Results tagged ‘ Chad Qualls ’
42 days until Opening Day
7 days until first Spring Training game
The theme of the D-backs spring seems to be competition with the theory being that no longer will jobs just be handed out to players, they will have to be earned.
It’s a great idea that will foster a competitive atmosphere and force everyone to work harder than they have in the past and help them to reach another level, but it isn’t without some risk.
For example, let’s say for arguments sake that Kevin Mulvey or Zach Kroenke throw up zero after zero during the spring and by far and away post the best numbers of any of the starting pitchers this spring. And let’s also say that Zach Duke scuffles. Are the D-backs prepared to hand a starting role to one of those two and release Duke despite the fact that he’s owed $4.25 million this year?
And if they decided to keep Duke over someone who clearly outpitched him, what kind of message does it send to the clubhouse after you’ve spent weeks preaching that everyone has a chance to make the team? What does that do to the trust factor?
Again, it may not come down to that, but it is one of the risks you run when you say everyone can make the team.
It’s a little easier when it comes to position players and you’re talking about the competition at first base or left field. You play the best this spring, you get the playing time out of the gate. There are less big contracts involved at those positions.
I do understand the argument that you make bad player evaluations when you rely too much on their performance in March — when they might be facing players that will not start the season in the Majors — or September — when they might be facing pitchers that are only in the Majors because the rosters were expanded.
So yes, in theory, the D-backs should have a pretty good idea already what Brandon Allen, Juan Miranda and Russell Branyan can do at first, but given the struggles this team has had the last two years and the fact that the atmosphere in the clubhouse was one where some were clearly too comfortable, I don’t think the concept of earning a spot this spring is a bad idea.
My colleague Corey Brock wrote an interesting story yesterday on Chad Qualls.
It seems despite all his comments last year to the contrary — and let me say that he was extremely adamant in those comments — his left knee did indeed bother him and that is what he feels led to him having a horrible season.
Great quote from Gibson on why he wants his pitchers to be able to slash — i.e. fake a bunt, pull the bat back and swing away.
“You see guys just camp in there on your pitchers and I don’t like it,” Gibson said. “If they do that, my goal for us is we’ll have another option. I like to see guys hit the deck.”
NEW YORK — The D-backs are on the verge of completing a deal that would send reliever Chad Qualls to the Rays in exchange for a player to be named later, according to a baseball source.
The D-backs will not have to include any cash in the deal with the Rays picking up the roughly $1.6 million Qualls is owed for the rest of the season.
Arizona has actively shopped Qualls, who began the year as the team’s closer, but has struggled to find any consistency and is 1-4 with an 8.51 ERA in 42 games. The right-hander, who makes $4.185 million this year will be eligible for free agency at the end of the season.
The D-backs acquired Qualls along with Juan Gutierrez and Chris Burke from the Astros in December of 2007 in a deal that sent Jose Valverde to Houston.
The D-backs are likely not done dealing yet. The team would still like to move catcher Chris Snyder and reliever Chad Qualls and are open to dealing first baseman Adam LaRoche.
In addition, they will listen to offers on right-hander Edwin Jackson, who will be a free agent after the 2011 season.
“If we could get a player back that could help at the Major League level immediately as well as help restock the farm system we would listen,” Hall said of a possible Jackson deal.
As of Monday afternoon, though, there had been no discussions of a three-team deal for Jackson involving the White Sox and the Nationals.
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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.
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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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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.
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.
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.
Checked in with D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes today about the health of Brandon Webb, Chad Qualls and Chris Snyder.
Webb (shoulder) continues to make progress and threw off the mound for the second time Friday. He’ll throw at least one more bullpen session before reporting to Tucson for next Saturday’s first workout for pitchers and catchers.
Qualls (knee) turned the corner in his recovery in Dec. and has been throwing off the mound and should be ready for the start of camp. It’s possible the team will have him throw a couple fewer innings than normal during the Cactus League as a precaution. Short relievers need less time to get ready obviously than starting pitchers so whether he winds up throwing 10 or seven innings this spring should not matter.
“I don’t think he needs six weeks to be ready,” Byrnes said. “So I think we will assess what is necessary for him to do, but he’s ready to go.”
Snyder (back) has caught at least one of Webb’s bullpen session and is also on pace to be a full go when camp opens.
“Snyder looks great,” Byrnes said. “Like with the others, we will be smart about it, but watching him, he looks real good right now.”
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.