By Greg Dillard
With high expectations heading into Spring Training last season, A.J. Pollock saw his season lost almost immediately due to a fractured growth plate in his right elbow.
A year later, Pollock has returned to the diamond for the D-backs.
In Wednesday afternoon’s contest against the Seattle Mariners at Salt River Fields, Pollock got the starting nod in centerfield and played all nine innings.
“It was awesome,” Pollock said. “Anytime you get to start up here, it’s incredible. Just try to keep it simple, try to make some plays.”
His presence was immediately felt as the speedy outfielder raced into shallow centerfield to dive and catch the third out of the first inning.
“I always felt like I had that speed game,” Pollock said. “It’s just a matter of keeping your legs healthy. Everyone here goes through times where your legs just feel slow. I felt really good today, felt good to show it off.”
Pollock stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third inning and again showed off his speed by beating out an infield single. After striking out in the fourth, Pollock rebounded by drawing a walk against Seattle’s Edward Paredes.
In his final plate appearance of the afternoon, Pollock followed a Wily Mo Pena single with a single of his own down the left field line. Pollock later scored from second base on a Paul Goldschmidt hit.
After a strong first Spring start, Pollock is eager to continue his early success.
“Obviously, I just want to come out here and make an impression,” Pollock said. “That would be the number one. I just keep it simple. Make some plays, whether it’s with the bat, on the bases, or in the field.”
While it was only one game for Pollock, it’s clear why the D-backs think highly of their former first round pick.
“He’s a baseball player,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “Good energy. His game’s solid. He’s got good skills. Puts the bat on the ball, pretty good in the outfield. He’s really young, just a year out of college. Goes about his business the right way.”
Septimo solid in Spring debut
The D-backs have long known that Leyson Septimo owns a talented repertoire of pitches and a dominant fastball. It was all a matter of putting it all together on mound for the southpaw.
Against the Mariners, Septimo certainly looked like he’s headed in the right direction.
Septimo took the mound in the top of the seventh, and faced Michael Saunders to lead off the inning. He then quickly retired Saunders on a fly out to right field.
One batter later, Brendan Ryan smacked a ground ball back to Septimo who fielded his position well by hauling in the comebacker and throwing on to Juan Miranda at first base for the out.
Septimo then got Johermyn Chavez to ground out to third base to cap off the 1-2-3 inning.
Septimo has struggled with command since converting to pitching in 2008, last year in particular, so having him command his pitches is certainly a positive sign for the D-backs.
Jarrod Parker – Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
Last season, Barry Enright made a name for himself in Arizona after his promotion to the Major Leagues in June.
In 2011, Enright finds himself battling for a spot in the D-backs rotation and the right-hander certainly started Spring Training with a strong performance.
Enright made his Spring debut in the third inning of the D-backs’ 6-5 loss to the Rockies on Monday afternoon at Salt River Fields, and did not disappoint.
In his first inning of work, Enright swiftly retired Dexter Fowler on a pop out to the catcher. Enright then showed off his glove work as he scrambled to haul in a ground ball off the bat of Jonathan Herrera for the second out of the inning.
Enright capped off the 1-2-3 inning by inducing Charlie Blackmon into an inning ending ground out.
In the top of the fourth inning, Enright returned to the mound and promptly retired Troy Tulowitzi on a line out and Todd Helton on a fly out to the shortstop.
Chris Nelson stepped to the plate and smacked a double off the left field wall, but Enright rebounded by striking out Cole Garner to end the inning.
While Enright fell behind a few hitters, he was able to fight back and avoid walking anyone.
“I struggled actually getting ahead,” Enright said. “So that was kind of frustrating. But (I was) able to get some balls down in the zone, get a few ground outs, which helped. It was good to only give up one hit, but to get behind in the count like that, I can hurt myself. Just got to work on getting ahead.”
In the end, Enright posted an impressive final line of two innings, one strikeout and only one hit allowed.
Like for many of his fellow pitchers, Enright enjoyed returning to competition.
“It’s good to get back out there,” Enright said. “Had to wait till Monday to do it and was kind of anxious. Good to get back on the bump and get a few pitches under my belt.”
Following Enright, it was Jarrod Parker’s turn to make his 2011 debut.
After missing all of last season due to an elbow injury and Tommy John surgery, Parker and the D-backs have long awaited his return to the mound.
On Monday afternoon, the return finally arrived.
“I was excited,” Parker said. “Just tried to stay within myself and be as calm as I can. The adrenaline was pumping and I was excited facing the Rockies, a pretty good lineup in today.”
In the top of the fifth, Parker retired the leadoff batter Matt Pagnozi via the strikeout. Parker did get in some trouble, issuing three walks in the inning. But with two outs and the bases loaded, Parker responded by getting Troy Tulowitzki to fly out to right field to end the threat.
That would be Parker’s lone inning on the afternoon as he finished with three walks, one strikeout, and no runs allowed.
“It’s good to get the inning under my belt and get some outs and battle a little bit,” Parker said. “It was fun.”
Monday afternoon photos by D-backs photographer Jordan Megehardt:
Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Salvatore
If you’ve been yearning to get a look at D-backs pitching prospect Jarrod Parker in action, today is your day.
The young righty will pitch against the Colorado Rockies. Obviously, pitchers aren’t firing with 100 percent of their velocity this early in the spring, but you’ll be able to watch Parker in his first professional game since July 2009, at least his first outside of instructional league.
It will also be our first glimpse of Barry Enright so far this spring.
After a terrific big league debut in 2010, he’s fighting for a rotation spot alongside veterans Zach Duke, Aaron Heilman and Armando Galarraga. Coincidentally, Monday is our first look at Galarraga in a D-backs uniform as well.
Here’s a look at who will be taking the mound for the next three days (* – indicates first Spring Training outing):
Monday vs. Rockies at Salt River Fields:
Armando Galarraga *
Barry Enright *
Jarrod Parker *
Backups: Matt Gorgen, Leyson Septimo, Micah Owings
Tuesday vs. Rockies at Salt River Fields:
Matt Gorgen *
Wednesday, split squad:
vs Mariners at Salt River Fields
Leyson Septimo *
vs. Giants at Scottsdale Stadium
Follow me on Twitter (Insider_Writer) for in-game updates.
Photography: Jordan MegenhardtBy Greg Salvatore
As if the home run ball or foul ball you catch at Salt River Fields this spring could be any cooler, well, it’s also historic.
The D-backs and Rockies will use special baseball with SRF logos on them throughout Spring Training. Although uniquely logoed baseballs are common in special events like the World Series or All Star Games, it is believed that this is the first time it has been done in Spring Training.
The Salt River Fields logo is based on a concept by local Pima artist and calendar stick carver Royce Manuel. Manuel chose to incorporate a rattlesnake to symbolize the D-backs and a mountain to symbolize the Rockies. The logo also emphasizes the scenic mountain ranges that surround Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and illustrates the role of the rattlesnake in southwestern Native American legends.
Zachary Mazefsky from www.bigleaguebaseballs.com posted a two-part blog on the subject. Mazefsky’s site chronicles the special edition baseballs that are used throughout the game.
From Part 1, in which Mazefsky introduces Salt River Fields:
Indeed, this is an MLB commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig officially stamped ROMLB gamer – not to be confused with any souvenir baseballs. And all fans attending spring training games will have a chance to snag one of these babies throughout the 2011 Cactus League season. So for our ballhawks on the site, if you’re in the area, get down to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and don’t forget your gloves.
I’ll post an update here when Mazefsky posts Part 2 on the subject, which includes an interview with D-backs Director of Special Projects (and friend & supporter of D-blog) Graham Rossini.
I’ll be here all day writing about the first game at Salt River Fields, and go ahead and follow me on Twitter (Insider_Writer) for a lot of updates, Twitpics and such.
Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Salvatore
It’s a gorgeous day in Scottsdale as the D-backs are set to take on the defending champion San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium at 1:00 pm today.
I’ll try to bring some live blog details throughout the afternoon, including some quotes from Kirk Gibson’s pre-game press conference. This game is being broadcast on Sports 620 KTAR, so tune in on your radio in your car or office or wherever you may be this afternoon.
Here is today’s lineup:
1. Willie Bloomquist – 2B
2. Melvin Mora – 3B
3. Justin Upton – RF
4. Miguel Montero – C
5. Xavier Nady – LF
6. Brandon Allen – 1B
7. Wily Mo Peña – DH
8. Tony Abreu – SS
9. Cole Gillespie – CF
Starting pitcher – Joe Saunders
Also expected to pitch – Wade Miley, Kam Mickolio and David Hernandez.
I’m actually excited to see all three of those pitchers. Miley has been impressive in bullpen sessions this spring and he was fantastic at Double-A last season, and Hernandez and Mickolio were the right-handed relievers acquired from Baltimore this offseason.
— Pre-game press conference with Kirk Gibson:
On players dealing with nagging injuries:
“(Joe) Paterson, we shut him down for one day, but he threw a bullpen today and knock on wood, everybody is healthy. Chris Owings (oblique injury) took groundballs today. Tomorrow he’ll start throwing a little bit and do some light swinging.
“(Paterson had) a neck kink. Look at the way he throws, he jerks his neck around and it kind of gets sore. He said he’s had that before. Instead of having him try to favor something, we just shut him down and let him get back on track. And now he’s fine.”
On the lineup:
“These guys are going to move all around. I did talk to Don (Baylor) today to see how he felt about some things.”
On Melvin Mora:
Mora can hit anywhere. He can hit first or second, he could hit eighth and he wouldn’t care. We were out for early work out, and we went out and guys were bunting, Zavada and Jaime were loosening up on Field one, and I went out to the batting cage and there’s Mora with (Minor Leaguers Mike) Freeman and (Matt) Davidson, putting balls on the tee for them. That’s just how he is. he’s a true pro, a guy who just likes to play. There is no ego there at all. Mora could hit anywhere.
On using the DH in a National League game:
Just today and Sunday. The pitchers have hit a lot this spring. They’ve done a lot of bunting, a lot of slashing. They’ve hit a lot and for the first time through the games, it’s a time for Joe (Saunders) to focus on pitching. I wanted to get some of the guys hitting, like Wily Mo. We’ll do it against Sunday and that will be it.
— Great first inning for the D-backs, with Willie Bloomquist, Melvin Mora, Justin Upton and Miguel Montero all hitting singles to get up 2-0, and Brandon Allen coming through with a sacrifice fly to right to give them a 3-0 lead.
Joe Saunders followed up with a good, efficient 1-2-3 first inning concluding with a strikeout of Miguel Tejada.
All in all, it’s exactly what you want to see from the D-backs this spring – quality at bats and good, efficient pitching.
— There’s a hit-and-run for the D-backs here in the second inning, with Gillespie running to second and Bloomquist at the plate, and a grounder to third moves Gillespie up. I would imagine we’ll see a good amount of that stuff this spring, it’s exactly the reason they signed high-contact guys like Bloomquist and Mora.
— The updates aren’t as fast and furious as I’d hoped — wireless internet has been a little sketchy at Scottsdale Stadium, I think the fact that there are far more writers than seats has caused some strain on the system.
Wade Miley looked very good in his first inning of relief, with a hitless inning, one walk, one strikeout. He’s back for a second inning now.
Xavier Nady went deep with an opposite field home run. If you’re familiar with the set up of Scottsdale Stadium, the ball went out right about where the outfield berm meets the Giants bullpen in right-center field. Nady is an important guy to watch this spring.
— David Hernandez is in to pitch for the D-backs, with the Giants leading 7-4. He is among the pitchers I’m most interested in seeing this spring. There is a good chance he can be a back-of-the-bullpen guy for the team this year. We now J.J. Putz is settled in as the team’s closer, but the 7 and 8 inning roles are really up for grabs. Hernandez, Gutierrez and Heilman are the guys who have some experience in those roles, and they’re the guys most likely to claim them this year.
Hernandez has good stuff, and his numbers in relief for Baltimore – a 3.16 ERA with a .236 opponents batting average in 37 innings – were pretty good and 15 of his 33 appearances were against the big bats of Boston, New York, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
— It’s all over here, D-backs fall to the Giants 7-6. We’ll be out at Salt River Fields tomorrow for the opening of the new ballpark against the Colorado Rockies in front of a sell-out crowd. Should be exciting!
Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
In just three days, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies will play in the first ever game at Salt River Fields.
The D-backs announced today that the opening game is sold out, with a full house expected to be in attendance.
It is sure to be an exciting environment come Saturday afternoon for not only the fans, but the players and coaches as well.
After several days of practice, the D-backs are eager to compete in a game.
“I remember what it was like as a player,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “You get up there without the turtle around you, it feels way different without the batting cage. You’re a pitcher and there’s no screen there, that’s different. The fans will be there. It will pump them up.
Salt River Fields figures to not only to be packed on Saturday, but all season long. The D-backs announced that 120,000 tickets have been sold for their 17 home games.
Following Saturday’s opener, the D-backs will take on the defending world champion San Francisco Giants on Sunday and the Rockies again on Monday afternoon.
Sweeney fighting for job in bullpen
Brian Sweeney is one of the several relievers fighting for a job in the D-backs bullpen this spring. Sweeney is a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, but is familiar with the challenges of fighting for a roster spot.
“It’s something I’m used to,” Sweeney said. “Every year of my career, it’s always been a competition. You want the team to succeed, and hopefully you can be a piece of that puzzle to help the team succeed. It’s something I’ve been doing for awhile. I do embrace it.”
Sweeney has spent parts of four seasons in the Major Leagues with both the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. Last season, Sweeney notched a 3.16 ERA in 37 innings for the Mariners.
While camp is only in its second week, Sweeney is pleased with what he’s seen so far.
“I really like the atmosphere of camp right now,” Sweeney said. “The management the team, everybody’s working hard. With the great meeting this morning with the Seals and everything, it’s been a good start.”
Navy Seals visit D-backs
Before Wednesday morning workouts began, the D-backs received a visit from US Navy Seals.
The visiting members spoke to the entire team on a variety of topics including mental toughness.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Sweeney said. “To see what they go through and to relate it to our journey as well, it gets you really in the right mindset. What they have to go through compared to what we have to go through it’s not really the same thing, but in order to compete at what they’re doing you need to be elite. To be elite as a baseball player, you have to have that same kind of mindset. To hear them speak that way, it’s pretty cool.”
D-backs hit the links
After tomorrow’s workout, D-backs players and coaches are hitting the fairways and greens in a team golf outing.
Gibson estimated that more than 40 people are attending the event. Before the golfing begins, the team will hold a workout in the morning.
“It’ll be shorter, and then we’re going to go play golf at one o’clock,” Gibson said. “Shorter hitting, do a fundamental segment, a situational segment, kind of a lighter day. Kind of a recovery day, and we’ll get after it on Friday.”
On Friday, the busy Spring Training game schedule kicks off for the D-backs when they face off against the Giants. Thursday’s golf event provides the team with a chance to relax before games begin.
“We’re trying to do something together, and spend some time together before we get after it,” Gibson said.
KTAR Broadcasting from SRF
D-backs radio partner KTAR has been broadcasting their shows all day at Salt River Fields this week. They’ve had several D-backs on air, with many more to come:
Wednesday images from D-backs photographer Jordan Megenhardt:http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649
David Hernandez – Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
With all position players now in camp, Spring Training workouts are in full swing for the D-backs.
The third day of full squad workouts took place on Monday morning, and pitchers faced off against live hitters for the first time this spring.
While pitchers get acclimated to the game environment, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson was unsure of who will pitch in Friday’s opening game against the defending world champion San Francisco Giants.
“All the pitchers have now thrown,” Gibson said. “They’ve had their sides on and off, on and off. They all have thrown live today, see how everybody comes out of that. Want to make sure there’s no soreness in shoulders, or forearms, or elbows and stuff like that.”
Blum brings veteran presence, adds depth
One of Kevin Towers’ first moves as new General Manager of the D-backs was to sign infielder Geoff Blum.
Blum brings a strong veteran presence, and much needed experience to an Arizona roster that had a youthful look in recent years.
“I think the expectations are that you stick around long enough you garner hopefully a little more respect by the experiences you’ve been through,” Blum said. “I’ve been fortunate to be on some really good teams, really bad teams, and some interesting teams. I think coming here into this clubhouse and some of the rumors you hear about what had happened in the past. I think that’s exactly what it is, the past. We’re a whole new ball club.”
While Blum is highly regarded as a role player off the bench, he is also in the midst of a position battle at third base.
“So far so good,” Blum said. “Obviously I’m just happy to be here and have a job. To be put in a situation here in Arizona, is going to be a special thing for me. I’m just happy to be even mentioned in the competition at third base.”
Gibson said that the influx of veterans is already paying dividends.
“They’ve got great attitudes,” Gibson said. “They work hard. They go about their business. We’ve talked about Blanco; Blum is the same way, Mora, Bloomquist. They all have different aspects about them. It’s contagious. It’s what we were hoping for.”
Hernandez hopes to make impact in bullpen
David Hernandez is only a week into his D-backs career, but the right-handed hurler is excited to be a part of the new-look D-backs.
Hernandez and fellow reliever Kam Mickolio were shipped from Baltimore to Arizona in exchange for Mark Reynolds over the offseason.
Hernandez offered some insight on his longtime teammate Mickolio.
“He’s really tall,” Hernandez said. “He throws from a wide angle that I couldn’t repeat. He’s got a good repertoire. He just deserves a chance. It was really tough for him over in Baltimore, but I think he’s got a little more opportunities over here.”
Last season, Hernandez sported a 4.31 ERA in 79 1/3 innings of work. He also collected two saves with the Orioles, and will most likely serve as a late inning reliever for the D-backs.
Towers added the two pitchers in hopes that they will revitalize a bullpen that was dreadful in 2010.
“It’s definitely complimentary when he goes out of his way and he trades somebody that is proven big leaguer that hits home runs,” Hernandez said. “I’m happy to be a part of that package, and I’m happy that Kam came along with me. It’s definitely good to come in here knowing at least one person. It’s been really easy to get along with everybody in here.”