Brandon Webb, Jarrod Parker and Tyler Skaggs could not be further apart along a spectrum of experience in pitching, but the three of them took the mound of the first innings of the D-backs Instructional League game against the Rockies squad at Chase Field Thursday.
The three all pitched under somewhat different circumstances, but all felt good about their performances.
Brandon Webb threw the first two innings, as he continues his rehabilitation from a shoulder surgery that cost him the entire 2010 season and all but one start in 2009; the last time he pitched at Chase Field was against the Rockies’ big league team on Opening Day of 2009. Webb said the start felt the way they always do, with the exception of the team’s location — the D-backs team was in the first base dugout, rather than their customary spot in the third base dugout.
“It felt good,” Webb said. “It was a little bit different warming up in the visitor’s bullpen, but other than that it felt good. It kind of went the way that it has been in bullpens and sim games and stuff like that. In the second inning, I ended up feeling better, even though I gave up a couple of runs. It felt like I was a little tired, but it was good.
“The best part about it was just being out there and being back on the mound competing.”
Parker followed with two innings of his own, including blowing away the first batter he faced with a strikeout. He lost his 2010 season to Tommy John Surgery, replacing a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. His fastball velocity was mid-90s and his delivery looked strong.
“I feel like I’m close to being back,” Parker said. “My delivery is a little cleaner now and the ball feels good coming out. I’m more consistent with my off-speed than I have been in the past.
“I’m finishing (the mechanics) a little bit more, getting a little more out of my body and shoulder, taking some stress off of my elbow.”
The game was the first at Chase Field in Parker’s career. It was also the first time since surgery he’s pitched to anyone that wasn’t wearing a D-backs uniform.
“It was fun,” he said. “Once they told me (about the game at Chase Field) I was really anxious. I just had to keep it under control. I had a blast getting out there and facing the Rockies.”
Chase Field is a realistic destination for Parker in 2011, assuming rehabilitation continues to go well. He’ll finish out his throwing program which is almost over, then head home to Indiana for the holidays. After that, he’ll report back to D-backs camp prepared to start the season.
He pitched 78 innings at Double-A Mobile in 2009, so there’s a chance he could start at either Mobile or Triple-A Reno to begin the year.
Skaggs isn’t rehabbing from an injury, but he is new to the organization since arriving as the Player to be Named Later in the deal that sent Dan Haren to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This was a first look at Skaggs for some people with the D-backs. The tall lefty allowed a baserunner, but then quickly induced a double play to end his inning.
“Everything felt good. Curveball, changeup felt good,” Skaggs said. “Everything felt pretty fluid. My fastball and curveball are good but I really need to work on pitching instead of just throwing.”
It was the first time Skaggs had ever pitched in a big league stadium, and while he is considerably farther away from the Major Leagues than Parker, he also was able to use it as motivation to make it back to Phoenix.
“It was pretty exciting. It’s a very big stadium, my first time pitching in a big league stadium. It felt really good.”
I hope to have some video to post tomorrow for the three pitchers working. Check back here for more.
Made it out to HoHoKam Stadium for some Cubs and D-backs spring baseball. A few notes:
— Brandon Allen had a number of hard-hit line drives in batting practice, and some shots to the gap. Yesterday, he hit a triple to the gap and if you’ve never seen Allen run, he moves really well for a guy his size. That’s all good to see from a player who can hopefully use this Spring Training to springboard a productive year at either Triple-A Reno or in some role at the Major League level. After batting practice, you couldn’t help but notice Allen sit down next to Adam LaRoche in the D-backs dugout. To this point, he seems to be handling his situation exactly how you would hope a young player would, taking advantage of LaRoche’s knowledge and experience. We’ll try to catch up with Brandon at some point soon and get his thoughts on the spring so far.
— Billy Buckner settled down after a rough start to yesterday’s game, retiring his last five batters. As I mentioned here last week, he’s one of the guys you should really keep an eye on this spring. He’s fighting for a spot in the rotation, as the fourth and fifth spots both seem to be up for grabs at the outset.
— D-backs General Manager Josh Byrnes said today that while the team would like to see Brandon Webb start the regular season right away, the club plans to be cautious and realistic about his bounce back from a shoulder injury.
“It’s going to be a gradual process,” Byrnes said. “We’re into games, so we’re starting to think about where he fits into the schedule. We’ll continue to keep him moving along. It’s a long season. If we get 30 starts from him, great. If we get 20 from him, that’s great. We just need to get it right.
“If we have to concede a little bit of time at the front end of the schedule to keep him healthy for the long haul then that’s what we’ll do.”
This might make Buckner’s performance that much more important to monitor, as there is at least some small possibility that it could be three rotation spots — not two — that need filling for early April.
— Edwin Jackson will make the start for the D-backs on Saturday in Scottsdale against the Giants.
— It was interesting to see infielders Starlin Castro and Josh Vitters, and outfielder Brett Jackson in the lineup for the Cubs today. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, they’re three of the Cubs’ five best prospects, and Castro and Vitters are two of the top 30 in the league. If you’re into prospect watching like me, I’ll post a blog in the next few days with the prospects you should keep an eye on when you attend D-backs games this Spring Training.
First base coach Matt Williams ran infield practice before the game.
— Justin Upton just blasted a three-run sixth-inning home run off the scoreboard in left field, his first of the Spring. It’s the fifth run the D-backs have scored this inning, as they lead the Cubs 5-4.
— Dan Haren had a nice, smooth-sailing outing here in Mesa. Two innings, no hits, one walk, one strikeout.
— Ryan Roberts just hit a homer clear out of the stadium, between the left-field foult pole and the scoreboard. 6-4 D-backs in the top of the seventh.
— Cole Gillespie just went deep to break a tie for the D-backs in the top of the ninth, 7-6 good guys. Keep your eye on Gillespie, he might contribute at the big league level this year.
— Tough loss, with the Cubs winning it 8-7 on a deep walk-off double.
Brandon Webb threw a bullpen session today, furthering his preparation for Cactus League play and, if all goes well, the start of the regular season.
Webb threw 45 pitches, a mix of fastballs and changeups, and threw out of the stretch.
“I thought Webb was very good today,” Manager A.J. Hinch said. “He really pushed toward what I would call a normal bullpen. I’m grading Webb on a case-by-case basis, continuing to take steps forward without reverting back.”
It looks like Webb will throw again on Sunday.
Watched a few D-backs throw live batting practice on two fields this morning. The most interesting BP matchup was probably on Field 1, when Blaine Boyer faced friend and former Atlanta teammate Adam LaRoche.
Over on the adjacent field, the D-backs’ Rule 5 draftee Zack Kroenke, a left-hander acquried from the New York Yankees, threw.
Hinch said he saw some good things with the live BP sessions.
“(Kevin) Mulvey’s ball is coming out of his hand pretty well. His arm action isn’t quite as long as it was last year, which anytime you hear that out of a pitcher is a recipe for inconsistency. It looks like his arm is in good shape.
“(Billy) Buckner and (Jordan) Norberto probably threw the two best live BP sessions. (Edwin) Jackson looks like he doesn’t break a sweat when he throws. The ball comes out pretty easy.
“We had a couple of guys that struggled, but that’s what the first session is for.”
Sports Illustrated reporter John Heyman listed his winners and losers from the Winter Meetings in a column Friday, listing the D-backs among the group that did well:
8. Diamondbacks: GM Josh Byrnes is right that special starting pitching is needed in the NL West, and to that end, Edwin Jackson gives them a superb top three along with Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, who’s one of the best No. 2 starters in baseball, if not the best. Kennedy wasn’t going to be able to hack it with his soft stuff in the AL East, but Arizona believes it will translate better in their far less powerful division. They weren’t sure Max Scherzer has a varied enough repertoire to become a star in the rotation, but others think otherwise. In any case, it’s always better to trade relievers for starters and the deal Byrnes instigated clearly helps them in the short run.
On Thursday, in his assessment of the trade, Heyman also addressed Ian Kennedy’s presence in the deal:
(Kennedy) showed in the recent Arizona Fall League that he still carries the potential to fill a rotation slot in the National League. Nobody sees the Arizona league more than the D-backs, and they obviously were impressed with Kennedy, who had 28 strikeouts and just five walks in 29 2/3 AFL innings, reaching the low 90s on the radar gun.