Results tagged ‘ Aaron Heilman ’

Wednesday notes — Heilman could make things interesting

30 days until Opening Day

A couple of random thoughts as I sit in the press box at Scottsdale Stadium waiting for the start of the second game of this split-squad, day-night doubleheader…

– Aaron Heilman could really make the decisions about the backend of the rotation very interesting.

It’s been widely assumed that Zach Duke and Armando Galarraga have the inside track for the final two spots with Barry Enright and Heilman on the outside looking in. That’s simply because of the money owed to Duke and the fact that Enright has Minor League options and Heilman could easily slide back into the bullpen.

But Heilman signed here because he was promised a fair shot at the rotation and if he keeps putting up zeroes (he threw three perfect innings today to run his spring total to five) it is going to be tough to deny him that.

– D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has maintained that first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is “in the mix” at first base, but it has been hard to believe that the organization would rush him like that given that he has not played above the Class A level.

Gibson came close to admitting just that today after Goldschmidt pinch-hit and drove in two more runs with a single.

“Probably not,” Gibson said about the likelihood of Goldschmidt making the club out of Spring Training. “But I don’t really look at it that way. I look at it that we’re trying to develop depth as well. We can’t predict what may happen, who might get hurt. If there’s some guys that go back to the Minor Leagues from here we want them to have great confidence, we want them to shore their game up. We want them to know how we want to do it up here, the things that are important to the Diamondbacks and go down there and be leaders. People can move fast.”

Certainly Goldschmidt has opened some eyes with his strong showing thus far.

“From the first day I saw him swing he’s made several adjustments,” Gibson said. “His swing is shorter and he’s staying on the ball. We’ll see if he can do it all spring.”

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D-backs will finally leave the City of Scottsdale for a game Thursday when they travel to Peoria to take on the Padres. I’ll catch up with you there.

Notes from first pitcher catcher workout

46 days until Opening Day in Denver
11 days until first Spring Training game

Another beautiful day for baseball at Salt River Fields with temperatures again around 80 degrees and bright blue skies.

We’ve been told that players will be signing autographs each day around 11:50 a.m. local time. The club has gone out of its way to make sure fans are able to get up close with the players on the pathways between the fields. I also noticed today that the main stadium was open for fans to walk around and take a look at.

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Today’s stories:

Notes: Hudson healthy; Heilman eyes starting

Camp Gibby opens

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Turns out GM Kevin Towers misspoke Sunday when he said Zach Duke would be late to camp because his wife was due to give birth to the couple’s first child any day now.

Duke’s wife Kristin gave birth last Wednesday so Duke was there and threw a bullpen Monday.

You have to feel for him leaving his 3-day-old child behind to get on a plane for Arizona, but that’s sometimes what ballplayers have to go through as part of the job. For now, he will have to make do with Skype, something he says he’s been doing three times a day to see his baby Madison.

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Clay Zavada’s absence from camp seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Still not exactly sure what’s going on there. Towers said he had heard something about Zavada maybe not wanting to go “through this again” whatever that means.

When I talked to Zavada a couple of weeks ago he sounded pretty excited about the season so I’m not sure what’s going on, but it’s something I’ll continue to follow and keep you updated.

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Seemed like there might be some progress on the Kelly Johnson front. The two sides have until Wednesday’s salary-arbitration hearing to reach a settlement.

Johnson’s agent is now in town and the dialogue has picked up between the two sides.

“Dialogue is better than no dialogue and over the last 48 hours we’ve had a lot more dialogue than we’ve had in the last two weeks so I look at that as a good sign,” Towers said.

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Catcher Miguel Montero made some interesting comments about the culture change in the clubhouse with the influx of veterans and Kirk Gibson taking over for A.J. Hinch as manager.

“The last two years we’ve been losing 90 games, and it seems like nothing happened,” said Montero. “I don’t think that is going to happen again. If we lose again, everybody is going to know that we lost a game. I think that’s what it means. And I like that idea, because I hate to lose. Period.”

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That’s all for today. I’ll be back at it bright and early Tuesday. Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @dbackswriter.

D-backs Daily: March 22

Don’t forget for up-to-the-minute news and information, you can follow me on Twitter.

TODAY’S STORIES

D-backs rally to beat the Padres in 10 innings
Brandon Allen keeps it all in perspective

NOTES AND OPINIONS

MUCH BETTER: Ian Kennedy was impressive against the Padres, allowing just two hits while throwing five scoreless innings.

Kennedy is not known as a strikeout pitcher, but he managed to fan eight without walking a batter. Throwing strikes was something he wanted to accomplish and he did that and then some.

“I just wanted to pound the zone early on,” he said. “Worked really well with Chris Snyder today. He called a great game.”

The D-backs had to be pleased to see Kennedy bounce back after struggling against the Angels in his previous outing last week.

“The outing in Tempe I just kind of took it as a bad day,” Kennedy said. “I tried to learn from it and move on.”

I don’t think there was much question that Kennedy was going to be part of the team’s rotation, but if there was, I would think that there is no longer any doubt that will be.

“Ian was really, really good,” Hinch said. “He had good rhythm, he had good command he had swing and miss type stuff. A great outing. He hasn’t pitched poorly but he hadn’t pitched a clean game.”

He sure did Monday.

NOT AS GOOD: The day did not go as well for pitchers Jordan Norberto and Esmerling Vasquez.

Norberto came into the game having not allowed a run in six innings, but he struggled with his command and walked three and allowed a hit in lasting just two-thirds of an inning. He allowed one run, which he forced in when he gave Yorvit Torrealba a free pass with the bases loaded.

“It was good to see him under a little duress,” Hinch said.

While there had been some talk of Norberto making the team out of Spring Training, I always got the impression that the organization wanted him to get a little more Minor League seasoning. After all, he has made just 16 appearances at the Double-A level.

I still think he will start the year in the Minor Leagues, though it’s not out of the question they could decide to keep him. He’s certainly been extremely impressive. Regardless if he pitches like he did early in camp, expect to see him at Chase Field at some point this year.

Vasquez, who had shown improvement in his past few outings got out of the bases loaded jam in the seventh, but got himself into trouble with walks as well. The right-hander walked three and gave up a pair of runs.

SPEAKING OF THE ROSTER: Hinch said Monday that he is likely to carry 12 pitchers to start the year with eight of them being relievers.

If you figure that four of those spot are locked up by Chad Qualls, Bob Howry, Juan Gutierrez, Aaron Heilman and the fifth is all but taken by Blaine Boyer than it leaves you with three spots open.

I have to think that at this moment, Leo Rosales is a front runner for one. The right-hander has pitched well for the most part this spring and he’s out of Minor League options.

That leaves a couple of spots and a number of different options with Vasquez, Clay Zavada, Norberto and Zach Kroenke still in the mix.

We’ll see how the last two weeks play out.

WEBB UPDATE: Nothing really new here. Webb played catch again Monday. Hinch said they are being extra cautious in building his arm strength so that he doesn’t plateau like he did earlier this month.

While they don’t want to put a timeframe on him, it certainly seems like 30 days is the minimum it would take for him to be ready after getting back on the mound. So if late-April is going to be realistic, he will need to take a step forward soon.

DOUBLING UP: The D-backs grounded into five double plays wiping out numerous scoring opportunities.

“I could have done without all the double plays,” Hinch said.

Tuesday’s off day could not come at a better time for the D-backs, who seem ready for a break.

AT THE TOP: Conor Jackson hit at the top of the order for the second day in a row and you get the feeling that Hinch is really warming to the idea of hitting him there to start the season.

It’s really an excellent idea given that it plays to Jackson’s strength (getting on base, working counts) and the team truly doesn’t have a prototypical option there.

GOING UPTOWN: I’m late to the party on this, I know, but have you seen what the organization has planned for the right-field bleachers this year?

TAKING OFF: Tuesday will be an off day for the D-backs so this blog will be dark for the day, but will be back up and running from Glendale on Wednesday.

March 11 Wrap

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Here’s a look at today’s stories: A Brandon Webb update, D-backs sign or renew all 22 pre-arbitration players and beat the Angels 4-1.

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.

Notes from Friday’s game

Hard to know what was the bigger news today. On the one hand you had D-backs GM Josh Byrnes saying that it was possible Brandon Webb would start the year on the DL and then there was Mark Reynolds saying that talks on a possible contract extension were a distraction.

Here are a look at a few other notes from the day:

NICE START: Dan Haren tossed a pair of hitless innings against the Cubs, allowing just one walk while throwing 20 pitches.

A 1-2-3 quick first inning raised some concerns in the Arizona dugout that he might not get up to his pitch count in his two scheduled innings.

A walk to begin the second, though, allowed him to throw some extra pitches.

“It feels weird, it’s been a long time,” Haren said of getting back out on the mound. “To go out there and compete again is nice. I’ve got a long ways to go, but I’m happy with the way it started. I don’t necessarily put in 100 percent effort, I’m working more mechanics and you know getting a feel for all my pitches. I’m definitely where I want to be, but that being said I still have a long way to go.”

Haren threw some fastballs, cutters and curves, but did not throw his split.

“I’ll definitely throw a few next time and keep working on it on the side,” Haren said. “The goal is by the time April rolls around to have all my pitches feel crisp and ready.”

KEEP AN EYE ON HIM: I still think Rusty Ryal has a real good shot of winning that final spot on the bench. Hinch plans on playing him at second and third and he showed during a stint in the Dominican Republic during the winter that he could play left field.

Ryal’s versatility plus the pop he has in his bat should play in his favor.

“I don’t know if anybody outworks him,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s just continued to get better and improve himself at the plate. His strike zone discipline has gradually gotten better, the authority with which he swings the bat has gotten better. He’s forced himself onto the map as far as being an offensive threat at the Major League level. For him now exposing him at different defensive spots is going to be important to have him make the team and if continues to advance offensively you’ve got a nice player on your hands.”

NOW PLAYING SHORTSTOP: When he was acquired last year, Tony Abreu was expected to be the team’s starting second baseman in 2010. Then Kelly Johnson was non-tendered by the Braves and those plans changed.

Now Abreu finds himself competing for the final spot on the bench as a utility infielder. With that in mind, look for him to see some time at short and third as well as second this spring. He started at shortstop Friday against the Cubs and also played there in relief of Stephen Drew on Thursday.

“I’m interested to see how he looks at shortstop,” Hinch said. “He hasn’t played a ton of shortstop. It’s what he’s played the least. Part of the early part of spring is exposing to these guys to maybe a little bit of outside their comfort zone and see how they respond.”

THAT’S MORE LIKE IT: The D-backs played a much crisper game defensively against the Cubs after a sloppy 11-1 loss to the Rockies on Thursday.

“I think yesterday’s game was a little disappointing for everyone to be honest with you,” Haren said. “Not that we’re necessarily trying to win or lose, but we’re not trying to lose that’s for sure. Last spring we didn’t really play that well and I think it kind of trickled into the season. [Today] has been a pretty clean game and that’s more of the game we’re trying to play.”

BACK IN ACTION: Catcher Chris Snyder saw his first action since having surgery on his back last September. Snyder caught four innings.

“He came out of hit fine and he’ll catch again Sunday,” Hinch said.

GAME NOTES: Center fielder Gerardo Parra made a nice throw in the bottom of the fifth to nail a runner trying to tag up from third in the bottom of the fifth.

Justin Upton blasted a grand slam off the scoreboard in the fifth.

“I thought that was going over the scoreboard,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Upton’s homer. “That’s a long wallop. Upton is going to hit a home run off anybody.”

Ryan Roberts and Cole Gillespie also homered for the D-backs.

It was a rough day for Aaron Heilman, who allowed four runs on five hits in one inning of work.

By contrast young hurlers Wes Roemer, Jordan Norberto and Bryan Shawn all pitched well.

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.

Heilman deal a good one

The D-backs pick up of Aaron Heilman from the Cubs on Thursday is not likely to draw much attention, but certainly looks like a good deal for Arizona.

With a little more than $10 million to spend this offseason, I’m not sure the D-backs had the ability to be a serious player for a top-tier free-agent reliever.

Heilman gives them a more cost-effective way of filling a need in the pen. He made $1.625 million last year and as an arbitration-eligible player this year he will likely get a raise to somewhere between $2 million and $2.5 million.

In addition, he will be a free agent following the season so you’re basically looking at a one-year committment and should he be a Type-B free agent, the D-backs would get a draft pick for him should he sign elsewhere. Not a bad return on a pair of prospects who were not exactly setting the world on fire.

There’s also some pretty good upside to Heilman judging by his performance for the Mets from 2005-2007. His numbers the last two seasons have not been as good in terms of his ERA and walk rate etc., but if the D-backs are able to get him right, he could really help in the late innings.

It’s a low-risk move with a chance at paying off and it leaves the D-backs with more money to spend on that No. 4 starter and maybe on another reliever.

D-backs acquire Aaron Heilman

PHOENIX — The D-backs bolstered their bullpen Thursday acquiring right-hander Aaron Heilman from the Cubs in exchange for a pair of Minor Leaguers.

Heilman was 4-4 with a 4.11 ERA and one save in 70 games for the Cubs. The 31-year-old walked 34 and fanned 65 while holding opponents to a .257 average.

The D-backs sent left-handed pitcher Scott Main and infielder Ryne White to the Cubs. Maine, who pitched in the Arizona Fall League this year was a sixth-round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and split time this past season between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno.

White, meanwhile, was a fourth-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Last season he hit .266 with six homers and 52 RBIs for Class A Visalia.

Heilman is 26-37 with 10 saves and a 4.22 ERA in 375 career games with the Mets and Cubs.

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