Results tagged ‘ Ryan Roberts ’

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.”

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.

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.

Spring Training is over

Boy, it sure seems like this spring has lasted forever. I know a lot of you out there love going to Spring Training games, but even you guys must be ready for the games to start counting, right?

It was good to see Ryan Roberts make the team. We’ll see how much of an impact he has — typically the 25th man on the roster does not get a lot of playing time (can anyone name the final player to make the roster out of spring last year?) but he’s a hard-nosed player, who deserved the shot.

We talked to him for a while today and you could just tell how excited he was about the whole thing. I’m sure when Opening Day comes he’ll be even more of an emotional wreck, but that’s good. It will be something he remembers forever.

– Jon Garland said he was pleased with the way his spring went. The numbers weren’t great, but he was working on adding a cut fastball and using his curve a little more so that could be a reason.

Really with a guy like that who has had success in the big leagues for the length of time he has, I don’t think you can be concerned with spring numbers.

The cutter he said felt great and he’s to the point where he is very comfortable throwing it. It’s a pitch that he can use on lefties to keep them from getting out on his sinker as much. They’ll need to sit back just an instant if it’s the cutter and that could be just enough to keep them from squaring the ball up on the barrel.

Some more clarity

With Travis Blackley no longer a candidate, the pitching staff is beginning to look a lot clearer.

There are four spots open in the bullpen, but it’s all but certain that Yusmeiro Petit and Juan Gutierrez are going to nab them.

Petit did not have a great first inning on Monday — he allowed four runs — but it appeared to be a mechanical issue. He was getting his hand under the ball, which caused his pitches to be up in the zone and he does not have the kind of velocity it takes to get away with that.

Once Petit made the adjustment the improvement was evident as he threw a couple of shutout innings.

If Gutierrez makes the team, and like I said it sure looks like he will, a big reason will be because he is out of Minor League options. The club loves his arm and 95 mph fastball.

As I speculated in the story, it sure looks like the other two spots will go to Doug Slaten and Billy Buckner.

The team would love to carry two lefties, which helps Slaten and he has pitched better of late.

“It’s good to see him pitching a little better especially when there’s some pressure on him,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Since changing his arm angle, Slaten’s performance has been much better.

Ryan Roberts helped his chances of making the team by showing he could go behind the plate and catch. He did it on Sunday in a Minor League game and in the seventh inning today against the Rockies he caught Slaten and then Gutierrez.

It was a successful debut, but one of the things he will need to work on is framing pitches and the way he catches breaking balls, but after watching him today Melvin said he considers him better than an emergency catcher i.e. someone you would only put behind the plate in a dire situation.

“Each and every time he goes out he’ll learn more,” Melvin said.

 

 

Bonus notes

Here are some additional notes from Friday:

– Justin Upton played in a game over at Minor League camp today. No report yet on how he did.

As for why they sent him over there for some at-bats, manager Bob Melvin said that they wanted to give him some ABs in a less pressurized situation. Upton has been struggling at the plate this spring and though he does not lose confidence when he struggles, he does tend to get angry. Then things feed on themselves and snowball.

“Some guys handle not being successful differently,” Melvin said. “I’d rather he get angry then down on himself.”

– Here’s how you know a pitcher had a tremendous outing: he is the one that has to tell the media afterward that he really did make some mistakes during the game.

That’s the position that Dan Haren was in after striking out 10 Angels in seven innings on Friday.

“Obviously good results,” he said. “But more importantly I got my pitch count up and got up and down seven times.”

Haren threw 93 pitches and the team will likely back that number down a bit in his final spring outing on April 1 so that he is fresh for his first start of the year on April 7 against the Rockies.

The D-backs are slated to face the Brewers in Maryvale on April 1, but it’s possible Haren could throw in a Minor League game that day.

– Ryan Roberts will start behind the plate in a Minor League game on Saturday and James Skelton will get a look in the outfield.

Davis, Roberts, arm angles and Miggy

– Thomas Harding wrote a good story today about Doug Davis feeling better after playing catch. Sounds like as long as there are no setbacks Double D should be ready when the season starts which is certainly good news. I am sure there were sighs of relief all around, because a number of people that I talked to were pretty concerned heading into today.

– Talked with Brandon Webb on Sunday about his first outing against Team Mexico and asked about his arm angle. He said it was much ado about nothing, that he may have gotten under a pitch or two which is something that will happen in every start.

I pointed out that he was quoted as saying that his arm angle was down a bit and he said someone asked him the question and that sometimes it’s just easier to agree than it is to get into the whole explanation.

For what it’s worth, GM Josh Byrnes, pitching coach Bryan Price and manager Bob Melvin all said they did not notice anything wrong with his arm angle.

– Ryan Roberts has certainly opened some eyes in camp this spring. It’s not just the numbers he’s putting up but the way he’s gone about it.

“It always seems like his uniform is dirty,” Melvin said.

When they use adjectives like gamer, scrappy, dirty uniform, etc. to talk about a guy that’s high praise in baseball circles.

Something that hasn’t been talked about much, but could help his chances is that Roberts has some catching experience, albeit on a limited basis.

He said he caught a couple of games or around 10 innings in Triple-A and caught a number of bullpen sessions during his time with the Blue Jays.

Melvin said that the plan is to have Roberts catch some bullpens and do some defensive work with Glenn Sherlock as camp progresses.

“It does give him some options and makes him that much more versatile,” Melvin said.

– The staff seems pleased this spring with the work of catcher Miguel Montero.

“He’s making some strides behind the plate,” Melvin said. “Sherls and he have worked real hard on things.”

Some of those “things” include blocking balls, improving his throwing, understanding hitters better and taking charge behind the plate.

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