Results tagged ‘ A.J. Hinch ’

Pollock makes D-backs debut

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A.J. Hinch thought it was best not to give A.J. Pollock too much time to think about his first taste of Major League baseball.

Pollock, who was Arizona’s second pick in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft (17th overall), was brought over from Minor League camp as an extra player for Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers.

“We only gave him about 10 hours notice,” Hinch said. “We called him last night at about 9 and told him to be on the bus at 7 a.m.”

Pollock was going to play Sunday, but both split-squad games that day were shortened by rain.

In the seventh, Pollock entered the game in center and got his first at-bat in the ninth. And when I say first at-bat I mean not just the first of the game, but the first time he has faced live pitching this year.

He laced a double to left-center and advanced to third on a groundout. Hinch put the contact play on — meaning that Pollock was to run when contact was made by hitter Jake Wald. Wald hit a grounder to short and as Pollock slid home safely with the game-tying run when shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr. threw low to plate.

“He laid into that ball he hit it as squarely as you can hit it,” Hinch said.

Pollock said he was nervous, but not in the way you would think.

“I was just ready to go,” Pollock said. “I wanted to stay as relaxed as I could [at the plate]. I was a little nervous going in there mostly for the field, the hitting I was like whatever. You know you go into your first at-bat of the year if you don’t perform you get back out there and get going again. I didn’t want to misplay a fly ball, I didn’t care if popped up.”

Judging by the impression he made, it seems safe to say we haven’t seen the last of Pollock this spring.

“He’s not too far removed from being a camp invite or moving up the chain,” Hinch said. “He’s an exciting player.”

Saturday wrapup

First things first, here are links to a couple of stories from today:

Webb urges patience in judging rehab

Reynolds contract talks continue

Remember you can follow me on Twitter for the latest updates

Chris Young put together another good day at the plate Saturday going 3-for-4 with a double, a homer and three RBIs against the Giants. Friday against the Cubs he had a line-drive double to the gap in left.

“It felt good,” Young said. “Scottsdale Stadium always brings a lot of energy. Packed house, lots of D-backs fans out there today.”

Young, who spent the offseason working with a track coach on becoming more explosive, had a bunt single in the first inning. Bunting is something he also worked at during the offseason. With as hard as he hits the ball to the left side, third basemen tend to play him deep, which would seem to give him an opportunity to lay the ball down some.

“I’ve got to use my speed more,” Young said.

In what has to be a good sign for the D-backs even the out Young made — a strikeout in the second inning — he worked the count and battled during the at-bat.

STARTING OPTIONS: Before the game I asked GM Josh Byrnes if Brandon Webb was not ready for the opener would he look to add a starter.

“I think we want to evaluate the guys we have and give them a chance,” Byrnes replied. “Like any spring, we have a good idea of players that could be available for a variety of reasons and we’ve got to scout them and decide whether we believe they would be upgrades, particularly if there’s an absence. Generally that activity happens at the end of the month, if there is anything like that. We’re in communication with our scouts so they’re aware of a hit list.”

NICE DEBUT: Edwin Jackson worked two scoreless innings in his first appearance in an Arizona uniform. The right-hander allowed a pair of hits and fanned one.

“I felt pretty good for the first day,” Jackson said. “Stayed around the plate for the most part, commanded the pitches, not a bad first outing.”

Jackson said he threw all his pitches — curve, slider, change.

“Pretty much came with the full arsenal today just to see how it is,” he said.

When asked if he was working on anything he said, “Stay around the strike zone, make them put the ball in play. Get used to pitching to contact and let the defense work behind me.”

Jackson did do one thing that gave Hinch pause. In the second he laid down a sacrifice bunt and stretched for the base at first nearly colliding with Aubrey Huff.

“I could have done without that lunge at first base,” Hinch said with a smile.

EVEN DOZEN: Arizona manager A.J. Hinch has hedged as to how many pitchers the team will carry to start the year, but Byrnes said Saturday he would prefer they keep 12 with 13 position players.

LOOKING GOOD: Tony Abreu drew praise from Hinch for the second straight day for his play at shortstop this spring.

“I’m impressed,” Hinch said. “I think he plays with great energy and has a knack for finding the ball.”

Abreu has made several nice defensive plays this spring and is Hinch said “right in the thick of it” for the final spot on the bench.

Hinch added that the club could carry both Augie Ojeda and Abreu.

STOP!: The big inning has been a problem for the D-backs in their first three games.

The Rockies had rallies of three and four runs in the opener, the Cubs put up a four-spot Friday and the Giants scored nine runs in the fifth Saturday.

“Those big innings are not what we want to see,” Hinch said. “That’s a point that we’ll recognize. Control the inning. Being able to stop the bleeding when you have the opportunity to.”

Thursday game notes

Here are some notes from the D-backs 11-1 loss to the Rockies in the Cactus League opener Thursday at Tucson Electric Park:

SLOPPY PLAY: The D-backs didn’t look like a team that had spent extra time on fundamentals and team defense with some lapses in the 11-1 loss to the Rockies.

“You have a sun ball, you have a misplay on a ball back to the pitcher,” Hinch said. “We couldn’t close out innings, they scored a lot of two-out runs. So in the context of the game they did a lot right. In the context of how we did, it’s Day One and I’ll look at some good things and a couple of things we’ll address tomorrow.”

CUT ME: Starter Billy Buckner allowed a pair of first-inning runs, but the right-hander had an impressive cut fastball on the day. Buckner said he threw four or five of them and got swings and misses on every one.

“I thought he rebounded pretty well after a rough start,” Hinch said. “He just couldn’t get out of the first inning, but he bounced back with a nice inning in the second inning which showed me a little something. Pitch down and pitch to contact are the two things that I would take away from today [for him].”

IMPRESSIVE: Reliever Leo Rosales, who is competing for one of the final bullpen spots, got three comebackers in the ninth inning.

All three of the outs came on his signature changeup.

“I was just trying to locate down in the zone,” Rosales said. “They were swinging the bat today so it was important for me to pound the zone at the knees.”

Rosales is out of Minor League options and would need to be placed on waivers if the team tries to send him to Triple-A Reno at the end of the spring.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Hinch plans on playing shortstop Stephen Drew and newly-acquired second baseman Kelly Johnson together as often as possible this spring to help them get comfortable with one another.

“Obviously there’s the feeds and turns, communication throughout the game on who has the bag and learning any odds and ends or quirks,” Hinch said. “Mostly it’s the turns and the tweener balls up the middle that both can get to, popup communication, things like that that are very easy to talk about in a clubhouse, but then when game speed picks up and instincts take over that’s when you see guys that haven’t played together. Timing of when to get the ball to each other on double plays is probably the most significant play that needs to be practiced. You can do all the drills you want until the game speed that’s where you really find out.”

12 AND 13? STAY TUNED: Hinch said he had not decided yet whether the team would carry 13 position players and 12 pitchers at the start of the year.

“I think that’s a good question at the end of camp,” Hinch said. “One of the advantages we have is that almost all the guys that are in these competitions have [Minor League] options so the roster flexibility at the end of camp will be pretty good.”

HUSH HUSH: Unlike past years, the D-backs will not announce starting lineups a day or two in advance. Third baseman Mark Reynolds and first baseman Adam LaRoche, though, are expected to start Friday.

FRIDAY PITCHING: Dan Haren will start against the Cubs. Wes Roemer, Clay Zavada, Jordan Norberto, Bryan Shaw, Esmerling Vasquez and Aaron Heilman are also scheduled to pitch.

SATURDAY PITCHING: Edwin Jackson makes his Diamondback debut against the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. Others slated to see action include Bryan Augenstein, Kyler Newby, Jose Marte, Roque Mercedes, Blaine Boyer and Juan Gutierrez.

Monday notes from D-backs camp

Today’s main story was on Chris Young and all the work he put in during the offseason.

For all the latest updates on practice times and other news, please follow me on Twitter.
– There was plenty of sun Monday, but the weather still delayed things as the D-backs had to wait more than an hour to get started in the morning due to wet fields.

“We practiced our rain delay today,” manager A.J. Hinch said jokingly.

The D-backs were able to get in all their work with just a few grumbles about the long day. There will be one more session of live batting practice Tuesday and Wednesday they will look to go through their workouts over at Tucson Electric Park in anticipation of Thursday’s opener.

– Hinch announced that Rodrigo Lopez, who is battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, will start Monday’s game against the Indians as well as the March 14 game in Hermosillo, Mexico.

– D-backs special assistant to the GM Bob Gebhard has been back in camp after suffering a heart attack last week.

Taking a couple of days off was all Gebhard could manage. In fact, he tried to convince his doctor to let him go back to the office the day he was released from the hospital after having a pair of stents put in.

– Seems like the most asked question has moved on from Hinch’s relative lack of experience in the dugout to how he is going to handle his catching corps.

To restate, Miguel Montero is the starter heading into camp, but Hinch says that doesn’t mean that Chris Snyder is going to be buried on the bench. He is reluctant to get into how much playing time each is going to get, but says it will not be a strict platoon situation.

Hinch said pitchers would not have “personal catchers” and it will be interesting to see how that plays out with Brandon Webb, who is used to having Snyder catch him. The two have a very close relationship and Webb relies on Snyder game-calling ability.

Randy Johnson, season tickets and competition

Busy day in D-backsland today with the club’s first full-squad workout. That meant a long meeting before practice could get underway with various team executives addressing the team.

We got a chance to talk to managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president and CEO Derrick Hall following the meeting. Below are what they had to say on a variety of topics:

– On former D-backs great Randy Johnson, who announced his retirement last month:

Johnson is scheduled to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day in Seattle this year and Hall was asked if the D-backs had similar plans.

“We plan on doing something [to honor] him,” Hall said. “Definitely a first pitch. We look at having a special night in tribute for him just as we still owe [Luis Gonzalez] one. We’re starting to do just that, to make plans to do something like that for both of them.”

Johnson has a personal services part of his contract to work for the D-backs and Hall said he has had a couple of discussions with Johnson about that.

“The relationship is good,” Hall said. “We’ve had a few conversations. He’s definitely interested and wants to come back and work for us and we both agreed let’s take that first year off and clear your head. It’s been a long, successful career for him and he wants to spend some time with his family and when he’s ready to come back we’re going to find the perfect fit for him.”

– On Season Tickets:

“We’re doing OK,” Hall said. “We’ve added about 2,000 new season ticket holders and that’s really a response to some of the moves that we made. Our renewal was mid-to-upper 70s, which we expected after the tough season and the economy. The feedback that we heard from those fans that couldn’t return was it wasn’t so much about the results of last season it was more so the economy and they want to come back when they can.”

The D-backs were around 15,000 season ticket holders two years ago and with the economic crisis later that year they fell off to 13,000 last year, but rebounded back to around 15,000 this year.

“We want to get to the point where we’re consistently drawing three million [a year], which is an average of 37,000 fans and last year we were still below 30,000 on average,” Hall said. Over two million is where we’re hoping to be next year and I’m confident that we will. “We need to build that [season ticket] base and have it grow so we can have that foundation and get to three million.

– Hinch’s talk with the team before the workout:

Optimism is the watchword of camp this year, but closely behind that is competition. That was one of the points Hinch hit on during his talk to the team.

“Competitiveness is good on a roster,” he said. “There’s plenty of competition for the starting rotation. I think there some guys that have legs up, but over my time in baseball there are guys that have come into camp penciled into the rotation or on the roster that have played their way off. Guys that we are not even talking about could inch their way towards the roster.”

Quote of the day:

Hinch was asked how happy Conor Jackson must be to be healthy after missing most of last season with Valley Fever.

“He’s probably the happiest guy in camp to be back on the field,” Hinch said. “Second to me. I’ll put myself ahead of him.”

Tuesday scribblings from D-backs camp

Here are a few notes from today:

Well, what do you know, the sun came out today in Arizona and it actually felt like Spring Training again. With that in mind, here are some notes from today:

– I’ll write more in detail about this in the next few days, but closer Chad Qualls has looked very good so far this spring from a health standpoint and that’s great news for the D-backs.

Qualls dislocated his left knee at the end of August and eventually had to have surgery. He puts a lot of pressure and torque on his left leg in his delivery and so far it has given him no problems this spring.

It usually takes Qualls a little while to get going during camp, but GM Josh Byrnes said today, “He looks sharp right now.”

– Found out something interesting about Rule 5 draftee Zach Kroenke. Since this is the second year in a row as a Rule 5 pick (last year the Marlins took him and sent him back to the Yankees in March) the his situation is different than most Rule 5ers.

If the D-backs decide to take him off the 25-man roster at some point this year and he clears waivers he can choose to become a free agent rather than be offered back to the Yankees as is the case with most Rule 5 picks.

– Speaking of rules and contracts, none of the D-backs non-roster invitees have opt-out clauses in their contracts that would allow them to be free agents if they do not make the team. That includes veteran Rodrigo Lopez who is a candidate for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

– D-backs manager A.J. Hinch is anxious for Wednesday’s first full-squad workout. There’s been so much buildup about the fresh start and what it means coming on the heels of last season that Hinch said it will finally feel real when the whole club is in place.

Would like to be a fly on the wall for his talk to the team Wednesday as he said he is going to try and set the tone for the season.

– Each camp there’s a player that seems to generate buzz. Early in camp this year it’s left-hander Jordan Norberto who has drawn praise from both Byrnes and Hinch.

Judging by the way the staff has been talking about Norberto he could see time at the big league level this year if he is able to harness is outstanding mid-to-upper 90s fastball.

Catching conundrum for D-backs

So here we are again, heading into another season with the D-backs essentially having two starting catchers.

At the end of last season it seemed all but certain that Chris Snyder would not be in Tucson when Spring Training started.

“Surprised to see me?” he asked to me by way of a greeting the other day.

Actually, I was.

The D-backs nearly traded Snyder to the Blue Jays for first baseman Lyle Overbay in November, but the Jays backed out at the last minute.

So far, Snyder looks completely recovered from last September’s back surgery and it’s also clear he’s going to push Miguel Montero, who took over the starting job last year following Snyder’s injury, for playing time.

“I think A.J. and the staff will determine how best to use those guys,” GM Josh Byrnes said referring to manager A.J. Hinch and his coaches. “We clearly have two No. 1 caliber catchers so we’ll figure it out as we go.”

Montero hits left-handed and Snyder right-handed, but it won’t be a true platoon.

“Miggy showed last year he can hit left-handed pitching and Snydes in 2008 hit right-handed pitching very well so it won’t be as simple as that,” Byrnes said.

And it also looks like the D-backs are not going to deal Snyder at least any time soon.

“That’s our assumption right now,” Byrnes said. “Obviously we had those discussions and made an attempt early and there is a point at which it becomes less realistic. So right now I think it’s prudent to assume that’s going to be our catching combination.”

Now it falls on Hinch to figure out how to keep both catchers happy and productive.

“It’s something I’m going to have to sort out playing time wise over the season,” Hinch said. “But to go in strong, to go in healthy…to me I have no complaints. I never have a problem with too many good guys.”

For the latest information on the D-backs follow me on Twitter.

Friday notes from D-backs camp

Somewhat quiet day at Tucson Electric Park on Friday with players trickling in as the day went on. The first workout for pitchers and catchers is not until Saturday so players do not have to be at TEP until that time.

Here are a few notes:

– Miguel Montero was his usual entertaining self. He spent part of the morning teasing Rusty Ryal about his play in Venezuela over the winter and also recounted for reporters his offseason travels.

I’ll definitely follow up on this at some point this spring, but Montero visited the Canary Islands, Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Amsterdam and Madrid.

Miggy played some first base towards the end of the Winter League season because he wanted to get in some game activity without going behind the plate. You may recall that in prior years he has injured his finger and knee while catching over the winter.

Don’t look for him to be wearing a first baseman’s glove for the D-backs any time soon, though. He said he struggled a bit over there and called the position “boring.”

– Veteran reliever Bob Howry met some of his teammates for the first time.

Interestingly for a guy that has played parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues Howry has never played with any of the D-backs players before. Of course, he pointed out that a big reason for that is that the Arizona roster is a very young one with a lot of the guys not having played for a different organization before.

When it comes to roles in the bullpen, Howry said he was told he would be able to compete for late-inning work setting up closer Chad Qualls.

D-backs manager A.J. Hinch echoed that during his meeting with the media when he said that Howry, Juan Gutierrez and Aaron Heilman were front-runners for late-inning work.

Note that late-inning work will not come in the ninth with Hinch saying again that Qualls is his closer.

– Edwin Jackson, who took over Doug Davis’ old locker in the clubhouse at TEP said he was happy to have avoided arbitration last weekend when he signed a two-year deal that will take him up to free agency after the 2011 season.

– Billy Buckner is the frontrunner for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, but told us he knows he has to have a good spring in order to win it.

The key for Buckner, as always, will be for him to stay aggressive, pound the strike zone and be confident on the mound. He’s also going to continue to incorporate his cut fastball.

– Finally a funny story that Hinch told when he was asked about Jackson, who pitched for the Tigers and Jim Leyland last season.

“He told me that I just needed to put him in the rotation and go have smoke and then come back six or seven innings later,” Hinch said of Leyland a notorious smoker. “I told him I had a little problem with that — I don’t smoke.”

Will have lots more tomorrow and as always for the latest updates, follow me on Twitter.

Webb or Haren for the opener?

I read with interest Nick Piecoro’s story in The Arizona Republic yesterday about whether Brandon Webb or Dan Haren would start on Opening Day.

Like Nick I have tried to get D-backs skipper A.J. Hinch to answer that question, but he has decided to wait until Friday to make his decision public. No doubt he has probably talked to both pitchers about it by now, or at least he will have by the time he meets with the media Friday afternoon.

I have no inside information, but I’m going to guess that Hinch will choose Webb. I don’t think it would be wrong for him to pick either one of them and he may very well go with Haren, but something tells me that he will go with Webb.

Really, once the first game is out of the way it really doesn’t matter who the Opening Day starter is as rotations get jumbled up pretty good over the course of 162 games. It is, however, considered an honor to start the opener.

Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section as to who you would start April 5.

Thoughts on Kelly Johnson signing

A couple of notes on the D-backs signing of Kelly Johnson today and what it could mean going forward:

– D-backs manager A.J. Hinch had lunch with Johnson on Wednesday and is optimistic about Johnson rebounding from a sub-par 2009.

“He’s a nice addition for us,” Hinch said. “He knows how to put together an at-bat. He’s a high character guy and a good worker.”

Johnson was 7-for-9 in the stolen base department last year and Hinch could see that total increasing.

“He wants to run a little bit more,” Hinch said. “He’s a good base runner and could be a better base stealer. It’s something he’s going to work hard on.”

– As to what the signing means for other infielders on the roster I think some have been a little quick to say that Augie Ojeda is certain to be traded.

The team signed Johnson with the idea that he is going to be the starter at second so that would push Tony Abreu into a backup role, which in fact could make Ojeda the odd man out. It’s also possible that the team could keep Ojeda and give Abreu some additional time in Triple-A.

Hanging onto Ojeda at least during the spring would make sense. The D-backs learned the hard way last year that a perceived surplus at a position can disappear in a hurry. Remember when we talked last spring about how Bob Melvin was going to find playing time for all his outfielders?

As for Ryan Roberts, he’ll still get a chance to earn some at-bats both at second and in left field. If Conor Jackson ends up playing a lot of first base, Gerardo Parra and Roberts could be a good combination in left.

– As far as whether the D-backs are done with their winter moves, it’s hard to say. They are almost right at their budget for 2010, but they could end up spending a little more than they planned if a quality free agent is still sitting there in late-January/early-February and is willing to sign for a big discount.

The team could also have some money to spend if it deals catcher Chris Snyder and the $4.75 million he is owed next season.

– The addition of Johnson along with a return to health of Conor Jackson should help lengthen the D-backs’ lineup. Both are players that know how to put together good at-bats and work deep counts.

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