Results tagged ‘ Stephen Drew ’

More on Kevin Towers

Even when it comes to online stories, there is only so much room to fit things in. So below is a look at some of what the key players had to say today at the press conference to announce the hiring of Kevin Towers. Big tip of the cap to Andrew Pentis for his help today.

On his philosophy on building a team: “I’m a big believer in pitching. I think pitching is what wins, not to say that I take offense lightly, but pitching to me is paramount, especially the bullpen, especially in the National League, especially in the NL West. This is probably one of the better hitter’s ballparks in the NL West, probably one of the top five offensive parks in baseball. To me, pitching is the name of the game. You look at clubs that go deep into postseason — especially these days — I think the ones that are pitching dominant are usually the ones that end the year on top.”

On the attributes he looks for in a pitcher: “Size, strength, aggressiveness, strikeout ability, pound the zone, not afraid to pitch inside, good secondary pitch.”

Towers went to the postseason four times in his 14 years with the Padres and he did it with payroll limitations. That’s one of the things that impressed D-backs team president and CEO Derrick Hall.

 “When you’re a small-market or middle-market club, you’re going to have to be a little more creative,” Towers said. “You have to start digging down deep in A-ball and Double-A and finding those players that have the potential to be those type of players maybe before they get on the other teams’ radar screen. That’s what happens in [Luke] Gregerson’s case, in [Heath] Bell’s case, [Edward] Mujica’s case, [Mike] Adam’s case. To me, it really comes down to having good scouts. GMs are always going to look good or bad based on the product that’s out there, but to me it’s really the scouts out there that are finding those players.”

On his reputation for putting together good bullpens: “Putting a together a strong bullpen — to me, it’s several weapons, not just the closer. To me, you should have five to six guys that can pitch in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings against a middle-of-the-order hitter and be able to get a strikeout.”

With the D-backs approaching the Major League record for strikeouts in a season, Towers was asked for his thoughts on the team’s tendency to whiff: “With power, usually comes strikeouts. They usually go hand in hand. Personally, I like contact hitters. I like guys that have good pitch recognition. Strikeouts are a part of the game, but if you have four or five of six guys in your lineup [who are prone to whiff], it’s hard to sustain any sort of rally. I’m a big believer in pitch recognition, grinding out an at-bat, seeing a lot of pitches. I need a little bit more time to evaluate. That’s why I’m looking forward to this road trip and talking to the coaching staff, but there are some nice hitters on this ballclub right now. The strikeouts are somewhat alarming. You certainly need to cut that back and would like to see certainly breaking a record for more walks than strikeouts.”

There has been some criticism in the past about the Drafts that Towers had in San Diego. I talked to Hall about it and he said there were underlying factors in a lot of those cases not the least of which were financial restrictions.

“We learned a lot more about his decisions and why they were made,” Hall said. “We’re not concerned at all about scouting and player development. In fact I’m excited about what he brings because it’s an area we need to improve on.”

Towers then shared some of his philosophies on Draft picks: “The most important thing about the draft is just the process to make sure that you get several looks at players. I know this year we have two very, very high picks, which is a good thing. From everything I hear from scouts and amateur scouts, there’s a lot of depth in this year’s draft. I’ve always been a big believer in [selecting] position players early. Hitters usually don’t slide. Power comes late, but guys that have that knack of putting the sweet spot on the ball — you don’t get those guys deep in the draft. If you want the good hitter, the proven hitter, you’re going to have to take him early.  You get a little bit luckier with pitchers deep in the draft. Sometimes their velocity doesn’t come for a couple a years. Less chance of injury with a position player. I’m not opposed to high school versus college. I like hitters early. To me, I’ve always relied on my scouting director.”

On the biggest difference between Arizona and San Diego: “The way the ballpark plays. This is much more of a hitter-friendly ballpark. The only way it would change is we weren’t afraid to take chances on flyball pitchers [like Chris Young]. That probably wouldn’t play very well here whereas in PETCO [Park] that wouldn’t bother us that much. The type of pitcher that you’re going to go after is probably groundball pitcher, sinkerball pitcher, strikeout ability, command. In a lot of ways similar, but more groundball oriented vs. flyball oriented.”

Towers knows that a key for next year’s club is going to be finding a closer: “The guy at the end of the game is vital. There might be guys out there that are setup type guys or maybe even starters in the Minor Leagues. Heath Bell was a starter who became a closer. The tough thing is it’s tough to take one of those guys and pop them into that role right away. It’s nice to be able to kind of graduate them from the seventh inning to the eighth inning to the ninth inning. That’s not to say that couldn’t be done.”

During Spring Training in 2009, the San Diego bullpen was so bad that Towers said he told his scouts to look for nothing but pitchers the last couple of weeks and he wound up with key pieces like Luke Gregerson and Edward Mujica: “I was telling people that our bullpen in San Diego was basically put together in three weeks. In Spring Training we saw that it was so bad we started making changes. We said we’re not looking at hitters. I don’t care if Lou Gehrig is available for nothing. If we’ve got to get on the back fields, if we got to watch Minor League games, pitchers who are out of options, pitchers who have out clauses, that’s all we talked about. It can be done. It’s not easy, we’re going to have to take some chances on guys that aren’t proven and hope they can handle the closer type role. A lot of it’s the right instruction, the right game plan.”

– Padres closer Trevor Hoffman certainly enhanced Towers reputation:
“No. 51 made K.T. look like he was a pretty good bullpen builder, I’m not going to lie. I’ve been blessed. We had time with Hoffy there to be able to graduate [Scott] Linebrink, [Mike] Adams, but it’s hard to graduate guys if you don’t have a constant at the end.”

On the state of the NL West: “I would say it’s probably not as big of a climb as it was maybe several years ago when you had  two or three organizations that had over a $100 million payroll. The West to me is the Wild Wild West. It’s been a pretty volatile division, which is good. It almost gives you hope like the NFL where you can be last and, because of the salary cap, you can be first the next year. With the AL East that’s not going to happen.”

Towers was asked if there will be any added incentive in facing the Padres, the team that dismissed him last year: “Playing the Padres, I don’t know how it’s going to feel. I’m sure there will be some awkwardness to it. I’ll be just as motivated to beat everybody else in the division as I am San Diego.”

Towers has made many deals in his career, but the one he says was his most memorable might surprise you. No, it wasn’t Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka.

“The best one I ever made, the most important one probably was Sean Mulligan for two treadmills and $75,000 for weights,”
he said.

Apparently, Towers did not have money in the budget for the exercise equipment so he dealt Mulligan to the Indians in January 1997 for the treadmills and the money that he used to purchase free weights.

When he was GM in San Diego, Towers passed on selecting Florida State’s Stephen Drew with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 Draft and instead took shortstop Matt Bush, who proved to be a bust. Towers said the decision was dictated by financial limitations placed by ownership not on scouting.

“I should have taken Drew in 2004,” he said. “We targeted him as the right guy, just financial reasons. Hard to find middle of the infield guys that are solid, dependable, out there every day, accurate arm out there every day.”

Drew chuckled when remembering being passed over.

“I remember meeting with him at Florida State,” he said. “We just had a conversation and what he said he liked me and would like to have me. I respect him, there was no hard feelings when he didn’t pick me. It’s kind of ironic now that he’s going to be our GM.”

Wednesday wrapup

Here’s a link to today’s story in which Stephen Drew opens up about some of the off-field struggles he went through in 2009. It’s early in spring, but he’s really swung the bat well thus far.

Also did a short story on the debut of first-round pick A.J. Pollock.

– Bizarre happening during today’s game when there was a snafu with the Dodgers lineup. You can read Doug Miller’s story about it.

– Dan Haren was pleased with his outing today against the Dodgers. The right-hander gave up four hits over 2 2/3 innings and wanted to finish the third, but he had reached his pitch count so manager A.J. Hinch took him out in favor of Bob Howry.

Haren threw his first split-finger fastballs of the spring during the outing.

“Last time out I felt OK but I didn’t feel great,” said Haren, who threw 49 pitches. “I felt the ball was coming out of my hand a little better today. I used more off-speed stuff. And my fastball felt like it had a little bit of life to it. I’m still not out there max effort but overall I felt really good.”

– Another positive was the performance of closer Chad Qualls, who thus far this spring has not shown any ill effects from last season’s knee injury/surgery.

Qualls got all three batters he faced in the fifth to ground out.

“When Qualls is getting groundballs he’s right where he needs to be,” Hinch said.

– Hinch said before the game that he plans on having Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero catch back-to-back games over in Minor League camp before they do it in Cactus League games.

For right now, Hinch has alternated using the pair behind the plate and at the DH spot so that they can keep sharp at the plate without being taxed behind it.

– Gerardo Parra started in center against the Dodgers, something you could see a lot of this spring. Depending on who wins the final bench spot, Parra could wind up being the lone backup to Chris Young at that position.

Two players battling for the final roster spot — Drew Macias and Cole Gillespie — can both play center.

Thursday game notes

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.

Talking baseball gloves

Some baseball players will use their gloves for years. Shortstop Stephen Drew was oiling down his game glove Thursday morning, because if he doesn’t the six-year-old glove will crack. In fact, there are some cracks and even holes in it, but it’s broken in just the way he likes it and so he’s not changing.

It’s a little different for Chris Snyder. As a catcher his gloves take more abuse than any others so he switches his gloves out each year.

Snyder has two gloves he keeps ready (see pictures below).  He has his game glove, which he typically starts using in August of a season and his backup which bullpen catcher Jeff Motuzas helps him break in so that it’s ready to take over in August.

Snyder oils his gloves more than most people do, which makes them very soft.

“Some pitchers complain that my glove doesn’t pop when the ball hits it,” Snyder said.

Count Dan Haren among the group that teases Snyder for that.

“It’s like a Tempur-Pedic pillow,” Haren said of the glove.

Here’s Snyder’s gamer glove and below it a look at both gloves, the new one on the left.

Snyder gamer glove.JPG

Snyder 2 gloves.JPG

Drew update

Just got through talking with manager Bob Melvin, who said Stephen Drew is still feeling it a bit in his left hamstring and that he will likely be out through Sunday.

Drew’s hamstring

I talked to Stephen Drew after last night’s game and he said he felt his hamstring “grab” when he was running to first base in the third inning.

When he went out on defense in the bottom half of the inning it still didn’t feel great and he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to get to balls hit to either side of him so he thought it was best to take himself out.

Augie Ojeda is in the lineup for him today.

Drew leaves game

Shortstop Stephen Drew was removed from the game with tightness in his left hamstring after the top of the fourth inning.

Not sure how he hurt it. Only thing I can think of off the top of my head is that it happened after he tagged Fred Lewis out stealing in the second inning.

I’ll try to provide an update here after the game. Needless to say if Drew is out for any period of time it’s a big blow to an already scuffling offense.

Sunday notes

Here are a few notes on this beautiful Sunday morning…

– Conor Jackson was possibly heading over to Minor League camp to get some extra at-bats. I talked to him just before batting practice and he said whether he did so or not would depend on how his BP session went.

I’ll have more on his struggles this spring in a story later on.

– Manager Bob Melvin fielded questions about Mark Reynolds defense on Sunday. The third baseman has committed six errors in Cactus League games this spring and one against Team Mexico, which led a reporter to ask Melvin if he would replace Reynolds with Augie Ojeda for defensive purposes late in games.

It sure sounded like Melvin would be hesitant to do that at least early in the season because of the impact it could have on Reynolds’ confidence. I mentioned earlier this spring and I’ll say it again, I think the biggest challenge for Reynolds this year is going to be mental.

“He’s been a little bit hit and miss,” Melvin said of Reynolds at third this spring. “I moreso look for if he does make an error how he reacts to that. How does he handle the next ball?”

– Tony Clark was back in the lineup on Sunday after missing a few days with a sore right hand. Melvin said he would probably limit Clark to hitting right-handed on Sunday and hopefully have him in the lineup again on Monday.

Clark has swung the bat very well this spring compiling a .375 average with four doubles and a homer. If he can once again be the late-inning threat off the bench that he was from 2005-07 that would certainly be a big boost for the D-backs.

– Speaking of swinging a good bat, Chad Tracy has looked good all spring. On Saturday he did a nice job going to other way against a left-hander.

– Stephen Drew (abdominal strain) was back in the starting lineup on Sunday.

– There is plenty of debate inside the organization as to whether they will carry 11 or 12 pitchers to start the season.

Melvin has tended to like having seven pitchers in the bullpen, which usually means a 12-man staff, but with Max Scherzer set to begin the year on the DL, the club could still have seven relievers with just 11 men on the staff.

Drew update

Just heard from Bob Melvin that Stephen Drew’s ultrasound came back with good news. The strain is not thought to be serious and Drew could be in the lineup as soon as tomorrow.

I’ll post a story with more details soon.

Lineup (minus Drew)

Here’s a look at today’s lineup against the Angels at Tucson Electric Park. Note that shortstop Stephen Drew (abdominal strain) is not in it once again. D-backs manager Bob Melvin said yesterday that he hoped Drew would be back in there today after seeing Dr. Michael Lee yesterday.

Talked briefly to Drew this morning and he said he had an ultrasound taken of his abdomen and the results had not come back yet. I’ll ask Melvin about it when we meet with him shortly.

For whatever it’s worth, Drew is listed in the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Indians.

Lopez (2b), Byrnes (rf), Jackson (lf), Montero (c), Reynolds (3b), Whitesell (1b), Parra (cf), Ojeda (ss) and Dan Haren.

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