Results tagged ‘ Kelly Johnson ’

Lineups, links and the Duke

32 days until Opening Day

When we were talking to him about possible lineup combinations the other day Kelly Johnson said he thought the first decision the team has to make is where to hit center fielder Chris Young. Once that is decided the rest of the decisions will fall more easily in place.

Couldn’t agree more with Kelly. I know there has been a lot of talk about Young hitting leadoff, but I think he’s a better fit in the No. 5 hole with Johnson leading off.

Drew would seem to be a good fit in the second spot, but I know some are concerned about having back-to-back lefties at the top of the order. That could mean that maybe Melvin Mora would be the No. 2 hitter, but we will have to wait and see.

“I think we’re going to use the spring, I think you’re going to see a lot of different lineups,” GM Kevin Towers told us yesterday. “I’m sure you’ll see CY leading off at times, Kelly leading off at times. Is Mora a two-hole hitter or someone deeper in the order? I think you’ll see probably a lot of different lineups throughout the spring just to get a feel for what guys can do in certain situations and maybe what works best. I think it’s too early to determine who hits where.”

Too early to determine, sure, but never too early to speculate.

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Towers also talked about why Zach Duke was attractive to the D-backs even though he was coming off a disappointing season in Pittsburgh.

“Sometimes a change of scenery is good,” Towers said. “It kind of re-energizes you and gives you a chance to clean the slate and start anew. I like left-handed pitching, I like athletes. His stuff really didn’t deteriorate over the last couple years. He had a down year last year, but if he had a good year we wouldn’t have had an opportunity to get him.”

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Want to make a Towers pitching staff? Then you had better darn well throw strikes — that means you Jordan Norberto.

The talented left-hander walked a pair in his first spring outing displaying the trouble that has kept him from establishing himself at the big league level.

“It’s like his pet peeve,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “He’s told you guys he has no use for that. If you can’t control the zone it’s going to be a long year.”

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Here is a personal guarantee from me: After every one of his starts this year, Ian Kennedy will find a way to get the word “battle” into his postgame press conference.

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Joe Paterson was selected in the Rule 5 Draft with the idea he would be the team’s left-handed specialist, but during the spring he will face righties as well as lefties.

Paterson was impressive in striking out the right-handed hitting Pablo Sandoval on Sunday. Hard to see him having much long-term success against righties given his sidearm mechanics.

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If you haven’t checked out my colleague Nick Piecoro’s story on Josh Collmenter, it’s definitely worth a read. Very interesting how he thinks he developed his funky delivery.

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Breakfast with Miggy

43 days until Opening Day
8 days until first Spring Training game

Greetings from Salt River Fields where the D-backs will be on field practicing from 9:30-11:50 a.m. this morning and signing autographs as they start to filter off the field around 11:20 a.m.

The work, though, gets started long before 9:30 here. Manager Kirk Gibson has been known to get here as early as 5 a.m. and his coaches are not that far behind him. I showed up around 7 today and there were players who had been here for a while already and gotten in their morning warm up workout.

Something I noticed a couple of days ago was Miguel Montero walking around with a little tray of food. It looked like one of those frozen dinners.

Finally had to ask him about it today and it turns out he is working at improving his eating so he has meals specially prepared and shipped to him. As he headed in to heat up his breakfast he allowed me to snap a quick picture (see the bottom of this post).

Doesn’t look like a lot of food for a guy Miggy’s size, but what I know about nutrition you could fit in a thimble.

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In case you missed this story yesterday, you might want to take a peek at Kelly Johnson’s quotes about last season. Sounds like the second baseman was pretty unhappy with the mood in the clubhouse and the team’s mental approach last year.

Seems to speak to the reason the organization felt the culture in the clubhouse had to be changed this year.

Miggy breakfast.JPG

Notes from first pitcher catcher workout

46 days until Opening Day in Denver
11 days until first Spring Training game

Another beautiful day for baseball at Salt River Fields with temperatures again around 80 degrees and bright blue skies.

We’ve been told that players will be signing autographs each day around 11:50 a.m. local time. The club has gone out of its way to make sure fans are able to get up close with the players on the pathways between the fields. I also noticed today that the main stadium was open for fans to walk around and take a look at.

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Today’s stories:

Notes: Hudson healthy; Heilman eyes starting

Camp Gibby opens

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Turns out GM Kevin Towers misspoke Sunday when he said Zach Duke would be late to camp because his wife was due to give birth to the couple’s first child any day now.

Duke’s wife Kristin gave birth last Wednesday so Duke was there and threw a bullpen Monday.

You have to feel for him leaving his 3-day-old child behind to get on a plane for Arizona, but that’s sometimes what ballplayers have to go through as part of the job. For now, he will have to make do with Skype, something he says he’s been doing three times a day to see his baby Madison.

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Clay Zavada’s absence from camp seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Still not exactly sure what’s going on there. Towers said he had heard something about Zavada maybe not wanting to go “through this again” whatever that means.

When I talked to Zavada a couple of weeks ago he sounded pretty excited about the season so I’m not sure what’s going on, but it’s something I’ll continue to follow and keep you updated.

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Seemed like there might be some progress on the Kelly Johnson front. The two sides have until Wednesday’s salary-arbitration hearing to reach a settlement.

Johnson’s agent is now in town and the dialogue has picked up between the two sides.

“Dialogue is better than no dialogue and over the last 48 hours we’ve had a lot more dialogue than we’ve had in the last two weeks so I look at that as a good sign,” Towers said.

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Catcher Miguel Montero made some interesting comments about the culture change in the clubhouse with the influx of veterans and Kirk Gibson taking over for A.J. Hinch as manager.

“The last two years we’ve been losing 90 games, and it seems like nothing happened,” said Montero. “I don’t think that is going to happen again. If we lose again, everybody is going to know that we lost a game. I think that’s what it means. And I like that idea, because I hate to lose. Period.”

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That’s all for today. I’ll be back at it bright and early Tuesday. Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @dbackswriter.

Nothing new this morning on Johnson front

D-backs GM Kevin Towers said this morning there is nothing new to report on the Kelly Johnson arbitration front, though dialogue is expected to pick up in the next 24 hours as Johnson’s agent is now in Phoenix.

The two sides will go to a hearing Wednesday if a settlement cannot be reached.

The D-backs filed an arbitration offer of $4.7 million while Johnson’s side filed at $6.5 million. The second baseman made $2.35 million last season.

Notes from pitcher and catcher report day

47 days until Opening Day in Denver
12 days until first Spring Training game

Couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for pitchers and catchers to begin reporting to Salt River Fields with temperatures reaching 80 degrees under sunny skies.

It was a relatively quiet day. It’s called a report day, but technically the pitchers and catchers only have to check in by phone and besides most of the team, including the position players, have been working out at the facility for a while now.

Here are two bits of news to come out of the day:

DUKE TO BE LATE: Pitcher Zach Duke, who was acquired from the Pirates in November, may wind up being a couple of days late as his wife is set to give birth.

JOHNSON HEARING SET FOR WEDNESDAY: Second baseman Kelly Johnson’s arbitration hearing is set for Wednesday, GM Kevin Towers told us.

“We’ve certainly been preparing for the case as well as I’m sure they are,” Towers said. “I’ve said all along our hope is to avoid a hearing. I think being able to settle would be better for both sides, you know he wants to focus on the season. I think today we’ll probably have some dialogue.”

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There was a lot of talk today from both Towers and manager Kirk Gibson about restoring an identity for the D-backs and that’s something I’m sure I will be writing about more this spring. Towers was asked what happened to the D-backs identity from 2007 when the team won 90 games and went to the NL Championship Series. His answer I think is very telling in how his philosophy differs from former GM Josh Byrnes.

“They had a great bullpen in ’07,” Towers said referring to Tony Pena, Brandon Lyon and Jose Valverde. “They had several weapons coming out of the bullpen. I thought right then and there if they keep this bullpen together they could be very tough because they had very strong nucleus of young players.”

And then he moved on to talk about that team as a whole.

“They started facing adversity for the first time as a group and there really wasn’t a lot of veteran leadership around to maybe help those guys in how you deal with it and it just became kind of a domino effect and then there was probably some self doubt,” Towers said.

That’s why Towers believed that building the bullpen was so important this offseason as well as also adding some veterans to the bench. He will be mocked by some in the sabermetric community for that philosophy and it does go against the current thinking in baseball so it will be interesting to see how it all works out this year.

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Another thing you hear a lot of from those in the organization is the different atmosphere that Towers has created. Whereas in the past there was a feeling that the baseball operations department was separate from the rest of the front office that is no longer the case.

During the organizational meetings that were held last week, there was quite a bit of talk about how united everyone was. That to me seemed to be an indication that it was not previously like that.

“If there was a disconnect I don’t think it’s there anymore,” Towers said. “I think Wednesday when people left to go back to their homes I feel they were unified, ready for battle and their focus is on this season.”

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That’s all for today. I’ll be back at it bright and early Monday. Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @dbackswriter.

Daily D-backs Wrap: March 24

Don’t forget for up-to-the-minute news and information, you can follow me on Twitter.

TODAY’S STORIES

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.

March 11 Wrap

Don’t forget for up-to-the-minute news and information, you can follow me on Twitter.

Here’s a look at today’s stories: A Brandon Webb update, D-backs sign or renew all 22 pre-arbitration players and beat the Angels 4-1.

Really there’s nothing new in the Webb story, nothing that has not been obvious for the better part of the last week and that is that it is unlikely that he will be able to start the third game of the season.

Now look, that doesn’t mean that he won’t be able to start soon after that, it doesn’t mean there’s something further wrong with his shoulder and it certainly is not time to panic about his availability for the long haul of the season.

The man is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had not thrown off a mound for the better part of 11 months. There were bound to be some hiccups along the way. This was never going to be smooth sailing.

Let’s see what happens over the next week or so. It sure sounds like he just needs to get over the hump or plateau that he’s at right now (and by the way I’ve used the word “stagnant” in my stories more in the past week than I previously had used in my entire career). If he’s able to get over that hump/off that plateau/unstagnanted it could be a quick progression for him. If not…well there’s plenty of time to delve into what that means for the team.

I know that GM Josh Byrnes told The Arizona Republic in December “I don’t think there’s any scenario where it doesn’t go well for him and we’re able to overcome that.” But keep in mind that was before the team signed second baseman Kelly Johnson, reliever Bob Howry and first baseman Adam LaRoche so I’m not sure that quote is operative any longer.

Am I saying the D-backs are going to win the NL West without Webb pitching well for most of the season? No. But then again I’m not sure they win the division even with him pitching well for most of the season.

What I am saying is there is a chance they win the division with him and there’s a chance they win it without him. Surely his health will be a big factor, but there are lots of others.

Anyway, that’s more than enough about Webb for one day. Let’s take a look at some other things to come out of the game today:

– You can’t help but be impressed so far with Edwin Jackson. He threw a solid three innings today and was so efficient he had to go down to the bullpen to throw 15 more pitches so he would reach his pitch count for the day.

“Nasty stuff,” catcher Miguel Montero said about Jackson.

“Still trying to work on things,” Jackson said. “Still fine tuning.”

– Reliever Leo Rosales has looked really good this spring. The right-hander allowed a home run to Mike Napoli (what else is new, Napoli has three homers already this spring) but in two spring outings he’s retired six of the seven batters he’s faced.

“Leo’s thrown the ball well,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said.

Rosales kind of flew under the radar a bit last year — he pitched better than you think — and is out of Minor League options. It would not surprise me in the least if he makes the team out of Spring Training.

– Tony Abreu = en fuego.

Abreu started at third Thursday so if you’re keeping track at home he’s played second, short and third this spring. He was 2-for-3 with a double and a couple of plays in the field.

“Abreu continues to shine,” Hinch said.

Spent some time talking with Abreu after the game and it’s clear he’s feeling very confident and realizes the opportunity that he has to make this team.

– Chris Snyder hit his first home run of the spring, but more importantly has now played three days in a row — catching, dhing and catching — and has not had any issues with his surgically-repaired back.

– Aaron Heilman, who looked shaky in his first outing of the spring looked sharp striking out a pair in one inning. Since allowing four runs in one inning last Friday against the Cubs, the right-hander has allowed one hit in two innings.

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.

D-backs not done yet

The D-backs have solidified their bullpen and given their starting rotation a new look this offseason.

Their work, however, is not done yet.

With about $3 million left in their budget, the D-backs have an offer out to free agent Kelly Johnson and expect to hear in the next couple of days whether the former Braves’ second baseman will accept it.

Johnson is a player the D-backs have long liked. Though he has played some outfield, Arizona appear to be interested in Johnson as a second baseman.

If Johnson were to accept their offer and get the starting nod at second, the D-backs could shift Tony Abreu into a utility infield role. That would make infielder Augie Ojeda expendable. The team learned during the Winter Meetings that there is interest in Ojeda so moving him would probably not be a problem.

The D-backs could also elect to keep Ojeda initially and give Abreu more seasoning at the Triple-A level.

Even though signing Johnson would put them at their budget, the D-backs could wind up with some wiggle room if they were able to trade Chris Snyder and the $4.75 million he is owed next season. The D-backs had agreed to trade Snyder to Toronto earlier during the offseason in exchange for first baseman Lyle Overbay, but the Blue Jays backed out of the deal due to concerns about Snyder’s surgically repaired back.

The D-backs will also continue to monitor the free agent market to see if one of the prices fall for some players as Spring Training approaches.

Follow me on Twitter: @dbackswriter

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