Results tagged ‘ Kevin Towers ’

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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Follow me on @dbackswriter

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.

Tidbits from Day 2 of Winter Meetings

Here are a few tidbits that didn’t make it into my story Tuesday from the Winter Meetings:

– When asked about who would pitch the eighth inning for him, GM Kevin Towers said he would have to wait and see before adding, “It might be Jarrod Parker. You never know.”

Parker, of course, is the team’s top pitching prospect and a starter, who missed last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. So naturally when Towers mentioned it, all of our ears pricked up and he was asked if he was serious.

“We’ll wait and see how the spring goes,” Towers said. “I would say it’s probably highly unlikely. He needs to be built up. I view him a little like [Jake] Peavy. To me he is a guy you put right into the rotation.”

So don’t look for Parker to be coming out of the pen any time soon. Although, with The Gunslinger, you never know.

– A few new contract details about LHP Zach Duke’s mutual option for 2012. It is worth $5.5 million, but goes up to $6 million if he throws 175 innings in 2011, $6.5 if he throws 190 innings and $7 million if he throws 205. The buyout of $750,000 remains the same regardless.

– Heard that the D-backs had interest in Matt Diaz, but felt he was too expensive.

– Free agent Marcus Thames could be a possibility for left field.

– D-backs don’t seem inclined to sign a front-line first baseman.

Questions and Answers on Upton, other roster moves

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.

Some D-backs notes

A couple of small notes to get you caught up on the D-backs:

Over the weekend, the team outrighted pitchers Clay Zavada and Leo Rosales, which removed the pair from the 40-man roster.

Zavada did not make the team out of Spring Training last year and then underwent Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the rest of the season. The team will try and bring him back on a Minor League contract.

Rosales missed over three months in 2010 due to a stress fracture in his foot that required surgery. The right-hander compiled a 7.16 ERA this year.

In other news, the D-backs announced a couple of scouting hires today.

Bill Bryk and Todd Greene will join the staff as Major League scouts. In addition they will also likely be charged with keeping an eye on Arizona’s farm teams as well.

Bryk is a longtime associate of Towers and was the special assistant to the general manager/Major League scout in San Diego.

Greene, a former big league catcher, was most recently a Major League scout for the Mariners.

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.”

Dipoto to travel with D-backs

Jerry Dipoto, who served as interim general manager for the D-backs before the hiring of Kevin Towers last week, will join the team in Los Angeles next weekend for the final series of the year.

Towers has said that he would like Dipoto to stay with the club in a significant capacity.

For his part, Dipoto has declined comment. The trip to Los Angeles is a way for he and Towers to get to know each other better and to continue to discuss their baseball philosophies.

Webb won’t pitch for D-backs this year

PHOENIX — Brandon Webb will not pitch in any of the D-backs final six games this season, the team announced Monday.

Instead, the former Cy Young Award winner, who is trying to come back from shoulder surgery performed last August, will pitch Wednesday in an Instructional League game in Tucson, Ariz.

“I’m excited to go down there and get into game situations,” Webb told MLB.com. “Obviously I wanted to pitch in the big leagues, but this is the second-best thing.”

Webb said depending on how Wednesday’s game goes, he could throw Saturday in Tucson and then possibly Oct. 7 against the Giants at their Spring Training complex in Scottsdale.

The D-backs said that their Instructional League games would be open to the public and they would announce game times soon.

Webb met with new GM Kevin Towers, interim manager Kirk Gibson and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. on Monday afternoon in hopes of convincing them to let him throw an inning or two in relief this week. Head athletic trainer Ken Crenshaw and team executive Jerry Dipoto were also in the room.

One of the big advantages for Webb in throwing in the Instructional League is that it is a controlled environment where innings can be started and ended at any time. They could put runners on base if they want him to work on pitching from the stretch, or take them off if they want him throwing from the windup.

“Everybody pretty much agreed that this is a good opportunity for me and a better situation than doing it in the big leagues,” Webb said. “I’ll have to get back into covering first base, fielding bunts, pickoffs, stuff like that that I haven’t had to do in the simulated games.”

The decision not to pitch Webb means it is possible that he has thrown his last pitch in an Arizona uniform. The 31-year-old will be a free agent following the end of the season.

Drafted by the D-backs in the eighth round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, Webb made his big league debut in 2003 and finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting that year.

“I certainly hope that’s not the case,” Webb said of his Arizona days being over. “I’ve always said that I want to come back here. I’m hoping I throw well during the Instructional League to show Towers and Gibby that I’m healthy and that I’m going to be alright.”

Towers, who took over for Dipoto last week, said the decision was made with Webb’s best interests in mind and did not rule out him returning to the D-backs in 2011.

“For me it was a matter of relying on staff that has worked with him during the rehab process,” Towers said. “It’s a more controlled environment for him. By no means is this kicking Brandon Webb out the door with the D-backs. I’m looking forward to getting a chance to see him face hitters once or twice so that we can make a decision about next year.”

Webb was 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA in 2006 and won the NL Cy Young Award. He finished second in the voting in each of the following two seasons when he won 18 and 22 games respectively.

In each year from 2004 through 2008, Webb made at least 33 starts and threw at least 208 innings. He was the D-backs Opening Day starter in 2009 and was roughed up by the Rockies allowing six runs over four innings. That may turn out to be his final appearance for the D-backs.

Following that game, Webb complained of shoulder stiffness and after visits to a variety of specialists and numerous rehab attempts, he had shoulder surgery on Aug. 3.

The D-backs were optimistic enough about his recovery that after watching him play catch in October they elected to exercise his $8.5 million contract option for 2010.

Webb threw off a mound for the first time just before Spring Training and it appeared initially like he might be able to start the season on time. However he was not able to get the arm speed he needed and this summer has been filled with long toss, bullpen sessions and simulated games.

Finally, though, he will be able to get back on a mound.

“I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous,” Webb said. “Guys will be up there swinging. It’s not going to be like a simulated game. It’s going to be fun, though, I can’t wait.”

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