Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
By Greg Dillard
There’s nothing quite like watching a heated division race during the second half of the MLB season.
In 2011, the D-backs and Giants are locked in a close-knit battle for possession of first place in the National League West. Every pitch, every at-bat and every game means something for both of these teams.
Photo by Jon Willey
By Greg Dillard
To say Justin Upton has been swinging a hot bat would be an understatement.
For the past week, the D-backs’ All-Star right fielder has been nearly unstoppable at the plate. Upton’s monster performance earned him Co-National League Player of the Week Honors for July 18-24.
By Greg Dillard
On Wednesday night, the D-backs suffered a pair of disheartening losses. They not only fell to the Brewers in extra innings, but also lost shortstop Stephen Drew to a season-ending ankle injury. So, heading into Thursday’s series finale against Milwaukee, Arizona was in desperate need of some good news on the diamond.
The team turned to ace Ian Kennedy who took the mound against Brewers’ right-hander Zach Greinke. In what was a classic pitcher’s duel early on, Kennedy cruised through seven sharp innings en route to a much needed 4-0 win. Continue reading
In addition to being a three-time All-Star for an Indians club that won six American League Central Division titles and two AL Pennants over his 13-year Major League pitching career, one of D-backs pitching coach Charles Nagy’s indelible memories of his time in Cleveland centered around fellow right-hander (and one of the game’s all-time greats) Bob Feller.
The Baseball Hall of Famer, who passed away last December at the age of 92, broke into the league in 1936 as a 17-year-old fireballer from Van Meter, Iowa, pitching his way to 266 career wins, 2,581 strikeouts, a 3.25 ERA and eight All-Star appearances in an era that boasted the likes of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. And he also missed four years of his pitching prime to volunteer to serve in the Navy during World War II.
Still, Feller never strayed far from the game after his retirement in 1956.
“In my rookie year in 1989, I first saw Bob in Spring Training,” Nagy began, “and he was out there shagging fly balls and talking baseball with all the guys. From that year on, it was ‘Hey, Bob’s in camp this week.’ All the guys would sit and chat with him. We had a really good relationship, and I always enjoyed talking to him.
“He would tell us about whom he faced and the outcomes, but he would also talk about old-school pitching – pitching inside with a purpose, going up and down in the zone and attacking the hitters. It was the little things, too. He talked about pitchers needing to field their position. Every time I would see him, he would always remind me of that. It was always about teaching pitchers right, making sure guys knew to cover first and to throw strikes.”
Nagy was certainly receptive to Rapid Robert’s advice, ending his career with 129 wins (10th on Cleveland’s all-time list) in 313 games before being inducted into the Indians’ Hall of Fame in 2007 – exactly 50 years after Feller’s similar honor.
“I talked to Bob a lot over the years,” Nagy said. “He liked to talk, and he’d just sit down and talk baseball through and through. He was always around in Spring Training and would come down to the locker room. He was always easy to talk to and, of course, we had the common interest of baseball. His wife went to the University of Connecticut where I went to school. We would talk pitching, but you would just listen to him. He was Bob Feller, a Hall of Famer, and he always had great stories and great advice. He was just a very nice man, and he was always nice to me.”
Rookie right-hander Josh Collmenter recently sat down with D-backs Insider’s Greg Dillard and Jordan Megenhardt for an exclusive interview, covering everything from growing up a Tigers fan to cracking the D-backs’ starting rotation.
By Josh Greene
While Father’s Day is usually a date reserved to show dad your everlasting appreciation, D-backs first-round draft pick Trevor Bauer did one better earlier this week. The young right-hander got to show his father where he may be pitching one day, thanks to Tuesday’s introductory press conference at Chase Field.
“I’m so happy for Trevor,” Warren Bauer said. “He’s worked a lot to get where he is, and I’m just happy it looks like it will turn out. A lot of kids put effort into things, and they don’t pan out. Some get to live their dream, and he’s getting to live his. It’s been great watching him. We’re proud parents, but it’s not about us. It’s him who is on the field doing the heavy lifting. We’re just along for the ride.
“He takes it all in stride. He understands he needs to stay grounded in the fact you still need to go out there and produce results. It’s not a done deal. It feels like the finish line, but it’s really the beginning.”
Even at 4 years old, the future UCLA standout was a hot commodity for his neighborhood baseball team. Of course, back then it was because the team was always short on players.
“When he was little, Trevor showed an interest right away,” he added. “We had neighbors who were a few years older than him and liked playing baseball, so when they needed another guy, they’d come get him. Half the time he’d come home crying, because the bigger boys wouldn’t let him hit or whatever. He grew up having to compete against guys older than him, so he learned how to thrive in that environment and enjoy it after awhile. After he got old enough to understand, he learned that when you play against older guys, you will be the last man out.
“There was a point where we thought if he made the high school team and not warm the bench, that would be enough. Anything past that would be gravy. He had a good junior year, and UCLA got interested. It snowballed from there. At no point did you say this will turn into something bigger. You just tried to take each step as it came, and it came pretty rapidly. It was like a fire hydrant opening up. From high school to college, they put him on the mound right away, and he was successful right away. It just kept going.”
Even coming off all of his son’s collegiate success, the elder Bauer admits Trevor wasn’t the most athletic kid out on the diamond growing up. But, boy, have times changed.
“He’s very diligent and maximizes the ability he has,” Warren said. “He’s never what you would call an athlete growing up. He didn’t run fast or throw hard. He was a guy you’d look at and say, ‘He was alright.’ When you’re talented, you have the option of working hard or not. When you’re not, you don’t have any choice but to work hard. He was always the guy who had to work hard. When he did begin to blossom athletically in high school, he already had the work ethic to go with it and it followed him. He’s a hard working kid, and his success is a product of a lot of hard work.”
Whether you’re the newest member of the D-backs’ pitching staff or, in my situation, the team’s new publications director, being a fresh face around the ballpark can be a whirlwind of excitement and anxiousness, especially in your first official week in the Majors.
Granted, my eight-year stint in the Phoenix Suns’ (NBA) digital and publishing department is a bit different than pitcher Bryan Shaw’s transition to the big league mound. Selected by the D-backs in the second round of the 2008 draft, the 23-year-old right-hander was called up by Arizona a week ago Friday to make his debut in Florida.
“I was in shock,” said Shaw, who posted a 4-1 record, 10 saves and a 2.37 ERA in Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno this season. “I was confused at first. I didn’t realize the D-backs were in Miami, so I couldn’t figure out why I was going there until I found out that was where we were playing next. That was cool.”
Pitching one scoreless inning against the Marlins in his first-career game, Shaw gave up two walks but recorded his first career K, striking out outfielder Scott Cousins.
“The best advice I’ve gotten here is to not change anything,” the pitcher said. “Keep it all the same, and throw strikes. Everybody’s trying to help me out, and I’m trying to follow the examples of the guys who have been here for a bit.
“The team has been playing well. I’m just looking to come in and contribute in a positive way and help this team get to a playoff spot.”
And as for his new, yet still-comfortable Major League surroundings…
“This is all a dream come true,” Shaw said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Yes, it is.
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