Results tagged ‘ Rusty Ryal ’

Thoughts from Maryvale

The D-backs won a pair of games today, 4-3 over the Royals in Surprise and 11-3 over the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park.

Can’t speak to what happened against the Royals, but here are a couple of things that came out of the game in Maryvale:

– Ian Kennedy is ready for the season to start.

The right-hander was impressive once again holding Milwaukee to a pair of runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

“Kennedy was good,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. “He got better this spring from the first outing to the last.”

– It’s going to be hard to keep Jordan Norberto off this team.

I know, I know I thought as recently as the last few days that the team would almost have to start Norberto in the Minor Leagues to give him some additional experience. But the fact is he has outpitched the other competitors for a spot in the bullpen.

After missing a few days with some tightness in his elbow, he tossed a 1-2-3 inning against the Brewers. His ERA for the spring is 1.04.

“He didn’t miss a beat,” Hinch said. “We shut him down for a couple of days from pitching and he hit 96 on the radar gun so he looked fine to me. He’s very much in the mix.”

Clay Zavada will pitch Friday against the Cubs at Chase Field, but regardless, Norberto has really helped himself recently.

– Rusty Ryal certainly has made a case for himself.

Ryal was a triple away from hitting for the cycle Thursday and he raised his spring batting average to .288.

How the last two spots play out on the bench between Ryal, Tony Abreu and Ryan Roberts will be very interesting.

“He’s continuing to push to the end,” Hinch said of Ryal. “It’s a pretty heated battle there for the position players. Nobody is going to give on this one. We’ll just have to pull the trigger and make a decision.

Said Ryal, “It’s one of those things where you have no control over your situation you just have to do what you do and stay positive. I hope today wasn’t just the convincing factor in any sort of manner because I’ve put a lot of hard work in this spring extra that people don’t see. To be real honest with you I feel like I’ve done all that I can do as far as off the field stuff. My performance, it’s an opinion, it’s a decision they have to make. Today’s a positive, mark it down as a positive and go from there.”

– Hinch would like to see the offense pick it up.

Recently the D-backs struggled a little scoring runs after swinging the bats well earlier in camp.

“I’d like to be swinging the bats a little better heading into the season, but we’ll see,” Hinch said before they scored 11 against the Brewers. “Towards the end of spring, I don’t know if it’s a mental problem, or are we facing better pitchers, but on the optimistic side is we’re going to show up and be ready to go. Collectively as a group I’ve been happy with how we’ve swung the bats this spring. With where guys are individually heading into the season there’s a couple of guys I wish that were swinging the bats better, but there’s also the middle of our order has swung the bat very well.”

– OK, I lied. I’ll make one comment about the game in Surprise: You have to feel for Jeff Bailey.

The first baseman/outfielder came to camp mentioned as being on the outside of the competition for the final spot or two on the bench. He was told the other day that he was not going to make the club.

Thursday against the Royals, he was 3-for-3 to raise his average to .471.

D-backs Notes: March 30

Kris Benson will get his first chance to show the Major League staff what he can do in person Wednesday. Signed to a Minor League deal a few weeks ago, Benson seems to be a likely candidate to become the fifth starter when the D-backs need one April 17.

The right-hander will probably go five or six innings.

ISSUES: When it comes to whether or not the team should pick someone up on the waiver wire or via a trade before Monday’s opener, Hinch said the team is open to it on the pitching side, but cautioned against expecting too much.

“That person is probably getting squeezed out of somebody else’s camp so you have to grade that against your own,” Hinch said. “I don’t think we have to add someone from the outside. Specifically Kris Benson has provided depth as far as the rotation goes. We’re going to carry an extra reliever to start the season, which is somewhat of a free spot on the roster. I think the guys that we have are good enough to break camp. I think some of them haven’t played as well as we would have hoped which creates these questions or controversies whether it’s internal or external.”

FINAL BENCH SPOT(S): I still think Ryan Roberts is a good bet to make the team, but he certainly has not performed particularly well this spring.

If you were going strictly by numbers it would be Rusty Ryal and Tony Abreu, but like I said I still think Roberts gets one of those spots. We shall see come Saturday.

D-backs Daily: March 21

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TODAY’S STORIES

D-backs fall to Giants, 4-3 for fourth straight defeat
Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson work on getting to know each other

When you think of leadoff hitters, you typically think of someone who is fast.

In the National League, though, the job description is a little different, at least in D-backs manager A.J. Hinch’s mind.

That’s because with the pitcher in the lineup a lot of times he sacrifices a runner into scoring position and then who follows him? The leadoff guy.

“He can be a run producer as well,” Hinch said. “I don’t think we have a traditional leadoff hitter on our so I’m going to be creative.”

Along those lines, Hinch decided to get a look at Conor Jackson in the leadoff spot for the first time Sunday.

In 2008, the last time he was healthy, Jackson led the team in on-base percentage and on the team right now, no one works the count as well as he did.

I like the idea of Jackson in the No. 1 spot, because not only does he get on base, see pitches and work counts, he is not a base-clogger. He’ll never be confused with Rickey Henderson on the bases, but he runs well enough and will steal a few bags.

Hinch said he might try Jackson in the leadoff spot again. Given the alternatives, I’d sure like to see him do that.

BETTER: Edwin Jackson was better Sunday than he had been in his previous outing when he allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Good, not great.

“Obviously the walks killed him,” Hinch said.

Jackson walked Aarond Rowand to start the game and then hit Andres Torres with a pitch before allowing a three-run homer to John Bowker.

Jackson said he had some trouble settling into a rhythm, but once he did he pitched pretty well the rest of the way getting in five innings.

“To get through five the way it started was pretty successful,” Hinch said.

Here’s a photo from today…

View from press box.JPG

MENTAL MISCUES: Hinch was not pleased with some mental mistakes made by his squad Sunday including the final play when Ryan Roberts, who represented the tying run, was thrown out to end the game trying to stretch a double into a triple.

There were a couple of positioning mistakes and Miguel Montero did not get to second on a fly ball that was dropped.

“That’s the disappointing part of today,” Hinch said of the mental errors adding that while he didn’t want to make too big of a deal about them they will be addressed.

NO WORRIES: Talked to Chad Qualls before the game about his outing the other day against the Royals in which he allowed six runs and lasted just one-third of an inning.

“I got the pitcher out,” Qualls said.

Qualls can joke, because other than that outing he has pitched well this spring (he had a 1-2-3 inning Sunday) and most importantly he has experienced no ill effects from surgically repaired left knee.

“I’m lucky enough that I can flush that one [bad outing] down the toilet and get after it today,” he said.

MAKE SOME NOISE: It started out with Hinch telling his backups during a game to get in there and “make some noise.”

And it’s now progressed to the “Hyena Club” because well hyenas make plenty of noise. There’s a picture up in the clubhouse (see below) of real-life hyenas with the club members listed. They are Cole Gillespie, Gerardo Parra, Ed Rodgers, Evan Frey, Rusty Ryal, Brandon Allen, Augie Ojeda, Ryan Roberts, John Hester, Tony Abreu, Drew Macias, Jeff Bailey and Sean Coughlin.

Hyena Club.JPG

“B” TEAM: The Giants had only one projected Opening Day starter in their lineup Sunday and they pitched Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum in a Minor League game in Scottsdale rather than have him make the trip to Tucson.

“With the Tucson trip you’re never really surprised by anything,” Hinch said. “It’s probably more disappointing for the fans.”

D-backs daily wrap: March 18

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TODAY’S STORIES

Mark Reynolds signs contract extension
Rodrigo Lopez and Kevin Mulvey make their pitch for jobs Thursday
D-backs fall 7-3 to the A’s at Phoenix Municipal Stadium

GETTING BETTER: Reliever Esmerling Vasquez, who is battling for one of the final two or three spots in the bullpen has pitched better his last couple of times out with his velocity picking up.

“He is pretty dynamic when he’s in the strike zone,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said of him. “With a guy who is 92-97 [mph] with his arm angle, he makes it tough on the hitter when he gets strike one. He’s not too far removed from that stretch last season where he was probably our most dominant reliever.”

KEEPING IT CLOSE: It’s been a very good spring for infielder Tony Abreu, but infielder/outfielder Rusty Ryal is keeping things close in the battle for the final bench spot. Even when Ryal has not gotten a hit he has tended to hit the ball hard.

“I’ve said all along, I think Rusty is one of the few guys that we have in camp that can play a bench role and have a chance to hit the ball out of the ballpark every time he steps in,” Hinch said. “He’s a strong hitter with a lot of power. Ryal is living up to our belief that every time he gets in the batter’s box you feel like something good is going to happen and he’s going to hit the ball hard. That’s a nice weapon to have.”

Hinch has worked recently to try and simulate the situations guys could find themselves in during the regular season, for instance using Ryal as a pinch-hitter against a left-hander.

COMPETITION? WHAT COMPETITION?: Lopez said he has not paid close attention to what people are saying or writing about his battle to claim a rotation spot.

“I’m satisfied with my job and what I’m doing over there,” he said. “I’m not going to worry about the competition. This is a team and I’ve got to take care of my business first and try to help the team. That’s what I’m here for. I’m not reading much in the paper and don’t watch much on TV. I think if I pitch good and pitch the way I have pitched in my career, I’ll have a spot in the big leagues.”

TAKING A DAY: I will be off tomorrow so no blog or tweets, but I will be back at it again Saturday.

Saturday’s wrapup on the D-backs

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TODAY’S STORIES:

Chris Snyder feels he has something to prove this year.
D-backs beat the Dodgers, 7-3, in front of a sellout crowd at TEP.
Walks hurt RHP Kevin Mulvey on Saturday.

CLOSE CALL: The competition for the final spot on the bench is starting to really heat up for the D-backs.

“It’s nice when the plot thickens a little bit,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. “We still have a lot of time left so there’s plenty of time for further evaluation, but to have them playing crisply is good to see.”

Tony Abreu, Jeff Bailey, Cole Gillespie and Rusty Ryal have all impressed in various ways. At the start of camp it looked like Abreu and Ryal would be the main the combatants given that the team probably would not want to carry five outfielders (Gillespie) or a another first baseman (Bailey).

It’s still doubtful that they will carry someone whose primary position is first base, but Gillespie may make them reconsider carrying five outfielders.

“It’s interesting how guys can change your mind or push to make rosters,” Hinch said. “I think with our roster and the flexibility we have it’s not inconceivable that we wouldn’t carry five outfielders. Gillespie is making a great impression.”

Acquired in the deal that sent Felipe Lopez to Milwaukee last July, Gillespie has hit the ball well — he tripled in his one at-bat Saturday to raise his average to raise his spring average to .316. In addition he’s shown that he can play all three outfield positions rather than just the corners, which adds to his value.

Abreu and Ryal have both played extremely well. Saturday it was a back and forth between the two with Abreu, who is hitting .478, tripling home a pair of runs in the fifth and Ryal coming back with a homer one inning later.

Ryal, who raised his average to .250 with a pair of homers, also made a nice diving stop at third and has shown he can play second, first and left field as well.

“Ryal’s diving play at third was nice to see,” Hinch said.

Abreu has already proved he could play second, short and third this spring.

“Abreu continues to impress at short,” Hinch said.

There’s still three weeks left and it will likely come down to what skill set Hinch wants in that final spot. Does he want a versatile middle infielder like Abreu? Or with Augie Ojeda already filling that role does Hinch want someone with a little more pop in his bat like Ryal? Or does Gillespie play so well that he forces them to carry a fifth outfielder?

Stay tuned. This could get real interesting.

WEBB UPDATE: Brandon Webb played catch again Saturday and there seems to be some encouragement building in him as well as Arizona officials.

“He feels great,” Hinch said. “I think the three or four day blow that we gave him was what he needed. He’s showing some more life in his arm. The good thing is he’s progressing at a more accelerated pace.”

Webb threw a few breaking balls, something Hinch took as a very positive sign though there is still no timetable for him to get into a Cactus League game.

“Hopefully sometime in the next week I’d certainly would hope to get him back up on the mound and get him back on his program of bullpens and whatever’s next,” Hinch said.

And let’s stop waiting for the D-backs to come out and say he’s going to start the season on the disabled list — Hinch gets asked that question every day — and just accept that he will not be making the start the third day of the season as originally hoped.

The D-backs will not need a fifth starter until April 17 so it will be interesting to see whether they decide to just carry four starters until then and if Webb could possibly be ready for that start.

“If he’s not going to make the third start of the season when is that next start going to come?” Hinch said. “I don’t know. But what I do know is as soon as he’s ready we want him in our rotation. But until then we’re going to compete and expect to win so when he does get back he’s a great addition to our team.

NO PLAYING GAMES WITH KENNEDY: With Ian Kennedy only throwing 23 2/3 innings during the regular season last year — plus another 29 2/3 in the Arizona Fall League — Hinch was asked Saturday if the team might delay the start of Kennedy’s season a little to help keep his inning total down.

“We won’t be interested in delaying the start of his season on purpose,” he said.

Instead, the team will monitor him throughout the season and if necessary give him an extra day here and there. Hinch, though, said the team expects between 160-180 innings from Kennedy, typically what a No. 4 or 5 starter throws.

TITLES: Hinch does not want to say yet whether Bob Howry or Juan Gutierrez will be the primary setup man to closer Chad Qualls.

“It’s a little early to worry about that yet,” Hinch said. “[Gutierrez] will pitch in important innings, though, that’s how I would title it.”

BACK: Outfielder Chris Young, who left the team for a few days due to a death in his family, was back in the lineup Saturday.

Notes from Friday’s game

Hard to know what was the bigger news today. On the one hand you had D-backs GM Josh Byrnes saying that it was possible Brandon Webb would start the year on the DL and then there was Mark Reynolds saying that talks on a possible contract extension were a distraction.

Here are a look at a few other notes from the day:

NICE START: Dan Haren tossed a pair of hitless innings against the Cubs, allowing just one walk while throwing 20 pitches.

A 1-2-3 quick first inning raised some concerns in the Arizona dugout that he might not get up to his pitch count in his two scheduled innings.

A walk to begin the second, though, allowed him to throw some extra pitches.

“It feels weird, it’s been a long time,” Haren said of getting back out on the mound. “To go out there and compete again is nice. I’ve got a long ways to go, but I’m happy with the way it started. I don’t necessarily put in 100 percent effort, I’m working more mechanics and you know getting a feel for all my pitches. I’m definitely where I want to be, but that being said I still have a long way to go.”

Haren threw some fastballs, cutters and curves, but did not throw his split.

“I’ll definitely throw a few next time and keep working on it on the side,” Haren said. “The goal is by the time April rolls around to have all my pitches feel crisp and ready.”

KEEP AN EYE ON HIM: I still think Rusty Ryal has a real good shot of winning that final spot on the bench. Hinch plans on playing him at second and third and he showed during a stint in the Dominican Republic during the winter that he could play left field.

Ryal’s versatility plus the pop he has in his bat should play in his favor.

“I don’t know if anybody outworks him,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s just continued to get better and improve himself at the plate. His strike zone discipline has gradually gotten better, the authority with which he swings the bat has gotten better. He’s forced himself onto the map as far as being an offensive threat at the Major League level. For him now exposing him at different defensive spots is going to be important to have him make the team and if continues to advance offensively you’ve got a nice player on your hands.”

NOW PLAYING SHORTSTOP: When he was acquired last year, Tony Abreu was expected to be the team’s starting second baseman in 2010. Then Kelly Johnson was non-tendered by the Braves and those plans changed.

Now Abreu finds himself competing for the final spot on the bench as a utility infielder. With that in mind, look for him to see some time at short and third as well as second this spring. He started at shortstop Friday against the Cubs and also played there in relief of Stephen Drew on Thursday.

“I’m interested to see how he looks at shortstop,” Hinch said. “He hasn’t played a ton of shortstop. It’s what he’s played the least. Part of the early part of spring is exposing to these guys to maybe a little bit of outside their comfort zone and see how they respond.”

THAT’S MORE LIKE IT: The D-backs played a much crisper game defensively against the Cubs after a sloppy 11-1 loss to the Rockies on Thursday.

“I think yesterday’s game was a little disappointing for everyone to be honest with you,” Haren said. “Not that we’re necessarily trying to win or lose, but we’re not trying to lose that’s for sure. Last spring we didn’t really play that well and I think it kind of trickled into the season. [Today] has been a pretty clean game and that’s more of the game we’re trying to play.”

BACK IN ACTION: Catcher Chris Snyder saw his first action since having surgery on his back last September. Snyder caught four innings.

“He came out of hit fine and he’ll catch again Sunday,” Hinch said.

GAME NOTES: Center fielder Gerardo Parra made a nice throw in the bottom of the fifth to nail a runner trying to tag up from third in the bottom of the fifth.

Justin Upton blasted a grand slam off the scoreboard in the fifth.

“I thought that was going over the scoreboard,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Upton’s homer. “That’s a long wallop. Upton is going to hit a home run off anybody.”

Ryan Roberts and Cole Gillespie also homered for the D-backs.

It was a rough day for Aaron Heilman, who allowed four runs on five hits in one inning of work.

By contrast young hurlers Wes Roemer, Jordan Norberto and Bryan Shawn all pitched well.

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