Results tagged ‘ Juan Gutierrez ’

Towers talks Dipoto and 2011

Had a chance to catch up with new D-backs GM Kevin Towers before tonight’s game and here’s is some of what he had to say:

— Towers is optimistic that he will be able to keep former interim GM Jerry Dipoto in the organization. As I reported Monday, Dipoto will join the team in Los Angeles this weekend to have more discussions with Towers to make sure their philosophies are in sync going forward.

“I had two meetings with him,” Towers said. “I think it looks good. He can only answer that. I’ve let it be known to him that I would love to have him here. I think he would be a huge asset to the organization. I think we still need to work through some philosophical things because I would envision him as kind of being my No. 2 baseball guy. We just have to share similar thoughts and beliefs on scouting and player development because I certainly don’t expect him to implement something into our system that he doesn’t believe in or have total buy in.”

Towers says the two of them have similar backgrounds, love to talk baseball, both have a scouting backgrounds and both have small or little egos.

Dipoto sounds positive on the relationship as well so it looks like a match unless something comes up this weekend.

We should know something by early next week, because Towers wants to hit the ground running as soon as the season ends.

— Towers would like to add a veteran starter, but will look at veteran players for the bench and of course the bullpen first.

“The people we’ll target early will be bench players and bullpen,” he said. “We’ll probably have to wait on the starter unless it comes via a trade. The starting pitching market is probably I think fairly weak this year. After that it’s fairly thin in my eyes. To me it’s Minor League free agents, trades. You’re more apt to find that guy via trade versus getting Major League free agents.”

Getting veterans for the bench is something Towers feels is important rather than going with younger players in that role.

“It’s hard for young guys to be effective pinch-hitters coming off the bench,” he said. “If you don’t have that experience or those guys that are threats it makes it pretty easy on the opposing manager because he has no fear of anyone that is coming off the bench.”

— Towers declined to reveal his specific payroll figure for next year when I asked, but he said he was pleasantly surprised by what he heard from managing general partner Ken Kendrick and praised Kendrick for his intense desire to win and willingness to spend.

“I never want to let my competitors what I’ve got to work with,” he said. “Certainly more than I had in San Diego, let’s put it that way. We’ve got a few holes and we have to allocate the dollars in the right areas. I don’t think we’re like one guy away from being the team to beat in the West.”

— Towers would like to add some offense, likely in left field where the D-backs have gotten little production.
But again, it’s bullpen, bullpen, bullpen.

“To me [getting a left fielder] is not as big a priority as having four or five different weapons in the bullpen where your manager has confidence on any given night he’s got five or six guys that can get middle of the order [hitters], pitch in the seventh or eighth inning with the lead or tied and be effective on a consistent basis,” Towers said.

One thing that is very encouraging is that Towers seems to be more realistic than the previous regime about Juan Gutierrez. Yes, he’s having a good second half and a really good September, but let’s remember that he also had a good September last year and the club counted on him to be a key member of the bullpen.

We know how that turned out early this season.

“Gutierrez has pitched very well, but he’s young,” Towers said. “It would be nice to have another experienced guy late in the game to go along with him. Him and [Sam] Demel are kind of guys that I could envision being effective guys. I don’t know as much about [Esmerling] Vasquez or [Carlos] Rosa.”

— Towers seems impressed with the culture in the D-backs front office and credited team president and CEO Derrick Hall for that.

“I think Derrick has done a great job of creating a great atmosphere in the front office,” Towers said. “Just communication, high energy, openness. Doors aren’t shut. Doors are open, people are moving about, which to me is a great, great sign.”

D-backs Daily: March 22

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


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.

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.

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.



Worry or concern?

My late father always used to correct me when I would accuse him of being worried about something.

“I’m not worried son,” he would say. “I’m concerned. There’s a difference.”

I was thinking about that on the drive up to Phoenix from Tucson this morning while pondering the performance of the Arizona bullpen this spring. Should we be worried or concerned?

The truth is, I don’t know for sure and neither does anyone else. Look, there’s no getting around the fact that the numbers are ugly. Do they matter? Well, no in the sense that Spring Training numbers don’t count (this is the old “they don’t put Spring Training numbers on the back of your baseball card” deal). And there have been plenty of instances where a player has had a bad spring and then been terrific during the regular season.

So it’s certainly possible that Jon Rauch is working on a new pitch and when the bell rings he will be fine. But it’s also fair to be slightly concerned at some of these numbers that are being put up right now.

GM Josh Byrnes told me yesterday that he is not concerned about the competition for the final three spots in the bullpen at this point because each of the seven players battling for it have had some manner of success this spring. Again, that’s true and could be a very fair way of looking at it.

And the team is always quick to point out that it likes to focus on “track records” of players rather than the small sample of spring games. Of course then that does not necessarily hold when part of the rationale for optimism about Travis Blackley is how he pitched against Cuba in the WBC or how Juan Gutierrez pitched over the winter (as opposed to all last summer in Triple-A).

So to be fair let’s not be worried about the Arizona bullpen right now. Concern on the other hand, yeah we can have plenty of that.

Notes from Wednesday’s opener

Some notes from Wednesday’s game…

— I wrote about Chris Young’s performance with his new mechanics at the plate, but here a couple of quotes that didn’t make the story:

Young: “I was just trying to stay quiet at the plate and get a good
pitch and see as many pitches as possible. Just trying to stay a little more quiet where I can stay on
the heater but at the same time be back for the offspeed so we’ll see how it
works out.”

Melvin: It’s not important that he has to get off to a good start, but to work as hard has he has in the offseason and get some results right away certainly adds to [his] conviction.”

— Gerardo Parra made a laser throw from right field to nail a runner at the plate in the seventh inning.

Ironically, the runner Parra gunned down was former D-backs outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez.

— Juan Gutierrez, a candidate for one of the final spots in the bullpen allowed two runs on three hits over two innings, but Melvin said he pitched better than the numbers.

“I thought Gutierrez threw the ball pretty well too,” Melvin said. “I gave
him a plus grade today.”

— The D-backs collected seven hits in the game.

“We were a little early swinging in the count today,” Melvin said. “I don’t
think we were as patient.”

— Billy Buckner allowed one run on three hits in his two innings of work and did not use the cut fastball that he has been working on for the last several weeks.

— Miguel Montero was hit on the side of his right leg just above his knee with a pitch, but said after the game that he was fine.

Notes from the last couple of days

Here are some notes from the last couple of days:

— Billy Buckner will start Wednesday’s opener. The right-hander will throw two innings as will Juan Gutierrez and Hector Ambriz. Cesar Valdez, Leo Rosales and Esmerling Vasquez are slated to throw one inning apiece.

— Other pitching notes, Dan Haren will start Thursday and be followed to the mound by Doug Daivs. Brandon Webb will go on Friday along with Jon Garland.

— Good news for the D-backs today with Max Scherzer throwing his first bullpen of the spring without any problems.

It’s worth noting that the D-backs will not need a fifth starter until April 14, seven games into the season, so it will be interesting to see what they do with Scherzer at the start of the season.

— All 11 of the ailing D-backs were back in camp on Monday after experiencing stomach problems the day before.

They were not asked to take part in the normal conditioning on Monday and the pitchers who had been sick did not have to go through pitcher fielding practice drills.

— Tuesday will be a light day for the team — maybe 45 minutes shorter than usual — before Wednesday’s first Cactus League game. In past years, they have played an intrasquad game the day before the opener, but since Spring Training is so long this year they don’t think they need the another game.

Speaking of which there will only be one “B” game on March 4 against the Rockies. Garland, Jose Marte, Leyson Septimo, Reid Mahon and Brooks Brown are slated to pitch that game.

— The D-backs early camp for Minor Leaguers got underway on Sunday.

Eye Catching

Typical of the first few days of Spring Training when pitchers are throwing their bullpen sessions, D-backs manager Bob Melvin was asked about which pitchers caught his eye on Sunday.

Among those the skipper mentioned were Juan Gutierrez, Daniel Schlereth, Billy Buckner and Kyler Newby.

Gutierrez is out of Minor League options and needs to have a big camp if he is to make his way onto the Opening Day roster. He had a tough year for Triple-A Tucson last season, but pitched well this winter. Stuff has never been an issue with him, but there are scouts that feel hitters get too good of a look at the ball coming out of his hand.

Newby is a guy who has had to work for everything he has gotten. A 50th-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, he was the organization’s Player of the Month for June last year when he had a 0.66
ERA and six saves in nine games. He went 4-3 with a 2.69 ERA with 16
saves in 46 appearances for Class A Visalia.

Schlereth was the team’s first pick in last year’s Draft out of the University of Arizona and received plenty of attention on Sunday from the local media here.

“He’s a guy you can see what all the talk has been about,” Melvin said.

Buckner, who is one of the main competitors for the final spot on the pitching staff, started work last week on a cut fastball. The hope is that it will be a pitch that complements his sinker and serve as a weapon to keep left-handed hitters honest. The pitch runs in on lefties, which is the opposite of what his two-seamer does.