Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
A.J. Hinch stopped short of saying that Rodrigo Lopez had locked up a spot in the rotation, but it sure seems like the right-hander did just that with 5 1/3 shutout innings against the Brewers on Sunday.
“Very good,” Hinch said of Lopez’s performance. “That’s as good as he’s looked all spring and he’s had a good spring. He executed his pitches.”
So what else does he have to do to make the team?
“He’s doing all he can to make this team,” Hinch said. “Just keep pitching. We’re in no rush to judgment here ,but I’m happy with how he’s thrown the ball this spring.”
“I want to stay with the team,” Lopez said. “I think I can help them. I’ve just got to stay focused.”
It is not surprising that Hinch did not just come out and say Lopez was the guy considering that the other two pitchers competing for the spot — Billy Buckner and Kevin Mulvey — both are slated to pitch Monday night against the Padres in Peoria.
So what would they need to do tomorrow night to change how things stand right now?
“I don’t know,” Hinch said. “They need to pitch well. Lopey’s done a nice job of putting pressure on those guys and staking his claim on why he should potentially make the team. It’s good see. It’s good to see him come out and do well. It’s good for our team, it’s good for him and it creates a competitive situation.”
Has he put himself in a pretty good spot?
“Lopey’s put himself in a great spot,” Hinch said. “Each time out he’s executed his pitches. I’m happy with the way he’s thrown.”
After starting off the spring on the right foot, Buckner has allowed 13 runs in his last 5 2/3 innings and has an 11.66 ERA this spring.
Mulvey, who last pitched in a Minor League game last Tuesday, has a 3.68 ERA in three Cactus League games.
MAYBE THREE: Hinch on Saturday announced that Ian Kennedy had made the team, but did not say whether the right-hander will start the third or fourth game of the season.
“I’m not ready to back myself into the decision yet,” Hinch said.
One of the factors that works in Kennedy’s favor is the third spot in the rotation will get some extra off days during the month of April. That is the spot they had initially targeted for Brandon Webb for that reason.
SPEAKING OF WEBB: Nothing much new on the Brandon Webb front. The team is now having him throw from flat ground in “sets”, in a way simulating innings. That’s what the right-hander did Sunday morning.
“It went well,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. “We incorporated a little higher intensity, a little higher volume. We did sets. I don’t think it simulates innings. The ball is a little better. It’s not game ready or anything like that, but he looks a little stronger for longer periods of time and that’s a good sign.”
After the sets, Webb threw between five and seven balls off the mound, starting behind the rubber and stepping in front of the rubber and throwing.
“It was a little unexpected, but he felt good enough to do it,” Hinch said. “Really all that does is change the angle of the throw and where his land foot is. It gives him something different in his program that isn’t so monotonous and boring.”
Hinch is well aware that the next week or so is going to be tough for Webb, who will begin the season on the disabled list.
“The first part of the season will punch him in the gut too because he’s not ready,” Hinch said. “It’s difficult mentally and physically to watch the rest of your teammates getting ready for Opening Day. We’re trying to alter his program to try and continue to push him forward.”
HEALTH MATTERS: Other than Webb, the D-backs right now do not have anyone else set to start the season on the DL.
“We’re a healthy team and that’s a good sign,” Hinch said. “I’m very pleased with the life that we have in our bodies. We’ve gotten over the lull of the middle part of Spring Training and I see plenty of energy and readiness.”
CONGRATS TO KENNEDY: Ian Kennedy was told following Saturday’s game with the Indians that he had made the team.
Not a real surprise given not only the fact that they traded for him, but also because he’s pitched very well this spring.
About the only question is how many innings the D-backs will be able to get from someone who missed most of last season. It would not be surprising to see the team give him an extra day of rest here and there to try and keep that innings total down.
RIGHTING THE SHIP: While the day’s news belonged to Kennedy, the pitcher who may have helped himself out the most Saturday was reliever Clay Zavada, who has struggled throughout the spring.
The D-backs would really like to have a lefty in their bullpen and they are certainly tempted by the potential of Jordan Norberto, who has pitched better than anyone not named Juan Gutierrez this spring. The issue is the lack of experience for Norberto, but again he’s been so good that it’s not completely out of the question that he makes the team.
Anyway, Zavada had a much-needed 1-2-3 inning against the Indians.
“I’ve been battling,” Zavada said. “I’ve been working to get my tempo back and I’m starting to see better results. It’s been a bumpy road, it’s been tough. I’ve been working hard and I’m going to keep working hard.”
“It’s amazing what a clean inning can do for confidence,” Hinch said. “I think it was a good outing for him, for us.”
NOT SO GOOD NEWS: A.J. Pollock, the second of two first-round picks the D-backs in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft underwent surgery to repair a fractured elbow Friday.
The center fielder suffered the injury when he attempted to make a sliding catch during a Minor League game last week.
GM Josh Byrnes said Pollock could be out around two to three months.
“I’m glad he signed early and had a full summer last year and we’ll get him out there and then conceivably in the [Arizona] Fall League,” Byrnes said.
Signed out of the University of Notre Dame, Pollock is a polished player, who hit .271 last year at Class A South Bend and was expected to begin the 2010 season at high-A Visalia.
TUCSON APPRECIATION DAY: Sunday will be Tucson Appreciation Day when the D-backs play host to the Brewers. The festivities will commemorate the organization’s 13 years of Spring Training in Southern Arizona. All fans in attendance will receive a pennant honoring the D-backs’ Spring Training in Tucson.
It will be an important day for Lopez, who will get another chance to claim the No. 4 spot in the rotation. The D-backs will face left-hander Doug Davis, who pitched for them from 2007-09 before departing via free agency.
A.J. Hinch sounded a little exasperated.
With Opening Day less than two weeks away, there is still an opening for the No. 4 spot in the rotation as well as some spots at the back end of the bullpen.
“I’m waiting for one of those guys in the group either bullpen or the starters to come up and grab these spots,” the D-backs skipper said. “They’re open for the taking. I’m waiting for somebody to stand out above the rest. The group that’s competing for the last bullpen spots or the rotation it would be nice to get [someone] to win the job and stake their claim to the spot. It’s still wide open.”
Wednesday was Billy Buckner’s turn to impress and he was not able to make it out of the fourth inning as he allowed five runs on seven hits over 3 2/3 innings.
“He started out great and then he lost his delivery and got a little quick,” Hinch said. “He was trying to control the running game so it was the tale of two different outings. Early on I thought he was in command of the game and then it got away from him a little bit, that ran his pitch count up and he got in trouble.”
The other two contestants for the rotation spot — Kevin Mulvey and Rodrigo Lopez — threw in Minor League games Tuesday.
Lopez threw four innings while Mulvey pitched into the fifth before being hit with a comebacker. He was removed from the game after that as a precaution, but was not injured.
“They both threw well,” Hinch said. “Mulvey had a slightly better day than Lopez. They both got their work in and both got their pitch counts up.”
Yet neither put a choke hold on the job. Same deal Wednesday. All that was accomplished Wednesday is another day came off the calendar.
“That’s the way I felt like today was, nothing really gained by anybody,” Hinch said. “It’s close to the season so it’s time to move forward. There’s still a lot of time so I’m not overly concerned, but the outings are getting smaller and smaller by the day. I’m not frustrated as much as I’m eager for someone to win the job.”
As for the bullpen neither Clay Zavada nor Blaine Boyer pitched particularly well.
On the bright side, Aaron Heilman was sharp in his one inning of work and Zach Kroenke got the lone lefty he faced out. Leo Rosales also tossed a shutout inning.
BENSON START: A name to keep in mind for the rotation for when the D-backs need a fifth starter April 17 is Kris Benson, who was signed to a Minor League deal recently.
Hinch said he would like to see Benson in a Cactus League game at some point before the month is out.
UPTON OK?: Didn’t seem like too many people were worried about Upton’s ankle injury, a sign that it’s probably not very serious. Upton did not have any ice on it when he met with reporters and he seemed to be walking fine.
Hinch even said he had him penciled into the lineup for Thursday.
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MUCH BETTER: Ian Kennedy was impressive against the Padres, allowing just two hits while throwing five scoreless innings.
Kennedy is not known as a strikeout pitcher, but he managed to fan eight without walking a batter. Throwing strikes was something he wanted to accomplish and he did that and then some.
“I just wanted to pound the zone early on,” he said. “Worked really well with Chris Snyder today. He called a great game.”
The D-backs had to be pleased to see Kennedy bounce back after struggling against the Angels in his previous outing last week.
“The outing in Tempe I just kind of took it as a bad day,” Kennedy said. “I tried to learn from it and move on.”
I don’t think there was much question that Kennedy was going to be part of the team’s rotation, but if there was, I would think that there is no longer any doubt that will be.
“Ian was really, really good,” Hinch said. “He had good rhythm, he had good command he had swing and miss type stuff. A great outing. He hasn’t pitched poorly but he hadn’t pitched a clean game.”
He sure did Monday.
NOT AS GOOD: The day did not go as well for pitchers Jordan Norberto and Esmerling Vasquez.
Norberto came into the game having not allowed a run in six innings, but he struggled with his command and walked three and allowed a hit in lasting just two-thirds of an inning. He allowed one run, which he forced in when he gave Yorvit Torrealba a free pass with the bases loaded.
“It was good to see him under a little duress,” Hinch said.
While there had been some talk of Norberto making the team out of Spring Training, I always got the impression that the organization wanted him to get a little more Minor League seasoning. After all, he has made just 16 appearances at the Double-A level.
I still think he will start the year in the Minor Leagues, though it’s not out of the question they could decide to keep him. He’s certainly been extremely impressive. Regardless if he pitches like he did early in camp, expect to see him at Chase Field at some point this year.
Vasquez, who had shown improvement in his past few outings got out of the bases loaded jam in the seventh, but got himself into trouble with walks as well. The right-hander walked three and gave up a pair of runs.
SPEAKING OF THE ROSTER: Hinch said Monday that he is likely to carry 12 pitchers to start the year with eight of them being relievers.
If you figure that four of those spot are locked up by Chad Qualls, Bob Howry, Juan Gutierrez, Aaron Heilman and the fifth is all but taken by Blaine Boyer than it leaves you with three spots open.
I have to think that at this moment, Leo Rosales is a front runner for one. The right-hander has pitched well for the most part this spring and he’s out of Minor League options.
That leaves a couple of spots and a number of different options with Vasquez, Clay Zavada, Norberto and Zach Kroenke still in the mix.
We’ll see how the last two weeks play out.
WEBB UPDATE: Nothing really new here. Webb played catch again Monday. Hinch said they are being extra cautious in building his arm strength so that he doesn’t plateau like he did earlier this month.
While they don’t want to put a timeframe on him, it certainly seems like 30 days is the minimum it would take for him to be ready after getting back on the mound. So if late-April is going to be realistic, he will need to take a step forward soon.
DOUBLING UP: The D-backs grounded into five double plays wiping out numerous scoring opportunities.
“I could have done without all the double plays,” Hinch said.
Tuesday’s off day could not come at a better time for the D-backs, who seem ready for a break.
AT THE TOP: Conor Jackson hit at the top of the order for the second day in a row and you get the feeling that Hinch is really warming to the idea of hitting him there to start the season.
It’s really an excellent idea given that it plays to Jackson’s strength (getting on base, working counts) and the team truly doesn’t have a prototypical option there.
GOING UPTOWN: I’m late to the party on this, I know, but have you seen what the organization has planned for the right-field bleachers this year?
TAKING OFF: Tuesday will be an off day for the D-backs so this blog will be dark for the day, but will be back up and running from Glendale on Wednesday.
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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…
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.
“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.”
Tuesday is the lone scheduled off day of the spring for the D-backs.
Not everyone, however, will get the time away from the ballpark.
Kevin Mulvey and Rodrigo Lopez, who are both battling for a spot in the rotation will start Minor League games Tuesday as a way to get some extra work in.
The pair have not gotten as much work as others because they have split up their starts. Lopez, in fact, was so efficient with his pitches in his last outing against the A’s that he threw just 31 pitches in three innings and had to go to the bullpen to throw more.
Here are some notes from the D-backs 11-1 loss to the Rockies in the Cactus League opener Thursday at Tucson Electric Park:
SLOPPY PLAY: The D-backs didn’t look like a team that had spent extra time on fundamentals and team defense with some lapses in the 11-1 loss to the Rockies.
“You have a sun ball, you have a misplay on a ball back to the pitcher,” Hinch said. “We couldn’t close out innings, they scored a lot of two-out runs. So in the context of the game they did a lot right. In the context of how we did, it’s Day One and I’ll look at some good things and a couple of things we’ll address tomorrow.”
CUT ME: Starter Billy Buckner allowed a pair of first-inning runs, but the right-hander had an impressive cut fastball on the day. Buckner said he threw four or five of them and got swings and misses on every one.
“I thought he rebounded pretty well after a rough start,” Hinch said. “He just couldn’t get out of the first inning, but he bounced back with a nice inning in the second inning which showed me a little something. Pitch down and pitch to contact are the two things that I would take away from today [for him].”
IMPRESSIVE: Reliever Leo Rosales, who is competing for one of the final bullpen spots, got three comebackers in the ninth inning.
All three of the outs came on his signature changeup.
“I was just trying to locate down in the zone,” Rosales said. “They were swinging the bat today so it was important for me to pound the zone at the knees.”
Rosales is out of Minor League options and would need to be placed on waivers if the team tries to send him to Triple-A Reno at the end of the spring.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Hinch plans on playing shortstop Stephen Drew and newly-acquired second baseman Kelly Johnson together as often as possible this spring to help them get comfortable with one another.
“Obviously there’s the feeds and turns, communication throughout the game on who has the bag and learning any odds and ends or quirks,” Hinch said. “Mostly it’s the turns and the tweener balls up the middle that both can get to, popup communication, things like that that are very easy to talk about in a clubhouse, but then when game speed picks up and instincts take over that’s when you see guys that haven’t played together. Timing of when to get the ball to each other on double plays is probably the most significant play that needs to be practiced. You can do all the drills you want until the game speed that’s where you really find out.”
12 AND 13? STAY TUNED: Hinch said he had not decided yet whether the team would carry 13 position players and 12 pitchers at the start of the year.
“I think that’s a good question at the end of camp,” Hinch said. “One of the advantages we have is that almost all the guys that are in these competitions have [Minor League] options so the roster flexibility at the end of camp will be pretty good.”
HUSH HUSH: Unlike past years, the D-backs will not announce starting lineups a day or two in advance. Third baseman Mark Reynolds and first baseman Adam LaRoche, though, are expected to start Friday.
FRIDAY PITCHING: Dan Haren will start against the Cubs. Wes Roemer, Clay Zavada, Jordan Norberto, Bryan Shaw, Esmerling Vasquez and Aaron Heilman are also scheduled to pitch.
SATURDAY PITCHING: Edwin Jackson makes his Diamondback debut against the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. Others slated to see action include Bryan Augenstein, Kyler Newby, Jose Marte, Roque Mercedes, Blaine Boyer and Juan Gutierrez.
Today’s main story was on Chris Young and all the work he put in during the offseason.
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— There was plenty of sun Monday, but the weather still delayed things as the D-backs had to wait more than an hour to get started in the morning due to wet fields.
“We practiced our rain delay today,” manager A.J. Hinch said jokingly.
The D-backs were able to get in all their work with just a few grumbles about the long day. There will be one more session of live batting practice Tuesday and Wednesday they will look to go through their workouts over at Tucson Electric Park in anticipation of Thursday’s opener.
— Hinch announced that Rodrigo Lopez, who is battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, will start Monday’s game against the Indians as well as the March 14 game in Hermosillo, Mexico.
— D-backs special assistant to the GM Bob Gebhard has been back in camp after suffering a heart attack last week.
Taking a couple of days off was all Gebhard could manage. In fact, he tried to convince his doctor to let him go back to the office the day he was released from the hospital after having a pair of stents put in.
— Seems like the most asked question has moved on from Hinch’s relative lack of experience in the dugout to how he is going to handle his catching corps.
To restate, Miguel Montero is the starter heading into camp, but Hinch says that doesn’t mean that Chris Snyder is going to be buried on the bench. He is reluctant to get into how much playing time each is going to get, but says it will not be a strict platoon situation.
Hinch said pitchers would not have “personal catchers” and it will be interesting to see how that plays out with Brandon Webb, who is used to having Snyder catch him. The two have a very close relationship and Webb relies on Snyder game-calling ability.
Just a few extra notes from D-backs camp today…
— D-backs manager A.J. Hinch was impressed with what he saw out of pitchers Billy Buckner, Jordan Norberto and Kevin Mulvey while they were throwing live batting practice Thursday.
“Ball is coming out of his hand pretty well,” Hinch said of Mulvey. “He looks like his arm is in good shape.
“Buckner and Norberto probably threw the best two live BP sessions,” Hinch said.
— Norberto also caught the eye of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.
“Command, life, breaking ball, changeup, everything was in a tight zone,” Stottlemyre said. “He has a little different look to him this year in terms of confidence.”
Another young player that impressed was Bryan Shaw, a right-hander who was the club’s second-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
“Bryan Shaw really got his lower half in control, everything was down with good life,” Stottlemyre said. “It was good to see because he gets himself in trouble when he gets too quick, but we’ve been working on it and he carried it in today.”
— Clay Zavada threw some good curveballs during his batting practice session. His intensity during the session drew laughs from his teammates. Whether it’s batting practice or not, Zavada treats every time on the mound like it’s Game 7 of the World Series.