Results tagged ‘ Conor Jackson ’

D-backs Daily: March 21

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TODAY’S STORIES

D-backs fall to Giants, 4-3 for fourth straight defeat
Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson work on getting to know each other

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…

View from press box.JPG

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.

Hyena Club.JPG

“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.”

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.”

Sunday AM Notes from the clubhouse

A couple of notes before the D-backs begin their workout on Sunday morning…

– Outfielder Conor Jackson was getting some teasing from some of his teammates for the model bat he was using.

Jackson prefers a bat that has a thicker handle, while most players today tend to like thin handles with big barrels.

“If you have a big barrel it slows you down through the strike zone,” Jackson said. “I feel like my bat stays in the zone longer with a thicker handle.”

Of course the advantage of a bigger barrel is you can get more backspin on a ball, which is where the home runs come from, but that’s never been Jackson’s game.

“Have to know your strengths,” he said.

– Talked briefly with Justin Upton on Saturday. He’s breaking in his glove a little differently this year. Instead of having the last couple of fingers in the glove being bent out a little bit — like Alex Romero’s glove was — he’s got it a little more closed — think about closing the glove with the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pinky finger and you’ll get the idea.

Doing it this way, he hopes, will make for a deeper pocket in the glove.

Notes from Chase Field

They allowed us in to watch the D-backs workout today at Chase Field. A few notes of interest:

– Mark Reynolds talked about the possibility of a contract extension being worked out. Wrote quite a bit about that here. If you want to read about managing general partner Ken Kendrick’s feelings on multi-year deals, check the bottom of this story from earlier in the week.

– Brandon Webb had another throwing session. Nothing seems new since the last time I caught up with him. He is still on pace to throw off the mound for the first time Tuesday. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. is coming in town to observe the session.

Overall Webb said he remains encouraged and still thinks he will be ready to go come Opening Day.

– Reynolds has the initials JAR stitched into his glove. They are for his son Jacob Andrew Ryan, who was born Oct. 16. Andrew is apparently a big name in the Reynolds family as Mark and his father among others have it as their middle name.

– Speaking of new arrivals, the Haren’s had a little girl just a couple of weeks ago. Ella Dani Haren. Ella is doing well, but dad is a little short on sleep these days.

– Conor Jackson said he planned on wearing a t-shirt this spring that reads “I feel good”. How he’s doing is on a lot of people’s minds after he missed most of last season with Valley Fever. Through Instructional League last fall and winter ball in the Dominican Republic, Jackson says he has felt good.
 

Photos of Webb throwing at Chase Field

Here are some photos I took today at Chase Field of the D-backs open to the media workout. I know the quality is not great, but I was taking them with my Blackberry camera so be kind. (OK, so I’m still not sure on how to size these things properly so I apologize for the stretched out nature of them).

Webb warming.JPG

Webb starts playing long toss to warm up.

Webb throwing.JPG

This is Webb starting to throw his flat ground session from 60 feet under the watchful eyes of trainer Ken Krenshaw.

Webb warming 3.JPG

One more of Webb playing long toss.

CJ.JPG

Conor Jackson speaks with reporters after playing catch.

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.

Important December dates for D-backs

With the Winter Meetings coming up next week (Dec. 6-9) in Indianapolis (just curious did MLB run out of warm weather cities to host it in?) I thought it would be a good time to look at some other important dates in the month of December.

Deadline to offer free agents arbitration: Tuesday night is the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their free agents. If a player is not offered arbitration by 9:59 p.m. (Arizona Time) than the team does not get any compensation should he sign elsewhere.

The only player the D-backs have a decision to make about is left-hander Doug Davis. They almost certainly will not offer him arbitration because of the fear that he could accept it. The D-backs have not shown any interest in retaining Davis since they approached him in July about the possibility of a one-year extension.

If the D-backs are extremely confident that Davis would not accept arbitration, they could offer it and as a Type-B free agent, the D-backs would get a compensatory draft pick after the first round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

Deadline for players to accept arbitration: Should the D-backs for some reason offer Davis arbitration, he would have until 9:59 p.m. (Arizona Time) on Dec. 7 to accept it.

Deadline to tender contracts: Teams must offer contracts to its unsigned players by 9:59 p.m. (Arizona Time) on Dec. 12 otherwise those players become free agents.

Typically, the players that are “non-tendered” are those players who are eligible for salary arbitration. In the D-backs case they have seven players eligible for arbitration: RHP Blaine Boyer, SS Stephen Drew, LF Conor Jackson, C Miguel Montero, INF Augie Ojeda, RHP Chad Qualls and RHP Aaron Heilman.

At one time it looked like a possibility the team would non-tender Jackson, but after his time in Instructional League and his impressive campaign in the Dominican Winter League they certainly will tender him.

It’s likely the team will also try to reach an agreement with Ojeda on a deal before this date rather than get locked in to what he might make via arbitration.

4 for 3 turns into 2 for 1

Throughout the offseason and Spring Training, D-backs manager Bob Melvin talked about how having four outfielders — Conor Jackson, Chris Young, Justin Upton and Eric Byrnes — for three spots would be a good thing.

It would build competition. It would allow him to give guys days off. They could match up with opposing starting pitchers.

Instead, trying to find the right combination has proved to be a bigger-than-expected challenge for Melvin.

“It seems like it’s been a little bit hard on all of them,” Melvin said.

Indeed, none of the four seem to have found their stride offensively, particularly Conor Jackson, who has started just 16 of the team’s first 20 games.

“We really didn’t envision here at the beginning of the season,” Melvin said of Jackson’s off days. “We felt like he was a guy that based on what he did last year deserved to be out there every day. He’s just gotten off to a little bit of a slow start and I expect him to pick it up and I expect him to play the majority of the games because he really did earn that last year.”

With Melvin saying that Upton needs to play every day and Young as well, it seems as though it has now come down to two players — Jackson and Byrnes — for one spot.

“I wish it hadn’t, but it seems like it is a little bit,” Melvin said. “It’s just a problem that we have. You’d really like to see somebody get hot and take the spot because I really would like to run a mostly everyday lineup out there.”

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
yesterday.”

– 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.

Wednesday notes

First, thanks to those of you that responded to my call for blog suggestions. Please keep them coming

– Conor Jackson got plunked right in the left elbow by a pitch from Vicente Padilla in the fifth inning. Spoke with him a few innings later and he had ice on the elbow to keep it from swelling.

“I’ve been hit in the elbow before,” Jackson said. “I really don’t think it’s anything bad.”

Jackson was scheduled to get Thursday off even before being hit.

– Jon Garland numbers continue to not be overly impressive — four runs in five innings — but both he and manager Bob Melvin seem pleased with how he’s progressing with two new pitches, a cut fastball and a curve.

The right-hander said he has been experiencing a little bit of a “dead arm” period common for pitchers during Spring Training, though his velocity (or V-Lo as Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic likes to call it) didn’t seem down on Wednesday.

Garland’s location got better as the night went on and he said he was ready for the season to start though he will have two more spring outings.

“We can break right now,” he said.

Amen to that.

– Reliever Tom Gordon felt good one day after throwing his first bullpen session of the spring. He is due to take the mound again on Friday.

– Just when you thought Travis Blackley had pitched himself out of contention for a spot in the bullpen, the lefty tossed a scoreless inning in relief on Wednesday.

Blackley seemed to have better life on his pitches and kept them down in the zone, something he has struggled to do this spring.

– Spoke to GM Josh Byrnes after the game and he said the team made the decision to put outfielder Alex Romero on waivers and outright him to Triple-A Reno was because they thought they would have a better shot at getting him through waivers now rather than at the end of camp.

Like Melvin earlier, Byrnes said the move does not mean Romero could not play a role for the team at some point this year.

“It’s not the end of the road for him,” Byrnes said.

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