Results tagged ‘ Kevin Towers ’

Some quick thoughts on Tony La Russa hiring

A few quick thoughts on the D-backs hiring of Tony La Russa as Chief Baseball Officer. Obviously we will have plenty more at dbacks.com following this afternoon’s press conference.

La Russa missed the wins and losses

La Russa had a great job with the commissioner’s office, but my guess is we’ll hear him say today that he missed the wins and losses that come with being involved with a particular team. He was a candidate for the Seattle Mariners team president position not too long ago and that was a good indication that he was itching to get back.

He’s not going to manage this team

From every indication La Russa is done managing and I would also believe that he is not interested in being a general manager either. Overseeing the entire baseball operations seems to fit what he has been looking for — a chance to put his stamp on an organization.

He will be fair in his evaluations of GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson

Keep in mind while La Russa has never held a position like this one he is extremely bright and you can expect that he will attack this new challenge very meticulously. He is a big believer in “doing things the right way” so you can bet he will be very even handed when it comes to deciding what to do with the baseball ops department going forward.

D-backs Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson address job status

CHICAGO — Kevin Towers looks at the team that he put together and the D-backs general manager is as perplexed as anyone at the dismal start.
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“I’ve been a part of some bad clubs, but most of the time I knew they were bad clubs, knew going into the season that we were going to struggle,” Towers said.
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The D-backs had far higher hopes for this season with a club-record payroll of $110 million, but they entered Wednesday afternoon’s game with the Cubs with a Majors-worst 5-18 record.
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With that payroll came expectations and Towers knows that managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall might be running short on patience.
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“I’ve talked to Derrick, Ken and they’re [frustrated] — rightfully so,” Towers said. “They should be. This organization has committed a lot of money. That’s what’s even more disturbing. You’ve got a payroll that exceeds $100 million and we’re off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. That’s tough to swallow when you’re an owner and you care and you’ve invested in a product and the product isn’t performing. I’m sure they’ve grown impatient and I don’t blame them.”
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D-backs manager Kirk Gibson knows that there has been speculation about his job status, but he is trying to remain focused on getting his team turned around.
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“I don’t worry about that part,” Gibson said of his job status. “I just come in here and am positive every day. We try to analyze what we can do [better] and we just prepare and try to get the guys to prepare and have a positive day and a good game.”
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Regardless of how positive they are, or what Towers or Gibson do, the reality is that it is up to the players on the field and Towers issued a bit of a challenge Wednesday.
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“It’s a team that should be performing a lot better than they are and it’s not like help is on its way,” Towers said. “These guys are the guys who are going to have to get it done. If not, your legacy is that you were part of one of the worst teams in Diamondbacks franchise history. To me, I’ve got incredible pride — and hopefully they do and they’re going to have to find a way to turn it around or that will be their legacy.”
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When asked if he thought that he would be given a chance to continue as GM and be given a chance to fix what’s wrong with the team, Towers deferred the query to Kendrick and Hall.
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“That’s a question you need to ask them,” Towers said. “I don’t think they dislike Gibby or myself. They’re good people. They’ve been great to us. But Gibby and I are smart enough to know that this is what you get paid to do. You get paid to hopefully go out and win ballgames. But I think we’re all accountable. Everybody. It’s players, it’s us, it’s coaches. We all should be wearing this right now and finding a way to turn this around.”
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When he took over as GM in Sept. 2010, Towers inherited Gibson, who had been named interim manager in July.
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The two quickly formed a bond and Towers elected after that season to rehire Gibson. The pair won a division championship together in 2011, which was followed up by back-to-back .500 seasons.
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After last season the organization declined to pick up the contract options on the pair for 2015, but then announced extensions of unspecified lengths for both just before the start of Spring Training.
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As of Wednesday, Towers was still standing behind Gibson.
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“I think the world of Gibby,” Towers said. “He’s a fierce competitor. He cares. But ultimately, it’s how do they respond? Players may ultimately get GMs and managers fired, but they don’t do it, it comes from up above. But how they respond to different things, our livelihood kind of lies in their hands. That’s just the truth and it does. They perform good, we have job security. They don’t perform well, we don’t have job security. That’s probably what makes it tough on Gibby and myself. You can’t go out and swing the bat or throw a ball. You’re sitting and evaluating, watching. You try to find different ways to get it done but you can’t go out and play the game for them.”
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Gibson, for his part, continues to stand behind his players in terms of the effort they’re putting forth.
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“Yeah, they’re busting their [butts],” he said. “When you don’t score runs it looks bad. When you don’t pitch, it looks bad. It always will. It always has. Things are magnified when we make an error and somebody hits a home run. It looks bad. Anybody going to question anybody on our team’s attitude and dedication and how they prepare when they make an error? They better not.”

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.”

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