Results tagged ‘ Billy Buckner ’

Daily D-backs Wrap: March 28

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Conor Jackson missed three games with sore groin
D-backs beat Brewers

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.”

Daily D-backs Wrap: March 27

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Despite struggles at the plate, Miguel Montero remains confident
D-backs lose a pitcher’s duel to the Indians
Kennedy claims spot in rotation

CONGRATS TO KENNEDY: Ian Kennedy was told following Saturday’s game with the Indians that he had made the team.

Not a real surprise given not only the fact that they traded for him, but also because he’s pitched very well this spring.

About the only question is how many innings the D-backs will be able to get from someone who missed most of last season. It would not be surprising to see the team give him an extra day of rest here and there to try and keep that innings total down.

RIGHTING THE SHIP: While the day’s news belonged to Kennedy, the pitcher who may have helped himself out the most Saturday was reliever Clay Zavada, who has struggled throughout the spring.

The D-backs would really like to have a lefty in their bullpen and they are certainly tempted by the potential of Jordan Norberto, who has pitched better than anyone not named Juan Gutierrez this spring. The issue is the lack of experience for Norberto, but again he’s been so good that it’s not completely out of the question that he makes the team.

Anyway, Zavada had a much-needed 1-2-3 inning against the Indians.

“I’ve been battling,” Zavada said. “I’ve been working to get my tempo back and I’m starting to see better results. It’s been a bumpy road, it’s been tough. I’ve been working hard and I’m going to keep working hard.”

“It’s amazing what a clean inning can do for confidence,” Hinch said. “I think it was a good outing for him, for us.”

NOT SO GOOD NEWS: A.J. Pollock, the second of two first-round picks the D-backs in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft underwent surgery to repair a fractured elbow Friday.

The center fielder suffered the injury when he attempted to make a sliding catch during a Minor League game last week.

GM Josh Byrnes said Pollock could be out around two to three months.

“I’m glad he signed early and had a full summer last year and we’ll get him out there and then conceivably in the [Arizona] Fall League,” Byrnes said.

Signed out of the University of Notre Dame, Pollock is a polished player, who hit .271 last year at Class A South Bend and was expected to begin the 2010 season at high-A Visalia.

TUCSON APPRECIATION DAY: Sunday will be Tucson Appreciation Day when the D-backs play host to the Brewers. The festivities will commemorate the organization’s 13 years of Spring Training in Southern Arizona. All fans in attendance will receive a pennant honoring the D-backs’ Spring Training in Tucson.

It will be an important day for Lopez, who will get another chance to claim the No. 4 spot in the rotation. The D-backs will face left-hander Doug Davis, who pitched for them from 2007-09 before departing via free agency.

Daily D-backs Wrap: March 24

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D-backs fall to White Sox
D-backs interest in Kelly Johnson goes way back
Upton sprains ankle in Wednesday’s game 

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.

D-backs Wrapup: Kennedy, Lineups and Lee

Here’s your Wednesday recap…

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RHP Brandon Webb is shooting for late-April return.
The signing of RHP Kris Benson is now official.

ROUGH ONE: For the second straight day, a D-backs starting pitcher had trouble getting a feel for his pitches.

Tuesday, it was Edwin Jackson and Wednesday it was Ian Kennedy’s turn.

The right-hander allowed four runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings of work against the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

“I felt all over the place,” Kennedy said. “My fastball command wasn’t nearly what I wanted it to be. It’d feel like one pitch would be there and the next pitch I would try to repeat it and it’s up and away or I’d pull it in the dirt. It’s frustrating because I always want to do well. It’s Spring Training, but still I want to perform. It’s just one of those starts where I felt like I couldn’t repeat the same pitch I had before.”

Kennedy did not allow a run in his first two starts of the spring, but Wednesday he seemed to be behind on a majority of the hitters.

“That’s another thing I’m frustrated about,” he said. “I put them in hitter’s counts almost every time. When I was ahead I got it to even. It was 0-1 then it was 1-1 or I’d get a 1-2 and then I’d go to 2-2. You can’t pitch late in games throwing that many pitches every time. I physically feel good. That’s the frustrating part. You feel good and then I feel like I can’t repeat the same pitch so that’s what’s frustrating.”

LINING UP: The starting lineup for the D-backs on Wednesday — Drew (ss), Jackson (lf), Upton (rf), LaRoche (1b), Reynolds (3b), Montero (c), Johnson (2b) and Young (cf) — included every player you would expect to be in there on Opening Day.

As for the batting order…well, that remains a work in progress.

One thing seems certain and that is that manager A.J. Hinch likes the combination of Upton, LaRoche and Reynolds in the 3-4-5 spots.

Another thing that seems likely is Jackson in the No. 2 hole given his plate discipline and on-base abilities.

Leadoff hitter? Stay tuned.

“Kelly and Stephen and CY could all conceivable hit near the top or the bottom of our lineup,” Hinch said. “It’s a good problem to have. We have the makings of an offense that could be pretty fluid throughout the order.”

So if Jackson is second, Upton third, LaRoche fourth, Reynolds fifth and Montero sixth that means that two of the three candidates to hit leadoff would end up in the seventh and eighth spots in the order.

While the order will change during the season, Hinch will try to keep it consistent.

“I don’t want to get into a routine of flipping the lineup all the time,” he said. “I do like the idea of having the guys understand their roles and understand where it is. At the top of the order, I want the guys to be the table-setters for the middle of the order. It could change over time. I look at it a different way that with so many options it’s an advantage for us.”

NOT MUCH: The D-backs did not have much reaction to the news that Mariners pitcher Cliff Lee had been suspended for five regular season games for throwing over the head of Chris Snyder on Monday in Tucson.

“We don’t have them on our schedule,” Snyder said. “The only time we would see them is if we both make it in October and by then I’m sure that suspension will be over with.”

So did Snyder think it was deserved?

“That’s not my call,” he said. “MLB made the call on it. That’s it.”

How about you Hinch, what do you think about it?

“Nothing for me to comment on,” Hinch said. “It’s MLB’s business and the Mariners business.”

QUICK HITTER: Upton continues to hit the ball with authority this spring. He picked up another pair of hits Wednesday and Hinch said he looks to be in a “good rhythm” at the plate. …

Mark Reynolds hit his first homer of the spring in the sixth inning.

“He’s been inching forward in his contact,” Hinch said. …

With Brandon Webb starting the year on the disabled list there are two spots in the rotation up for grabs for Billy Buckner, Rodrigo Lopez, Kevin Mulvey (and maybe) Kris Benson.

If camp ended today it would not be a surprise to see Kennedy in the third spot and Buckner No. 4. The D-backs could then wait until April 17 before needing to carry a fifth starter.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that Buckner and Kennedy have a leg up,” Hinch said. “But I wouldn’t count Lopez and Mulvey out by any means.”

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.

A few notes from Thursday’s workout

Just a few extra notes from D-backs camp today…

— D-backs manager A.J. Hinch was impressed with what he saw out of pitchers Billy Buckner, Jordan Norberto and Kevin Mulvey while they were throwing live batting practice Thursday.

“Ball is coming out of his hand pretty well,” Hinch said of Mulvey. “He looks like his arm is in good shape.

“Buckner and Norberto probably threw the best two live BP sessions,” Hinch said.

— Norberto also caught the eye of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.

“Command, life, breaking ball, changeup, everything was in a tight zone,” Stottlemyre said. “He has a little different look to him this year in terms of confidence.”

Another young player that impressed was Bryan Shaw, a right-hander who was the club’s second-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

“Bryan Shaw really got his lower half in control, everything was down with good life,” Stottlemyre said. “It was good to see because he gets himself in trouble when he gets too quick, but we’ve been working on it and he carried it in today.”

— Clay Zavada threw some good curveballs during his batting practice session. His intensity during the session drew laughs from his teammates. Whether it’s batting practice or not, Zavada treats every time on the mound like it’s Game 7 of the World Series.

Lineups and Roster Move

Before we get to the lineup, the D-backs made a roster move this afternoon. In order to activate Max Scherzer to start tonight’s game they optioned RHP Billy Buckner to Triple-A Reno.

You could see this move coming with the way Buckner struggled in his last couple of outings. I’ll have more on this on the site shortly and will check to see whether the club plans on using Buckner in a starting or relieving role in Reno.

Here’s the lineup: Lopez (2b), Byrnes (lf), Drew (ss), Tracy (3b), Clark (1b), Young (cf), Montero (c), Upton (rf) and Scherzer (p).

D-backs manager Bob Melvin said Conor Jackson is simply getting a day off and that he wanted to give Upton a couple of starts in a row. Reynolds sits against the tough right-hander and Clark will get his crack at it.

Thoughts on the bullpen competition

It’s been an eventful week for the D-backs, who set their pitching staff and have narrowed the competition for the final bench spot to just a few players.

First, the pitching staff. It was no big surprise that Doug Slaten, Billy Buckner, Juan Gutierrez and Yusmeiro Petit grabbed the final four spots in the bullpen. It wasn’t like there was an overly impressive competition going on and as camp went on it seemed more spots became available. First it was when it was clear Tom Gordon was not going to be ready to start the season and then another opened when they decided to begin the year with Max Scherzer on the disabled list.

Petit and Buckner pitched very well in nearly all of their outings this spring and clearly deserved to make the team.

As for Slaten, he is it seems at times maddeningly frustrating for the coaching staff, many of whom believe he has a lot of potential. He struggled early in camp, but a couple of things helped rescue his candidacy. One, he worked with pitching coach Bryan Price on lowering his arm angle which led him to pitch better. And two, he’s left-handed and the team desperately wanted a second lefty to go with Scott Schoeneweis.

Gutierrez pitched very well in his first couple outings in camp and that fact along with being out of Minor League options and therefore a risk to be lost on the waiver wire helped him make the team despite being unimpressive the second half of the spring.

It’s hard to argue with the selections. Bobby Korecky and Leo Rosales were the odd men out and will start the year with Triple-A Reno. Korecky pitched well in his final few outings, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a rough start to the spring.

What will be interesting to see is who comes off the roster when Scherzer is ready to go in mid-April.

More on the position player battle in a little bit.

Some more clarity

With Travis Blackley no longer a candidate, the pitching staff is beginning to look a lot clearer.

There are four spots open in the bullpen, but it’s all but certain that Yusmeiro Petit and Juan Gutierrez are going to nab them.

Petit did not have a great first inning on Monday — he allowed four runs — but it appeared to be a mechanical issue. He was getting his hand under the ball, which caused his pitches to be up in the zone and he does not have the kind of velocity it takes to get away with that.

Once Petit made the adjustment the improvement was evident as he threw a couple of shutout innings.

If Gutierrez makes the team, and like I said it sure looks like he will, a big reason will be because he is out of Minor League options. The club loves his arm and 95 mph fastball.

As I speculated in the story, it sure looks like the other two spots will go to Doug Slaten and Billy Buckner.

The team would love to carry two lefties, which helps Slaten and he has pitched better of late.

“It’s good to see him pitching a little better especially when there’s some pressure on him,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Since changing his arm angle, Slaten’s performance has been much better.

Ryan Roberts helped his chances of making the team by showing he could go behind the plate and catch. He did it on Sunday in a Minor League game and in the seventh inning today against the Rockies he caught Slaten and then Gutierrez.

It was a successful debut, but one of the things he will need to work on is framing pitches and the way he catches breaking balls, but after watching him today Melvin said he considers him better than an emergency catcher i.e. someone you would only put behind the plate in a dire situation.

“Each and every time he goes out he’ll learn more,” Melvin said.



Bonus Thursday coverage

Here’s a few more notes from Thursday…

— Stephen Drew said his abdominal strain was feeling better and he was out on the field during batting practice. He was scheduled to see Dr. Michael Lee later in the day so I’ll probably have an update for you on Friday.

— Conor Jackson’s left elbow was fine one day after getting plunked there by a Vincente Padilla fastball. Jackson wasn’t in the lineup, but that was a scheduled off day and manager Bob Melvin said he could easily have played.

— Brandon Webb picked a good time to have his best outing of the spring as it should give him some momentum heading into the season.

As you may have read in my story about his outing Webb used a “BP” fastball so named because it’s not thrown with max velocity like a typical fastball and comes in at more the speed of a batting practice pitch. The key is the batter has to be expecting a pitchers regular fastball so he is out front of the BP one and rolls it over for an easy groundout.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is about how incredibly talented and gifted Webb is when it comes to picking up new pitches. A few years ago he started throwing that fastball that starts inside to a left-handed hitter — so much so it looks like it’s going to hit his hip — and then tails back over the inside corner for a called strike.

When I asked him how he developed the pitch he said he saw Greg Maddux throw it one day while watching television and thought it would be a good pitch so he just went out and threw it.

Back to the BP fastball. In his start prior to this one, Webb was on the bench talking with pitching coach Bryan Price about how maybe a BP fastball would be a good thing for him to work on so he could throw it in fastball counts when a hitter is sitting on the heater.

Webb went out for his next inning and threw a few good BP fastballs much to the surprise of Price.

“We were supposed to work on that in the bullpen not an
inning after we were talking about it,” Price told him when he finished the inning .

Just so long as no one suggests throwing a knuckler, he should be good to go on Opening Day.

— Reliever Tony Pena gave up four runs on five hits in two innings on Wednesday night against the Rangers, but Melvin praised the performance on Thursday pointing out that Pena did toss a scoreless first inning before giving up a grand slam the following one when he tried to throw back to back sliders to lefty Chris Davis.

“I saw a phenomenal first inning,” Melvin said. “Really good slider. The
second inning maybe just pitch selection more than anything else. The numbers
don’t suggest how he pitched. I was pleased with how he threw the ball

— Travis Blackley pitched his way back into the competition for the final three spots in the bullpen with a scoreless inning on Thursday.

No one has asked me (and they most certainly will not) but if I had to pick those final three spots right now they would go to Yusmeiro Petit, Billy Buckner and Doug Slaten.

Buckner had another solid outing on Thursday and has really only had one poor one this spring.

“Buckner’s really pitched as well as anybody,” Melvin said.