Daniel Hudson – Photography: Jon Willey
In our continuing quest to bring you as much information as possible on the D-blog, here are some interviews conducted by D-backs Insider writer Greg Dillard at D-backs workouts on Friday.
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Photography: Jon Willey
By Greg Dillard
Under an overcast sky in Scottsdale, D-backs pitchers and catchers took to the practice fields at Salt River fields for a variety of workouts on Friday.
Spring Training serves as a time to work on the fundamentals of the baseball. Pitchers and catchers devoted time to bunt defense drills, comebacks, pick-offs and much more.
On Friday, catchers participated in fundamental drills such as rundown plays.
“Those are little things you got to do in a game,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “That’s one thing that help you win a game. If you are not able to do it, then you aren’t going to win any games. It’s always important to do all those plays and do the little things to help you win a ballgame.”
Hudson looks to duplicate 2010 success
After being acquired by the D-backs from the White Sox last July, pitcher Daniel Hudson was nothing short of dominant on the mound.
Hudson came to Arizona and immediately made an impact by posting seven wins, a 1.69 ERA, and striking out 70 batters in his 79 2/3 innings of work.
So far this spring, Hudson is enjoying his first spring as a member of the D-backs.
“I felt great, getting into the full swing of things,” Hudson said. “You’ve got position players officially reporting tomorrow, full team workouts and everything. I’m pretty jacked up.”
After making a bold statement with his performance last year, Hudson is eager to continue his success for all of 2011.
“You got to keep getting better every day,” Hudson said. “That’s what I always tell myself. Just go out there and try to replicate what I did last year. If I’m fortunate enough to even come close to that then I’m good. I’m just trying to go out there and give the team the best chance to win and try and get deep into ballgames.”
Baylor brings experience to coaching staff
Don Baylor has seen it all throughout his lengthy career as a player, manager and coach in the Major Leagues.
Baylor was hired this past offseason as the new D-backs hitting coach, and is tasked with helping rejuvenate an offense that struck out at a record rate last season.
In 2010, Baylor returned to the Colorado Rockies as their hitting coach. Under his watch, the team plated 804 runs which was the second most in the National League. Baylor’s hitters also clubbed 190 home runs.
“Don is a guy who’s got loads of experience as a player,” Gibson said. “He’s been a manager. He’s been a hitting coach for a lot of good hitters. He’s got a good way about himself. If you had the chance to spend time around him, you might think he’s quiet. He picks his spots. He’s not over coaching at this point.”
Several position players report early
While the first full squad workout is not until Saturday, several position players have been at Salt River fields already.
These players ranging from infielders Geoff Blum, Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson and Willie Bloomquist to outfielders Chris Young and Justin Upton are here working out and getting a head start on their season.
Gibson said many of the position players are chomping at the bit to get going.
“We have staff so we can help them out,” Gibson said. “They want to be ready to go. You workout in the offseason, and then when you come to the field and you do all the elements you get really sore. Guys who have been here working out, it should help them out a little bit. They’re enthusiastic about it for sure.”
Jarrod Parker looked good throwing a bullpen session on Wednesday at Salt River Fields.
Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
It was business as usual at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Wednesday as pitchers and catchers took part in day three of spring workouts.
Pitchers continued with bullpens, PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice), conditioning and hitting work.
Hitting figures to be a continuous work in progress for the pitching staff as manager Kirk Gibson has expressed his desire for pitchers to be able to handle the bat.
As workouts progress, several players have established a routine and are developing a routine.
“It feels great, obviously to be out here at the great Salt River fields,” pitcher Barry Enright said. “You can’t really complain being at this place, but two bullpens now. Obviously, getting into the conditioning and the thick of things and being with all the guys. It’s good to be back, and it’s definitely a lot less boring than being at home by myself.”
Among the pitchers who participated in workouts today was left-hander Clay Zavada. Zavada missed the first two days of camp for reasons he deemed were a personal matter.
While the southpaw did not throw a bullpen, he was able to play catch and workout.
“It was great,” Zavada said. “It was sunshine, everyone’s in a good mood, working hard. It’s a good group of guys. Staff is awesome. I love it. It’s been real exciting so far first day.”
Zavada said he hopes to throw a bullpen on Friday or Saturday.
While getting Zavada in camp was a priority, so was reaching an agreement with starting second baseman Kelly Johnson.
Johnson agreed to a one-year deal with the D-backs on Tuesday, which allowed him and the organization to avoid an arbitration hearing. Johnson reported to camp Wednesday.
“I don’t know anybody that’s ever been to a hearing so you go off of hearsay on things like that, and nobody has too many good of things to say,” second baseman Kelly Johnson said. “Besides all that, it’s no different than anybody else’s deal free agency or whatever. It’s one of those things that once it’s announced, it’s all good, but after that it’s all about team.”
Now that Johnson is under contract, the infielder has developed a winner’s mentality he hopes the D-backs will hold as team throughout 2011.
“I’ll be honest, I’m sick of the moral victory thing we started doing at the end of the year. I think we started with a really good, positive note going into spring training. Going into the season, I think everybody was very strong. I think we played great baseball in Spring Training. I know spring games don’t mean a lot, but there was just a lot of confidence. I think guys going up to the mound, going up to the plate, I think everybody was confident and positive. I thought we had a really good momentum going into the season.
“It was unfortunate the way some games were lost, but that’s how it works. You still have a chance to go and play in May, June and July. April and May, those months aren’t going to decide your season.”
Johnson is adamant that a moral victory attitude for the D-backs has to be put to an end this season.
“We started looking for those positives, but we’re losing,” Johnson said. “I think that’s got to be done. That’s go to be out the window, it’s got to be more about how are we going to win today. What are the Arizona Diamondbacks going to do today to win the baseball game?”
Here are some shots from D-backs staffer Jordan Megenhardt:
D-backs pitcher Micah Owings signed autographs for fans after workouts on Tuesday.
Photograph: Jordan Megenahardt
By Greg Salvatore
The D-backs had their second day of workouts at Salt River Fields. Here are some of the goings on:
Johnson Deal Done
As noted earlier, the D-backs agreed to terms with Kelly Johnson on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.
“I’ve said all along that to me there are no winners in going to a hearing and arbitration,” D-backs General Manager Kevin Towers said. “Sometimes it hurts relationships and especially being new here, I want the player to be focused on getting ready for the season, not on putting on a suit and sitting in a hearing room tomorrow. It was good for both sides.”
Towers said that the sides did not work on a multi-year deal, with the contract being strictly a one-year deal.
This is Johnson’s last year as an arbitration-eligible player, so he would be a free agent at the end of this contract.
Versatile Owings Getting Ready
When the D-backs signed Micah Owings to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, Towers said he expected Owings could be used as a batter in addition to pitching.
Owings is already getting after it in Spring Training. On Tuesday, he took ground balls at first base, and on Wednesday he will throw a bullpen session.
“He said, ‘I want to be ready for when the position players get here,’” Manager Kirk Gibson said. “He could be more of a bullpen guy, but if he can play some first base, he’s going to get some innings at first base in Spring Training.
“Maybe he’ll go in and play an inning at first at the end of the game. He gives us flexibility. He’s got great power and he wants to hit.”
As valuable of a tool as he could be as a bat, Owings is primarily a pitcher. And his value to the D-backs is directly proportional to his value in the bullpen.
“I want him to be throwing the ball good,” Gibson said. “First and foremost, I want him to have value as a pitcher. The other is a bonus.”
Veteran Relievers Teaching Pickoff Moves
“On the pick fields, there is a lot of mechanics to throw to the bases better,” Gibson said. “It’s just the second day and we’re progressing.”
“Those guys were very good,” Gibson said. “They understood it, it was an important part of their game and consequently they became very good at it. We know it can’t be a weapon for everybody, but is there one guy or two guys or five guys?
“We’re on the pitchers’ side of it now, but when our infielders get here, they’re going to have to be very communicative as well. It takes some communication from everybody on the infield. Our goal is that they run the show out there.”
Here are some shots from D-backs staffer Jordan Megenhardt:
Photography: Jon Willey
By Greg Dillard
In a short ceremony on Friday, officials from both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies along with leaders of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Community dedicated Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
The event featured several key speakers including President Diane Enos who thanked the many contributors, and welcomed everyone to the complex.
D-backs Managing Partner Ken Kendrick also took the podium and proclaimed, “It’s a great day to be a Diamondback.”
Kendrick was just one of the speakers who stressed the importance of the relationship between the two teams and the Community.
“They’ve been great partners throughout,” Kendrick said. “It’s a great point of pride to them that Major League Baseball has come to their community, and we have a facility like this on their land. They’re exceptionally happy to have us, and we’re very proud to be their partner.”
D-backs President and CEO Derrick Hall followed Kendrick and spoke of his outstanding relationship with late Rockies President Keli McGregor.
Prior to the grand opening, the Keli McGregor Reflection Trail was dedicated. The trail is located outside of the main stadium and behind home plate, and is in honor of the late Rockies President who passed away in 2010.
It was an emotional time for members of the D-backs and Rockies organization, and for McGregor’s wife Lori, who represented her husband.
Hall remains proud of what he and McGregor envisioned for the Spring Training complex.
“It means a lot to me that Keli and I dreamt it together, designed it together, and it’s terribly sad that he can’t be here today to see the end result,” Hall said. “I know he’s here in spirit. He would’ve been so proud. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of our friendship, and I’m proud of what we accomplished together.”
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is a one of a kind facility equipped with the largest video board in the Cactus League, 12 practice fields, and an elaborate stadium.
Hall is confident that fans will be impressed when they attend games.
“Not only that it’s the most beautiful facility by far,” Hall said, “but I think the location. The location sets us aside. It’s got breathtaking views, it’s completely surrounded panoramic views every where you look. It is by far the most superior complex, and that was our goal from the beginning.”
The action at Salt River Fields will begin to pick up next week when pitchers and catchers hold their first workout on Monday. The first game of the Spring Training season will come on Saturday, Feb. 26 between the D-backs and Rockies.
Photography: Jon Willey
Right around Christmastime, we learned that former D-backs infielder Rusty Ryal was being sold* to the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League. As it turns out, he won’t be the only former D-backs player to suit up in Japan this year.
Patrick Newman has a blog entry up at Fangraphs.com detailing the list of former Major League players who will see action in Japan, including three former D-backs: Ryal, Byung-Hyun Kim, Chad Tracy. Another Japan-bound player, Evan MacLane, played for the D-backs’ Triple-A Tucson club from 2007-09 but never actually played in a big league game with the team.
Here’s a quick glimpse at what each did in a D-backs uniform:
Tracy — 704 games, 2,587 plate appearances, .278 average, 79 home runs, 33 RBI… played on the 2007 club that won the NL West
Kim — 245 games, 325 2/3 innings pitched, 70 saves, 806 strikeouts… played on the 2001 World Series champions and pitched in the 2002 All-Star game
Ryal — 134 games, 290 plate appearances, .263 average, 6 home runs, 20 RBI… played five positions as a utility player for the D-backs the last two seasons
For all three, the move to Japan is probably a good one. Tracy had trouble staying healthy and finding playing time when he was healthy over the last couple years with the D-backs, Cubs and Marlins. Kim hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2007 and played for the Orange County Flyers in the independent Golden Baseball League last year. Ryal didn’t have a role with the D-backs in 2011 as the team signed utility players Geoff Blum and Willie Bloomquist this offseason.
Good luck to all three guys (as well as almost-former-Diamondbacks MacLane) and hopefully they can make the best of their experience in Japan. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to get to know Kim, he was traded about a month after I began working for the D-backs, but Tracy and Ryal are both classy guys, and I wish them well.
* While the term is that a team is selling a player, it’s up to the player. The way it works is a player chooses to sign a contract with a club in Japan. But if he isn’t a free agent, the Japanese club has to pay for his rights as a way of “trading” for him. Since Ryal was still under contract with the D-backs, that’s how it went down this offseason. It works essentially the same was as when a Major League team pays a posting fee to acquire a Japanese player, like when Daisuke Matsuzaka was “sold” to the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2007 season. Matsuzaka wasn’t a free agent in Japan, so Boston had to pay for the rights.
So when read that a player was “sold to a Japanese team,” don’t think that the guy woke up one morning to find out his team just dealt him to Japan. But if that could happen, it would probably look like this fantastic, elaborate prank the Phillies played on pitcher Kyle Kendrick in Spring Training in 2008.
Photo by John Grieshop/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Prior to the 2010 baseball season, Detroit Tigers fans and fantasy baseball players knew the name Armando Galarraga, but most of America probably didn’t.
By the middle of the 2010 season, he was a household name across the country.
You must know the story by now: Galarraga recorded the first 26 outs of a would-be perfect game against the Cleveland Indians. The 27th batter hit a ball between first and second base that was fielded by Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who flipped the ball to Galarraga just beating the runner to the bag. But the call was made incorrectly on the field, and the game goes as a one-hitter in the record book.
The thing is, if that’s all that happened, the sports world may have moved on quickly. But the indelible image of that day isn’t just the call at first base. The things that are remembered are the great deal of class and grace that Galarraga displayed in what was surely a stressful situation and the thoughtful way he spoke of the umpire, Jim Joyce, who acknowledged the mistake after the game. Throughout it all, he was sportsmanship defined.
On the field, Galarraga was effective, perhaps even more so than his year total numbers indicate. For the year, Galarraga was 4-9 with a 4.49 ERA, with 51 walks and 74 strikeouts in 144 1/3 innings. But he had three poor starts in September that weighed down his overall numbers. Outside of those, Galarraga posted a 3.79 ERA in his other 22 starts combined.
Galarraga became available this offseason when the Tigers chose to go in a different direction for their 40-man roster, and for the D-backs, it was a great opportunity to add to the depth of veteran pitching, and add to the competition for work in Spring Training. To acquire him, the D-backs sent minor league pitchers Kevin Eichhorn and Ryan Robowski to Detroit.
The D-backs will welcome Galarraga into the mix, not necessarily because he’s a classy guy, but because he’s a pitcher who has had some success in the big leagues and can be helpful to the staff. But for an organization that made a concerted effort to improve its culture in the clubhouse and on the field, the fact that Galarraga is a classy guy certainly helps.
CLAY ZAVADA — Photography: Rick Scuteri
Every year, teams have somewhere between 10-20 non-roster invitees at Spring Training, guys who aren’t on the team’s 40-man roster. It’s always a mix of prospects and veteran players who didn’t sign Major League contracts in the offseason. But every year, there are a handful of potential gems on the non-roster list.
Here’s the D-backs’ list of non-roster players that you’ll be watching in Spring Training (their names are clickable for statistics):
Some thoughts on a few of these guys:
Matt Gorgen — Gorgen was the player Arizona acquired from Tampa Bay in the trade that sent Chad Qualls there late last year. I’m interested in seeing Gorgen pitch and I’m really curious as to why the Rays made him available, especially when the team lost so many relief pitchers to free agency this year. He’s got pretty excellent minor league numbers and according to Jerry DiPoto, as Arizona Republic writer Nick Piecoro mentioned back in September, Gorgen has good stuff as well. If you’re looking to find an interesting sleeper to emerge out of the non-roster invitee group, Gorgen could definitely be your guy.
Jarrod Parker — Like pretty much everybody else, I’m anxious to see how Parker looks in Spring Training. When last we saw him pitch, he was fresh off throwing some really impressive heat in the 2009 Futures Game, but an elbow injury shut him down for the 2010 season. He gave updates on Twitter throughout the year on his conditioning. When Parker is on, he’s darn-near unhittable but the organization is going to be patient with him after major surgery.
Clay Zavada — Elbow surgery also cost Clay Zavada his 2010 season, so one of the bright spots of the 2009 D-backs is going to work toward getting back in the big leagues this year. You won’t meet many ballplayers that are nicer than Zavada, so I would imagine there are going to be a lot of fans pulling for him to succeed this spring.
Chris Owings — Of the D-backs’ highly picked high school draftees in 2009 (Bobby Borchering, Matt Davidson, Chris Owings), this shortstop out of South Carolina has been the most consistent both at the plate and in the field. A foot injury robbed Owings of about two-thirds of his season last year, but he was playing quite well before he went down. Considering the depth the team added this year with Melvin Mora, Geoff Blum and Willie Bloomquist, there are a lot of infielders in camp. There aren’t that many Spring Training at bats to go around, so Owings’ stay on the big league side might not last very long.
Marc Krauss — Along with teammate Paul Goldschmidt, Marc Krauss absolutely killed the ball in the High-A California League with Visalia last year. Krauss was then one of the few players below Double-A that get a chance to play in the Arizona Fall League. Playing for the 2010 champion Scottsdale Scorpions, Krauss was great, batting .298 with a .404 on-base percentage, with four home runs in 22 games. The guy can really hit, and I’m anxious to see what he can do against some big league pitching.
Wily Mo Pena — I’m mostly just excited to watch Wily Mo Pena take batting practice. He has massive raw power (link: check out this stunning home run he hit at Toronto’s Rogers Centre back in 2007), always has, and hit pretty well in limited duty for the Padres’ Triple-A Affiliate last year.
A.J. Pollock — With really advanced fundamental skills coming out of college, A.J. Pollock looked like he was on the fast track until he hurt his elbow going after a ball in the outfield in Spring Training last year and lost a whole season because of it. He also played in the Fall League and hit quite well for average — batted .313 with six doubles in 16 games — and hopefully his power comes along with health.