. “That’s as good as he’s looked all spring and he’s had a good spring. He executed his pitches.”
So what else does he have to do to make the team?
“He’s doing all he can to make this team,” Hinch said. “Just keep pitching. We’re in no rush to judgment here ,but I’m happy with how he’s thrown the ball this spring.”
“I want to stay with the team,” Lopez said. “I think I can help them. I’ve just got to stay focused.”
It is not surprising that Hinch did not just come out and say Lopez was the guy considering that the other two pitchers competing for the spot — Billy Buckner and Kevin Mulvey — both are slated to pitch Monday night against the Padres in Peoria.
So what would they need to do tomorrow night to change how things stand right now?
“I don’t know,” Hinch said. “They need to pitch well. Lopey’s done a nice job of putting pressure on those guys and staking his claim on why he should potentially make the team. It’s good see. It’s good to see him come out and do well. It’s good for our team, it’s good for him and it creates a competitive situation.”
Has he put himself in a pretty good spot?
“Lopey’s put himself in a great spot,” Hinch said. “Each time out he’s executed his pitches. I’m happy with the way he’s thrown.”
After starting off the spring on the right foot, Buckner has allowed 13 runs in his last 5 2/3 innings and has an 11.66 ERA this spring.
Mulvey, who last pitched in a Minor League game last Tuesday, has a 3.68 ERA in three Cactus League games.
MAYBE THREE: Hinch on Saturday announced that Ian Kennedy had made the team, but did not say whether the right-hander will start the third or fourth game of the season.
“I’m not ready to back myself into the decision yet,” Hinch said.
One of the factors that works in Kennedy’s favor is the third spot in the rotation will get some extra off days during the month of April. That is the spot they had initially targeted for Brandon Webb for that reason.
SPEAKING OF WEBB: Nothing much new on the Brandon Webb front. The team is now having him throw from flat ground in “sets”, in a way simulating innings. That’s what the right-hander did Sunday morning.
“It went well,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. “We incorporated a little higher intensity, a little higher volume. We did sets. I don’t think it simulates innings. The ball is a little better. It’s not game ready or anything like that, but he looks a little stronger for longer periods of time and that’s a good sign.”
After the sets, Webb threw between five and seven balls off the mound, starting behind the rubber and stepping in front of the rubber and throwing.
“It was a little unexpected, but he felt good enough to do it,” Hinch said. “Really all that does is change the angle of the throw and where his land foot is. It gives him something different in his program that isn’t so monotonous and boring.”
Hinch is well aware that the next week or so is going to be tough for Webb, who will begin the season on the disabled list.
“The first part of the season will punch him in the gut too because he’s not ready,” Hinch said. “It’s difficult mentally and physically to watch the rest of your teammates getting ready for Opening Day. We’re trying to alter his program to try and continue to push him forward.”
HEALTH MATTERS: Other than Webb, the D-backs right now do not have anyone else set to start the season on the DL.
“We’re a healthy team and that’s a good sign,” Hinch said. “I’m very pleased with the life that we have in our bodies. We’ve gotten over the lull of the middle part of Spring Training and I see plenty of energy and readiness.”
A.J. Hinch sounded a little exasperated.
With Opening Day less than two weeks away, there is still an opening for the No. 4 spot in the rotation as well as some spots at the back end of the bullpen.
“I’m waiting for one of those guys in the group either bullpen or the starters to come up and grab these spots,” the D-backs skipper said. “They’re open for the taking. I’m waiting for somebody to stand out above the rest. The group that’s competing for the last bullpen spots or the rotation it would be nice to get [someone] to win the job and stake their claim to the spot. It’s still wide open.”
Wednesday was Billy Buckner’s turn to impress and he was not able to make it out of the fourth inning as he allowed five runs on seven hits over 3 2/3 innings.
“He started out great and then he lost his delivery and got a little quick,” Hinch said. “He was trying to control the running game so it was the tale of two different outings. Early on I thought he was in command of the game and then it got away from him a little bit, that ran his pitch count up and he got in trouble.”
The other two contestants for the rotation spot — Kevin Mulvey and Rodrigo Lopez — threw in Minor League games Tuesday.
Lopez threw four innings while Mulvey pitched into the fifth before being hit with a comebacker. He was removed from the game after that as a precaution, but was not injured.
“They both threw well,” Hinch said. “Mulvey had a slightly better day than Lopez. They both got their work in and both got their pitch counts up.”
Yet neither put a choke hold on the job. Same deal Wednesday. All that was accomplished Wednesday is another day came off the calendar.
“That’s the way I felt like today was, nothing really gained by anybody,” Hinch said. “It’s close to the season so it’s time to move forward. There’s still a lot of time so I’m not overly concerned, but the outings are getting smaller and smaller by the day. I’m not frustrated as much as I’m eager for someone to win the job.”
As for the bullpen neither Clay Zavada nor Blaine Boyer pitched particularly well.
On the bright side, Aaron Heilman was sharp in his one inning of work and Zach Kroenke got the lone lefty he faced out. Leo Rosales also tossed a shutout inning.
BENSON START: A name to keep in mind for the rotation for when the D-backs need a fifth starter April 17 is Kris Benson, who was signed to a Minor League deal recently.
Hinch said he would like to see Benson in a Cactus League game at some point before the month is out.
UPTON OK?: Didn’t seem like too many people were worried about Upton’s ankle injury, a sign that it’s probably not very serious. Upton did not have any ice on it when he met with reporters and he seemed to be walking fine.
Hinch even said he had him penciled into the lineup for Thursday.
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When you think of leadoff hitters, you typically think of someone who is fast.
In the National League, though, the job description is a little different, at least in D-backs manager A.J. Hinch’s mind.
That’s because with the pitcher in the lineup a lot of times he sacrifices a runner into scoring position and then who follows him? The leadoff guy.
“He can be a run producer as well,” Hinch said. “I don’t think we have a traditional leadoff hitter on our so I’m going to be creative.”
Along those lines, Hinch decided to get a look at Conor Jackson in the leadoff spot for the first time Sunday.
In 2008, the last time he was healthy, Jackson led the team in on-base percentage and on the team right now, no one works the count as well as he did.
I like the idea of Jackson in the No. 1 spot, because not only does he get on base, see pitches and work counts, he is not a base-clogger. He’ll never be confused with Rickey Henderson on the bases, but he runs well enough and will steal a few bags.
Hinch said he might try Jackson in the leadoff spot again. Given the alternatives, I’d sure like to see him do that.
BETTER: Edwin Jackson was better Sunday than he had been in his previous outing when he allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings.
Good, not great.
“Obviously the walks killed him,” Hinch said.
Jackson walked Aarond Rowand to start the game and then hit Andres Torres with a pitch before allowing a three-run homer to John Bowker.
Jackson said he had some trouble settling into a rhythm, but once he did he pitched pretty well the rest of the way getting in five innings.
“To get through five the way it started was pretty successful,” Hinch said.
Here’s a photo from today…
MENTAL MISCUES: Hinch was not pleased with some mental mistakes made by his squad Sunday including the final play when Ryan Roberts, who represented the tying run, was thrown out to end the game trying to stretch a double into a triple.
There were a couple of positioning mistakes and Miguel Montero did not get to second on a fly ball that was dropped.
“That’s the disappointing part of today,” Hinch said of the mental errors adding that while he didn’t want to make too big of a deal about them they will be addressed.
NO WORRIES: Talked to Chad Qualls before the game about his outing the other day against the Royals in which he allowed six runs and lasted just one-third of an inning.
“I got the pitcher out,” Qualls said.
Qualls can joke, because other than that outing he has pitched well this spring (he had a 1-2-3 inning Sunday) and most importantly he has experienced no ill effects from surgically repaired left knee.
“I’m lucky enough that I can flush that one [bad outing] down the toilet and get after it today,” he said.
MAKE SOME NOISE: It started out with Hinch telling his backups during a game to get in there and “make some noise.”
And it’s now progressed to the “Hyena Club” because well hyenas make plenty of noise. There’s a picture up in the clubhouse (see below) of real-life hyenas with the club members listed. They are Cole Gillespie, Gerardo Parra, Ed Rodgers, Evan Frey, Rusty Ryal, Brandon Allen, Augie Ojeda, Ryan Roberts, John Hester, Tony Abreu, Drew Macias, Jeff Bailey and Sean Coughlin.
“B” TEAM: The Giants had only one projected Opening Day starter in their lineup Sunday and they pitched Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum in a Minor League game in Scottsdale rather than have him make the trip to Tucson.
“With the Tucson trip you’re never really surprised by anything,” Hinch said. “It’s probably more disappointing for the fans.”
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GETTING BETTER: Reliever Esmerling Vasquez, who is battling for one of the final two or three spots in the bullpen has pitched better his last couple of times out with his velocity picking up.
“He is pretty dynamic when he’s in the strike zone,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said of him. “With a guy who is 92-97 [mph] with his arm angle, he makes it tough on the hitter when he gets strike one. He’s not too far removed from that stretch last season where he was probably our most dominant reliever.”
KEEPING IT CLOSE: It’s been a very good spring for infielder Tony Abreu, but infielder/outfielder Rusty Ryal is keeping things close in the battle for the final bench spot. Even when Ryal has not gotten a hit he has tended to hit the ball hard.
“I’ve said all along, I think Rusty is one of the few guys that we have in camp that can play a bench role and have a chance to hit the ball out of the ballpark every time he steps in,” Hinch said. “He’s a strong hitter with a lot of power. Ryal is living up to our belief that every time he gets in the batter’s box you feel like something good is going to happen and he’s going to hit the ball hard. That’s a nice weapon to have.”
Hinch has worked recently to try and simulate the situations guys could find themselves in during the regular season, for instance using Ryal as a pinch-hitter against a left-hander.
COMPETITION? WHAT COMPETITION?: Lopez said he has not paid close attention to what people are saying or writing about his battle to claim a rotation spot.
“I’m satisfied with my job and what I’m doing over there,” he said. “I’m not going to worry about the competition. This is a team and I’ve got to take care of my business first and try to help the team. That’s what I’m here for. I’m not reading much in the paper and don’t watch much on TV. I think if I pitch good and pitch the way I have pitched in my career, I’ll have a spot in the big leagues.”
TAKING A DAY: I will be off tomorrow so no blog or tweets, but I will be back at it again Saturday.
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CLOSE CALL: The competition for the final spot on the bench is starting to really heat up for the D-backs.
“It’s nice when the plot thickens a little bit,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. “We still have a lot of time left so there’s plenty of time for further evaluation, but to have them playing crisply is good to see.”
Tony Abreu, Jeff Bailey, Cole Gillespie and Rusty Ryal have all impressed in various ways. At the start of camp it looked like Abreu and Ryal would be the main the combatants given that the team probably would not want to carry five outfielders (Gillespie) or a another first baseman (Bailey).
It’s still doubtful that they will carry someone whose primary position is first base, but Gillespie may make them reconsider carrying five outfielders.
“It’s interesting how guys can change your mind or push to make rosters,” Hinch said. “I think with our roster and the flexibility we have it’s not inconceivable that we wouldn’t carry five outfielders. Gillespie is making a great impression.”
Acquired in the deal that sent Felipe Lopez to Milwaukee last July, Gillespie has hit the ball well — he tripled in his one at-bat Saturday to raise his average to raise his spring average to .316. In addition he’s shown that he can play all three outfield positions rather than just the corners, which adds to his value.
Abreu and Ryal have both played extremely well. Saturday it was a back and forth between the two with Abreu, who is hitting .478, tripling home a pair of runs in the fifth and Ryal coming back with a homer one inning later.
Ryal, who raised his average to .250 with a pair of homers, also made a nice diving stop at third and has shown he can play second, first and left field as well.
“Ryal’s diving play at third was nice to see,” Hinch said.
Abreu has already proved he could play second, short and third this spring.
“Abreu continues to impress at short,” Hinch said.
There’s still three weeks left and it will likely come down to what skill set Hinch wants in that final spot. Does he want a versatile middle infielder like Abreu? Or with Augie Ojeda already filling that role does Hinch want someone with a little more pop in his bat like Ryal? Or does Gillespie play so well that he forces them to carry a fifth outfielder?
Stay tuned. This could get real interesting.
WEBB UPDATE: Brandon Webb played catch again Saturday and there seems to be some encouragement building in him as well as Arizona officials.
“He feels great,” Hinch said. “I think the three or four day blow that we gave him was what he needed. He’s showing some more life in his arm. The good thing is he’s progressing at a more accelerated pace.”
Webb threw a few breaking balls, something Hinch took as a very positive sign though there is still no timetable for him to get into a Cactus League game.
“Hopefully sometime in the next week I’d certainly would hope to get him back up on the mound and get him back on his program of bullpens and whatever’s next,” Hinch said.
And let’s stop waiting for the D-backs to come out and say he’s going to start the season on the disabled list — Hinch gets asked that question every day — and just accept that he will not be making the start the third day of the season as originally hoped.
The D-backs will not need a fifth starter until April 17 so it will be interesting to see whether they decide to just carry four starters until then and if Webb could possibly be ready for that start.
“If he’s not going to make the third start of the season when is that next start going to come?” Hinch said. “I don’t know. But what I do know is as soon as he’s ready we want him in our rotation. But until then we’re going to compete and expect to win so when he does get back he’s a great addition to our team.
NO PLAYING GAMES WITH KENNEDY: With Ian Kennedy only throwing 23 2/3 innings during the regular season last year — plus another 29 2/3 in the Arizona Fall League — Hinch was asked Saturday if the team might delay the start of Kennedy’s season a little to help keep his inning total down.
“We won’t be interested in delaying the start of his season on purpose,” he said.
Instead, the team will monitor him throughout the season and if necessary give him an extra day here and there. Hinch, though, said the team expects between 160-180 innings from Kennedy, typically what a No. 4 or 5 starter throws.
TITLES: Hinch does not want to say yet whether Bob Howry or Juan Gutierrez will be the primary setup man to closer Chad Qualls.
“It’s a little early to worry about that yet,” Hinch said. “[Gutierrez] will pitch in important innings, though, that’s how I would title it.”
BACK: Outfielder Chris Young, who left the team for a few days due to a death in his family, was back in the lineup Saturday.
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Really there’s nothing new in the Webb story, nothing that has not been obvious for the better part of the last week and that is that it is unlikely that he will be able to start the third game of the season.
Now look, that doesn’t mean that he won’t be able to start soon after that, it doesn’t mean there’s something further wrong with his shoulder and it certainly is not time to panic about his availability for the long haul of the season.
The man is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had not thrown off a mound for the better part of 11 months. There were bound to be some hiccups along the way. This was never going to be smooth sailing.
Let’s see what happens over the next week or so. It sure sounds like he just needs to get over the hump or plateau that he’s at right now (and by the way I’ve used the word “stagnant” in my stories more in the past week than I previously had used in my entire career). If he’s able to get over that hump/off that plateau/unstagnanted it could be a quick progression for him. If not…well there’s plenty of time to delve into what that means for the team.
I know that GM Josh Byrnes told The Arizona Republic in December “I don’t think there’s any scenario where it doesn’t go well for him and we’re able to overcome that.” But keep in mind that was before the team signed second baseman Kelly Johnson, reliever Bob Howry and first baseman Adam LaRoche so I’m not sure that quote is operative any longer.
Am I saying the D-backs are going to win the NL West without Webb pitching well for most of the season? No. But then again I’m not sure they win the division even with him pitching well for most of the season.
What I am saying is there is a chance they win the division with him and there’s a chance they win it without him. Surely his health will be a big factor, but there are lots of others.
Anyway, that’s more than enough about Webb for one day. Let’s take a look at some other things to come out of the game today:
— You can’t help but be impressed so far with Edwin Jackson. He threw a solid three innings today and was so efficient he had to go down to the bullpen to throw 15 more pitches so he would reach his pitch count for the day.
“Nasty stuff,” catcher Miguel Montero said about Jackson.
“Still trying to work on things,” Jackson said. “Still fine tuning.”
— Reliever Leo Rosales has looked really good this spring. The right-hander allowed a home run to Mike Napoli (what else is new, Napoli has three homers already this spring) but in two spring outings he’s retired six of the seven batters he’s faced.
“Leo’s thrown the ball well,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said.
Rosales kind of flew under the radar a bit last year — he pitched better than you think — and is out of Minor League options. It would not surprise me in the least if he makes the team out of Spring Training.
— Tony Abreu = en fuego.
Abreu started at third Thursday so if you’re keeping track at home he’s played second, short and third this spring. He was 2-for-3 with a double and a couple of plays in the field.
“Abreu continues to shine,” Hinch said.
Spent some time talking with Abreu after the game and it’s clear he’s feeling very confident and realizes the opportunity that he has to make this team.
— Chris Snyder hit his first home run of the spring, but more importantly has now played three days in a row — catching, dhing and catching — and has not had any issues with his surgically-repaired back.
— Aaron Heilman, who looked shaky in his first outing of the spring looked sharp striking out a pair in one inning. Since allowing four runs in one inning last Friday against the Cubs, the right-hander has allowed one hit in two innings.
Here’s a link to today’s story in which Stephen Drew opens up about some of the off-field struggles he went through in 2009. It’s early in spring, but he’s really swung the bat well thus far.
— Bizarre happening during today’s game when there was a snafu with the Dodgers lineup. You can read Doug Miller’s story about it.
— Dan Haren was pleased with his outing today against the Dodgers. The right-hander gave up four hits over 2 2/3 innings and wanted to finish the third, but he had reached his pitch count so manager A.J. Hinch took him out in favor of Bob Howry.
Haren threw his first split-finger fastballs of the spring during the outing.
“Last time out I felt OK but I didn’t feel great,” said Haren, who threw 49 pitches. “I felt the ball was coming out of my hand a little better today. I used more off-speed stuff. And my fastball felt like it had a little bit of life to it. I’m still not out there max effort but overall I felt really good.”
— Another positive was the performance of closer Chad Qualls, who thus far this spring has not shown any ill effects from last season’s knee injury/surgery.
Qualls got all three batters he faced in the fifth to ground out.
“When Qualls is getting groundballs he’s right where he needs to be,” Hinch said.
— Hinch said before the game that he plans on having Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero catch back-to-back games over in Minor League camp before they do it in Cactus League games.
For right now, Hinch has alternated using the pair behind the plate and at the DH spot so that they can keep sharp at the plate without being taxed behind it.
— Gerardo Parra started in center against the Dodgers, something you could see a lot of this spring. Depending on who wins the final bench spot, Parra could wind up being the lone backup to Chris Young at that position.
Two players battling for the final roster spot — Drew Macias and Cole Gillespie — can both play center.