Results tagged ‘ Justin Upton ’
Good Morning from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick just a few hours away from the facilities first game.
How new are things here? You can still smell fresh paint up here in the press box.
Here is a look at the D-backs starting lineup for today: Johnson 2b, Parra rf, Drew ss, Young cf, Blum 3b, Pena lf, Miranda 3, Blanco 2 and Heilman p.
Other pitchers scheduled to throw today: Zach Duke, Mike Hampton, Juan Gutierrez, Micah Owings, Jordan Norberto and Brian Sweeney.
A couple of notes from yesterday’s opener against the Giants…
— Outfielder Justin Upton had a nice day at the plate going 2-for-3.
“I just ran into a couple of balls,” Upton said. “I was just trying to get a good look at some pitches.”
— A lot was made of Xavier Nady’s trouble throwing yesterday, but he did hit a nice opposite-field homer.
“It just feels good to be back in the swing of things,” Nady said. “It felt good to be out there and get some reps and get some serious at-bats and then go from there.”
It’s always fun this time of spring to see some of the organization’s younger players get their first-ever taste of facing big league hitters/pitchers.
Yesterday, highly-touted prospect Wade Miley got a chance to face Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval, players that he watched participate in last year’s World Series.
“It’s was awesome,” said Miley, who admitted to having nerves during his first inning of work. It’s tough facing those guys after you grew up watching them. Everybody’s human, but you have to make pitches.”
D-backs skipper Kirk Gibson said after the game that there were “some situational things we have to understand better.”
I’m assuming one of them was a baserunning gaffe by Tony Abreu, who got tagged out at third on a grounder to the hole at short. I say that I’m assuming that because Gibson declined to explain what he meant by his comment.
“I don’t want to single anybody out because it’s my job to make sure they understand it,” he said.
Speaking of Gibson and baserunning, it sounds like he wants his guys to push the envelope this spring.
“I’d rather reel them in than have to kick them in the butt,” he said.
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Boy, you go on vacation for a week and when you get back you find the team you’re covering is talking about trading its franchise player. Seriously, though, I returned from a week away to find my in box overflowing with questions about the Justin Upton trade rumors as well as a couple of the moves the D-backs did make. Here’s a look at some of the more frequently asked questions:
How serious are the D-backs about trading Upton?
The D-backs are serious about listening to offers for Upton, but from what I understand they would have to be overwhelmed to make a deal. I don’t think it is to the point of say the Dan Haren trade talks of July where the team came to a decision that it was going to deal Haren and then went about finding what it felt like was the best deal out there. In this case, they are listening, but do not feel any pressure whatsoever to deal Upton and therefore would be more than happy to hang onto him if they are not knocked off their feet with an offer.
Why even discuss trading Upton?
If you didn’t realize it before, GM Kevin Towers has no fear when it comes to making moves. What, you thought they called him “The Gunslinger” because he liked Westerns? There may be some GMs who feel they have players who are “untouchable”. Towers feels like anyone on his roster is available — for a price. In the case of Upton, or shortstop Stephen Drew, that price is going to be extremely high. With that in mind, why not at least explore and see what is out there? Worst case you don’t get overwhelmed, you keep Upton and you move on.
Do the D-backs have less of an opinion of Upton than the rest of baseball does? Is that why they are considering trading him?
I’ve seen speculation that the D-backs may have questions about Upton’s makeup and I don’t believe that is the case. To me, the fact that they think they can go through these trade talks, hang onto him and not have it be a lingering issue speaks to the level of maturity they feel Upton has. I think what sometimes gets lost about Upton is that after three-plus years in the big leagues, he is still just 23 years old. He is an incredibly gifted athlete, who gets along with his teammates and has a tremendous desire to be great and he gets very angry when he doesn’t live up to his own expectations, which believe it or not are greater than even what others expect. Eventually he will learn to channel that anger better, but as it is now it’s not a problem or flaw because it is anger directed inward and not outward at his teammates or coaches.
What are their plans for Juan Miranda?
The D-backs acquired the first baseman from the Yankees last week in exchange for Minor League pitcher Scott Allen. From what I understand, he’s got excellent power and a good idea of how to execute an at-bat — in other words, pitch recognition, working the count etc. He’s someone that had been on the previous regime’s radar and is a player that Towers liked when he saw him while working as a consultant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman this past season. Miranda, who is out of Minor League options, will compete with Brandon Allen for playing time at first base this spring. A left-handed hitter, he may be more effective as a platoon player, but worst case he could be an effective player coming off the bench. The D-backs have talked for the last few years about having more competition for roster spots and Miranda pushes Allen and in turn that also pushes outfielder Gerardo Parra because Allen is a candidate to see playing time in left field as well. It would not surprise me to see the team still add a right-handed hitter that can play first base against lefties.
Who is Juan Jaime?
The D-backs claimed Jaime off waivers from the Nationals. A right-handed pitcher, Jaime missed the 2010 season after having Tommy John surgery in April. Prior to the injury the D-backs’ reports had him throwing 97-100 mph with a plus slider to go with it. Those kinds of arms are not easy to find so for the $20,000 waiver price the D-backs decided to invest a roster spot in him as he completes his rehab. He is expected to be back by midseason in 2011 and has two Minor League options left. Basically they are taking a flier on him and see what happens. They project him as a back end of the bullpen type pitcher when healthy. Again, this is the way Towers has gone about building bullpens over his career. He looks anywhere and everywhere to find them. Some of them will pan out, others won’t. It will be interesting to see what happens with Jaime.
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.
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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.
A little bit of a late start for the D-backs today as they had their annual meeting with the Players Association in the morning.
— Tony Abreu left camp on Friday to attend to a family issue, but is not expected to miss much time and could be back as soon as Saturday.
— Brandon Webb had a “really good” long-toss session Friday according to pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.
One of the issues that Webb has faced in his comeback is getting his timing/mechanics down. One trick that Stottlemyre tried with him Friday that paid dividends was rolling the ball to him before he threw, that way he had his feet moving and that prompted him to get his arm up and into the right position quicker.
All three bullpen sessions Webb has thrown so far this spring have been separate from his teammates, but he’s feeling good enough now that he’s going to throw his next session Sunday with the other pitchers.
— Third baseman Mark Reynolds and outfielder Justin Upton wore wireless mics for a Major League Baseball Productions feature.
“I don’t think I’ve said anything interesting,” Reynolds said near the end of the workout.
— Dan Haren looked sharp while throwing a live batting practice session.
“He was painting as usual,” Reynolds said alluding to Haren’s pinpoint control even this early in camp.
For Haren the session helped jump start where his progress this spring.
“I was getting to a lull period where I was getting to the point where I needed to be,” Haren said. “It’s amazing you get a hitter standing in there and the adrenaline pumping and everything seemed right. I’m happy with the way today went.”
Each year Haren tries to work on something to improve and try and get better. One thing is trying to improve his second halves which have caused him some issues the past couple of years.
“I’m going to do a little more maintenance stuff during the season and try to be better toward the end,” Haren said. “Hopefully I’ll get off to a good start, I’ve had the ability to do that the last few years and just keep that momentum throughout and hopefully come the second half we’re playing for something and that always makes it easier.”
That Haren has had some good stretches in the second half is proof to him that it’s not a physical issue.
“It’s definitely not a fatigue thing,” he said. “It’s the ability to bounce back after a rough one and some of it can be mental more than physical because my stuff is there at the end of the year. You get hit around one or two times in the big leagues it’s not easy to get out there that third time. You lose a little bit of confidence.”
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.
It was like the first day of school in the D-backs’ clubhouse Saturday morning prior to the initial pitcher/catcher workout of the spring.
A quick note and a couple of photos before heading over to watch the workout:
— Blaine Boyer has lost 22 pounds and 12 percent body fat since the end of last season and looks like he’s in outstanding shape.
Below are a couple of photos. I know they are not great, but I’m using my Blackberry to take them so hang with me.
D-backs outfielder Justin Upton left Sundays’ game after the top of the 10th inning with an aggravated left shoulder.
Upton swung and missed at a 1-1 offering from Padres closer Heath Bell and winced. After being looked at by a trainer and manager A.J. Hinch, Upton stayed in and swung at the next pitch to strikeout.
Upton was then replaced by Gerardo Parra in right in the bottom of the 10th.
Losing Upton would be a huge blow to the D-backs. The 21-year-old was recently named the NL Player of the Month for May.
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.”
Here are some additional notes from Friday:
— Justin Upton played in a game over at Minor League camp today. No report yet on how he did.
As for why they sent him over there for some at-bats, manager Bob Melvin said that they wanted to give him some ABs in a less pressurized situation. Upton has been struggling at the plate this spring and though he does not lose confidence when he struggles, he does tend to get angry. Then things feed on themselves and snowball.
“Some guys handle not being successful differently,” Melvin said. “I’d rather he get angry then down on himself.”
— Here’s how you know a pitcher had a tremendous outing: he is the one that has to tell the media afterward that he really did make some mistakes during the game.
That’s the position that Dan Haren was in after striking out 10 Angels in seven innings on Friday.
“Obviously good results,” he said. “But more importantly I got my pitch count up and got up and down seven times.”
Haren threw 93 pitches and the team will likely back that number down a bit in his final spring outing on April 1 so that he is fresh for his first start of the year on April 7 against the Rockies.
The D-backs are slated to face the Brewers in Maryvale on April 1, but it’s possible Haren could throw in a Minor League game that day.
— Ryan Roberts will start behind the plate in a Minor League game on Saturday and James Skelton will get a look in the outfield.