Results tagged ‘ Tony Abreu ’
Good Morning from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick just a few hours away from the facilities first game.
How new are things here? You can still smell fresh paint up here in the press box.
Here is a look at the D-backs starting lineup for today: Johnson 2b, Parra rf, Drew ss, Young cf, Blum 3b, Pena lf, Miranda 3, Blanco 2 and Heilman p.
Other pitchers scheduled to throw today: Zach Duke, Mike Hampton, Juan Gutierrez, Micah Owings, Jordan Norberto and Brian Sweeney.
A couple of notes from yesterday’s opener against the Giants…
— Outfielder Justin Upton had a nice day at the plate going 2-for-3.
“I just ran into a couple of balls,” Upton said. “I was just trying to get a good look at some pitches.”
— A lot was made of Xavier Nady’s trouble throwing yesterday, but he did hit a nice opposite-field homer.
“It just feels good to be back in the swing of things,” Nady said. “It felt good to be out there and get some reps and get some serious at-bats and then go from there.”
It’s always fun this time of spring to see some of the organization’s younger players get their first-ever taste of facing big league hitters/pitchers.
Yesterday, highly-touted prospect Wade Miley got a chance to face Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval, players that he watched participate in last year’s World Series.
“It’s was awesome,” said Miley, who admitted to having nerves during his first inning of work. It’s tough facing those guys after you grew up watching them. Everybody’s human, but you have to make pitches.”
D-backs skipper Kirk Gibson said after the game that there were “some situational things we have to understand better.”
I’m assuming one of them was a baserunning gaffe by Tony Abreu, who got tagged out at third on a grounder to the hole at short. I say that I’m assuming that because Gibson declined to explain what he meant by his comment.
“I don’t want to single anybody out because it’s my job to make sure they understand it,” he said.
Speaking of Gibson and baserunning, it sounds like he wants his guys to push the envelope this spring.
“I’d rather reel them in than have to kick them in the butt,” he said.
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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.
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.
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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Really there’s nothing new in the Webb story, nothing that has not been obvious for the better part of the last week and that is that it is unlikely that he will be able to start the third game of the season.
Now look, that doesn’t mean that he won’t be able to start soon after that, it doesn’t mean there’s something further wrong with his shoulder and it certainly is not time to panic about his availability for the long haul of the season.
The man is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had not thrown off a mound for the better part of 11 months. There were bound to be some hiccups along the way. This was never going to be smooth sailing.
Let’s see what happens over the next week or so. It sure sounds like he just needs to get over the hump or plateau that he’s at right now (and by the way I’ve used the word “stagnant” in my stories more in the past week than I previously had used in my entire career). If he’s able to get over that hump/off that plateau/unstagnanted it could be a quick progression for him. If not…well there’s plenty of time to delve into what that means for the team.
I know that GM Josh Byrnes told The Arizona Republic in December “I don’t think there’s any scenario where it doesn’t go well for him and we’re able to overcome that.” But keep in mind that was before the team signed second baseman Kelly Johnson, reliever Bob Howry and first baseman Adam LaRoche so I’m not sure that quote is operative any longer.
Am I saying the D-backs are going to win the NL West without Webb pitching well for most of the season? No. But then again I’m not sure they win the division even with him pitching well for most of the season.
What I am saying is there is a chance they win the division with him and there’s a chance they win it without him. Surely his health will be a big factor, but there are lots of others.
Anyway, that’s more than enough about Webb for one day. Let’s take a look at some other things to come out of the game today:
— You can’t help but be impressed so far with Edwin Jackson. He threw a solid three innings today and was so efficient he had to go down to the bullpen to throw 15 more pitches so he would reach his pitch count for the day.
“Nasty stuff,” catcher Miguel Montero said about Jackson.
“Still trying to work on things,” Jackson said. “Still fine tuning.”
— Reliever Leo Rosales has looked really good this spring. The right-hander allowed a home run to Mike Napoli (what else is new, Napoli has three homers already this spring) but in two spring outings he’s retired six of the seven batters he’s faced.
“Leo’s thrown the ball well,” D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said.
Rosales kind of flew under the radar a bit last year — he pitched better than you think — and is out of Minor League options. It would not surprise me in the least if he makes the team out of Spring Training.
— Tony Abreu = en fuego.
Abreu started at third Thursday so if you’re keeping track at home he’s played second, short and third this spring. He was 2-for-3 with a double and a couple of plays in the field.
“Abreu continues to shine,” Hinch said.
Spent some time talking with Abreu after the game and it’s clear he’s feeling very confident and realizes the opportunity that he has to make this team.
— Chris Snyder hit his first home run of the spring, but more importantly has now played three days in a row — catching, dhing and catching — and has not had any issues with his surgically-repaired back.
— Aaron Heilman, who looked shaky in his first outing of the spring looked sharp striking out a pair in one inning. Since allowing four runs in one inning last Friday against the Cubs, the right-hander has allowed one hit in two innings.
First things first, here are links to a couple of stories from today:
Webb urges patience in judging rehab
Reynolds contract talks continue
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Chris Young put together another good day at the plate Saturday going 3-for-4 with a double, a homer and three RBIs against the Giants. Friday against the Cubs he had a line-drive double to the gap in left.
“It felt good,” Young said. “Scottsdale Stadium always brings a lot of energy. Packed house, lots of D-backs fans out there today.”
Young, who spent the offseason working with a track coach on becoming more explosive, had a bunt single in the first inning. Bunting is something he also worked at during the offseason. With as hard as he hits the ball to the left side, third basemen tend to play him deep, which would seem to give him an opportunity to lay the ball down some.
“I’ve got to use my speed more,” Young said.
In what has to be a good sign for the D-backs even the out Young made — a strikeout in the second inning — he worked the count and battled during the at-bat.
STARTING OPTIONS: Before the game I asked GM Josh Byrnes if Brandon Webb was not ready for the opener would he look to add a starter.
“I think we want to evaluate the guys we have and give them a chance,” Byrnes replied. “Like any spring, we have a good idea of players that could be available for a variety of reasons and we’ve got to scout them and decide whether we believe they would be upgrades, particularly if there’s an absence. Generally that activity happens at the end of the month, if there is anything like that. We’re in communication with our scouts so they’re aware of a hit list.”
NICE DEBUT: Edwin Jackson worked two scoreless innings in his first appearance in an Arizona uniform. The right-hander allowed a pair of hits and fanned one.
“I felt pretty good for the first day,” Jackson said. “Stayed around the plate for the most part, commanded the pitches, not a bad first outing.”
Jackson said he threw all his pitches — curve, slider, change.
“Pretty much came with the full arsenal today just to see how it is,” he said.
When asked if he was working on anything he said, “Stay around the strike zone, make them put the ball in play. Get used to pitching to contact and let the defense work behind me.”
Jackson did do one thing that gave Hinch pause. In the second he laid down a sacrifice bunt and stretched for the base at first nearly colliding with Aubrey Huff.
“I could have done without that lunge at first base,” Hinch said with a smile.
EVEN DOZEN: Arizona manager A.J. Hinch has hedged as to how many pitchers the team will carry to start the year, but Byrnes said Saturday he would prefer they keep 12 with 13 position players.
LOOKING GOOD: Tony Abreu drew praise from Hinch for the second straight day for his play at shortstop this spring.
“I’m impressed,” Hinch said. “I think he plays with great energy and has a knack for finding the ball.”
Abreu has made several nice defensive plays this spring and is Hinch said “right in the thick of it” for the final spot on the bench.
Hinch added that the club could carry both Augie Ojeda and Abreu.
STOP!: The big inning has been a problem for the D-backs in their first three games.
The Rockies had rallies of three and four runs in the opener, the Cubs put up a four-spot Friday and the Giants scored nine runs in the fifth Saturday.
“Those big innings are not what we want to see,” Hinch said. “That’s a point that we’ll recognize. Control the inning. Being able to stop the bleeding when you have the opportunity to.”
A little bit of a late start for the D-backs today as they had their annual meeting with the Players Association in the morning.
— Tony Abreu left camp on Friday to attend to a family issue, but is not expected to miss much time and could be back as soon as Saturday.
— Brandon Webb had a “really good” long-toss session Friday according to pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.
One of the issues that Webb has faced in his comeback is getting his timing/mechanics down. One trick that Stottlemyre tried with him Friday that paid dividends was rolling the ball to him before he threw, that way he had his feet moving and that prompted him to get his arm up and into the right position quicker.
All three bullpen sessions Webb has thrown so far this spring have been separate from his teammates, but he’s feeling good enough now that he’s going to throw his next session Sunday with the other pitchers.
— Third baseman Mark Reynolds and outfielder Justin Upton wore wireless mics for a Major League Baseball Productions feature.
“I don’t think I’ve said anything interesting,” Reynolds said near the end of the workout.
— Dan Haren looked sharp while throwing a live batting practice session.
“He was painting as usual,” Reynolds said alluding to Haren’s pinpoint control even this early in camp.
For Haren the session helped jump start where his progress this spring.
“I was getting to a lull period where I was getting to the point where I needed to be,” Haren said. “It’s amazing you get a hitter standing in there and the adrenaline pumping and everything seemed right. I’m happy with the way today went.”
Each year Haren tries to work on something to improve and try and get better. One thing is trying to improve his second halves which have caused him some issues the past couple of years.
“I’m going to do a little more maintenance stuff during the season and try to be better toward the end,” Haren said. “Hopefully I’ll get off to a good start, I’ve had the ability to do that the last few years and just keep that momentum throughout and hopefully come the second half we’re playing for something and that always makes it easier.”
That Haren has had some good stretches in the second half is proof to him that it’s not a physical issue.
“It’s definitely not a fatigue thing,” he said. “It’s the ability to bounce back after a rough one and some of it can be mental more than physical because my stuff is there at the end of the year. You get hit around one or two times in the big leagues it’s not easy to get out there that third time. You lose a little bit of confidence.”
The D-backs have solidified their bullpen and given their starting rotation a new look this offseason.
Their work, however, is not done yet.
With about $3 million left in their budget, the D-backs have an offer out to free agent Kelly Johnson and expect to hear in the next couple of days whether the former Braves’ second baseman will accept it.
Johnson is a player the D-backs have long liked. Though he has played some outfield, Arizona appear to be interested in Johnson as a second baseman.
If Johnson were to accept their offer and get the starting nod at second, the D-backs could shift Tony Abreu into a utility infield role. That would make infielder Augie Ojeda expendable. The team learned during the Winter Meetings that there is interest in Ojeda so moving him would probably not be a problem.
The D-backs could also elect to keep Ojeda initially and give Abreu more seasoning at the Triple-A level.
Even though signing Johnson would put them at their budget, the D-backs could wind up with some wiggle room if they were able to trade Chris Snyder and the $4.75 million he is owed next season. The D-backs had agreed to trade Snyder to Toronto earlier during the offseason in exchange for first baseman Lyle Overbay, but the Blue Jays backed out of the deal due to concerns about Snyder’s surgically repaired back.
The D-backs will also continue to monitor the free agent market to see if one of the prices fall for some players as Spring Training approaches.
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