Tagged: Dbacks

Peña makes D-backs debut, Upton red-hot in June

Photo by: G. Norman Lowrance/Getty Images

By Greg Dillard

In search of some pop in the designated hitter slot, the D-backs selected the contract of Wily Mo Peña from Triple-A Reno prior to Tuesday’s series opener against Kansas City.

With Arizona playing six straight and nine of its next 12 games in American League parks, Peña is the likely candidate to serve as the regular designated hitter. On Tuesday, he was penciled into the starting lineup in that spot, batting seventh.

He wasted no time in making his presence felt by crushing a solo homer to deep centerfield in the fifth inning. That blast was Peña’s first big league home run since 2008 and knotted the score at 1-1.

“That was probably one of the more impressive home runs I’ve ever seen,” right fielder Justin Upton said. “That ball was on a line. If it didn’t run into something, it was going to keep going. It was an impressive swing. We hope to get more of that out of him.”

After signing a minor league deal with the D-backs in the offseason, Peña posted a monster first half of the year at Triple-A Reno. In 63 games, he smacked 21 homers, 17 doubles and 63 RBI, while hitting a red-hot .363.

While home runs have always been a part of Peña’s game, he now focuses more on hitting for average.

“I wasn’t thinking about the homer,” Peña said. “I work hard in the offseason just to make contact, to hit for average. The home runs will come. That’s what I was doing, just making contact.”  

The D-backs hope those impressive numbers will translate to the Major League level.

“After he hit the home run, they became a little stingier with their pitches,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “He’ll have to make some adjustments on that, because you can see what he does when he gets a fastball out over the plate.”  

For more info and pictures of Peña, check out Focus Point: The D-backs Photography Blog

Upton continues hot streak

Since the beginning of June, Justin Upton has been nearly unstoppable at the plate. This month, he is hitting .417 with 30 hits, nine doubles, a walk-off homer, and 11 RBI.

Upton took home National League Player of the Week honors last week when he hit .552 in seven games. He also led the Major Leagues in hits with 16.

Upton’s hot hitting continued into Tuesday’s 7-2 win against the Royals. He collected two more hits, both doubles. In the sixth, Upton’s RBI double gave the D-backs their first lead of the game.

Despite being shut down by Royals’ starter Luke Hochevar early on, Upton and the D-backs’ offense caught fire in the later innings.

“I think we had to make him throw the ball in the zone,” Upton said. “He was throwing a lot of marginal pitches that looked good to us. We were swinging early. That’s kind of his game. That was probably his game plan early on … to get us to swing early at his pitches. Later on, we were able to get him in the zone and get some pitches that we wanted to hit and not his pitches, and we came out on top.”

Welcome to the Big Show

Photo by Jon Willey


By Josh Greene

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.


Check out D-backs insider on Twitter at @Insider_Writer

Hudson faces off against former team

Photo by Jordan Megenhardt

By Greg Dillard

Interleague play resumes for the D-backs this weekend, as they play host to the visiting Chicago White Sox at Chase Field.

It will be a series filled with familiar faces for D-backs right-hander Daniel Hudson. The pitcher is in the midst of his second season in Arizona after being traded from Chicago to Arizona last July.

“Obviously it’s going to be pretty cool to face those guys, guys that I played with and everything like that,” Hudson said. “Even more cool is that I’m facing the guy that I got traded for.  So it’ll be interesting to see how it goes. I might be a little jacked up at the beginning, but in the end it’s just another game.”

Hudson will toe the rubber in Friday’s series opener against Edwin Jackson.

The D-backs shipped Jackson to the Windy City near last year’s July 31st trade deadline. In return, Chicago packaged Hudson and Minor League pitcher David Holmberg to the desert.

“It’s kind of cool how that worked out,” Hudson said. “I was supposed to face (John) Danks and then the rainout happened and it pushed everybody back. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or what, but it’s pretty neat.”

While the D-backs made a variety of roster transactions last summer, the Hudson trade continues to pay immediate dividends. Heading into Friday’s game, he boasts a 7-5 mark with a 3.82 ERA. In his start last week against Florida, he unleashed six innings of one-run baseball to earn the win. On the other hand, Jackson is 4-5 with a 4.39 ERA in 13 starts for the White Sox this season.

Hudson was a fifth-round pick by Chicago in the 2008 amateur draft out of Old Dominion University. He later signed on June 15 that year, and made his Major League debut on Sept. 4, 2009. The 2010 campaign saw him make three starts with the White Sox. He went 1-1 with a 6.32 ERA.

Since arriving in Arizona, Hudson has settled in nicely as a key piece of the D-backs’ starting rotation. Hudson has teamed with fellow starter Ian Kennedy to form a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. The duo has combined for 14 wins through June 16.

Last season, Hudson burst onto the National League scene by posting a 7-1 record in his 11 starts. He allowed two earned runs or less in all but one of his starts, when he surrendered just three earned runs.

He has experienced similar success on the mound once again in 2011. Hudson won three consecutive starts from May 17 to May 27.

Friday night’s start will be Hudson’s 15th of the season, and one he’s been looking forward to for a long time. This weekend’s Interleague series has been on Hudson’s radar since the 2011 regular-season schedule was released.

“As soon as it came out, I saw it,” Hudson said. “As the days started getting closer, I was trying to point out which game I might throw against them and noticed I was going to get the first game, barring a rainout. It’s pretty neat how it worked out.”








Upton blasts walk-off, Kennedy electric against Giants

Photo by Jordan Megenhardt

By Greg Dillard

The D-backs and Giants have grown accustomed to competing in ultra-competitive, one run games.

Thursday night’s series finale was no different. After the D-backs jumped ahead 2-0 in the sixth, San Francisco battled back to knot the score at 2-2 in the ninth.

The D-backs headed to extra innings in dire need of a rally in order to avoid a three game sweep at the hands of their division rivals.

It was Justin Upton who provided the striking blow in the 11th.

The hard-hitting right-hander crushed a first-pitch home run off Giants pitcher Santiago Casilla to seal the 3-2 walk-off win. It was Upton’s first career walk-off homer, and the 3rd walk-off long ball in team history.  

“It’s awesome,” Upton said. “The fact that we just dropped two games and being able to win in that fashion, it’s hopefully a little bit of a boost for the team.”

Although Thursday night’s walk-off homer was the first of his career, Upton has tallied three walk-off hits this season. The first two were short, bloop singles to right field.

“Yeah, it’s a little better than the blooper,” Upton said. “The blooper left some suspense, and that was a little better.”

Kennedy turns in dominant performance

After a pair of excruciating losses to the Giants to start the series, the D-backs turned to ace Ian Kennedy on Thursday night in hopes of salvaging the series finale.

Like he’s done all season long, Kennedy delivered with a stellar pitching performance.

The right-hander unleashed eight innings of one run baseball. He held the Giants lineup to just four hits, walked one, and retired the side in order five times. By notching 10 strikeouts, he tied a season high, which was set on April 25th against the Phillies. 

“I threw a lot of fastballs for strikes,” Kennedy said. “My command was pretty good. I just felt like I was trying to pound the zone as much as possible. I knew that they’re a good team, a good record. They’ve proven that you got to stay ahead of them, put them on the defense as soon as possible.”

In his 15 starts this season, Kennedy has now tossed six innings or more in 12 of them, including back-to-back eight inning outings in his previous two starts.

It was clear that Kennedy was locked and loaded from the start. In the opening inning, he retired Aaron Rowand on a fly out before striking out both Manny Burriss and Pablo Sandoval. Kennedy then sat down the next five Giants batters before allowing a two out single in the third.

An unearned run in the fifth was all Kennedy would surrender against the reigning World Champions. He quickly rebounded by posting a two strikeout, 1-2-3 inning in the sixth.

The seventh frame saw San Francisco rally by placing two runners on base. Kennedy had other plans as he recorded a pair of fly outs and a ground out to escape the jam. He then posted yet another 1-2-3 inning in his eighth and final inning of work.

Kennedy now owns a 1.81 career ERA against the Giants along with 49 strikeouts.

Young launches yet another homer at Chase

In his six seasons, D-backs centerfielder Chris Young has launched plenty of home runs out of Chase Field.

Against the Giants, Young drilled a 1-2 pitch into the left field bullpen for a two run homer in the fourth inning. That long ball was Young’s 14th of the season.  

With that home run, Young has now hit 62 home runs at Chase Field in his career. That total is the most home runs hit in the ballpark by any player since 2006.

Top pick Bauer visits Chase Field

Photo by Jordan Megenhardt

By Greg Dillard

In last week’s 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the D-backs made a splash with the selection of highly touted UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer.

The third overall pick got his first taste of life as a D-back on Tuesday, when he received the full Chase Field experience and attended the series-opening game against the rival Giants. Bauer was escorted on a tour of the ballpark and met D-backs skipper Kirk Gibson and the coaching staff, as well as several of the team’s current players.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the big leagues… never something that was an expectation or a reality until just recently,” Bauer said. “So getting to meet those guys and have a conversation is pretty spectacular.”

Bauer wasn’t alone during his D-backs journey. His father, Warren, was also in attendance throughout Tuesday’s events, while the entire Bauer clan made the trip to Phoenix this week.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Bauer said. “My family and I are really close. My mom and my sister are actually in town with me. They chose to go shopping right now, but they’ll be here for the game. They’ve been a huge part in my process, my development, and raising me obviously. It’s really good to share it with them.”

The 6-foot-2 Bauer is fresh off a dominating season as a member of the UCLA baseball team. In 16 starts, he posted a 13-2 record with a miniscule 1.25 ERA. Bauer’s 203 strikeouts led the entire NCAA. Of his 16 starts, 10 of them were complete games.

The right-hander’s success did not go unnoticed as he received plenty of national recognition. He claimed National Player of the Year honors from Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball. Bauer was also awarded as the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, and was a top-three semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.

This week’s visit to the Valley of Sun wasn’t Bauer’s first trip to Arizona. Just three weeks ago, Bauer and his Bruins came to Tempe for a three-game series against Arizona State. Bauer dominated in his May 28th start, unleashing a complete-game shutout over the Sun Devils.

“That was a fun night,” Bauer said. “I beat ASU my freshman year, and they got me in a bad way last year. So I was happy to go out there and pitch well.”

Of course, all those accolades and performances came as a collegiate player. Bauer now faces the tall task of translating his talent to the professional level.

“When I’d miss spots in college at 93, 94 mph, guys still had trouble squaring it up,” Bauer said. “Even if they did get a good pass on it, maybe it was a fly out to the track. But you miss spots in professional baseball, it’s a double off the wall. It’s a home run. (I’m) probably just going to have to be finer with my control.”

Bauer’s professional debut has yet to be determined. He has not signed with the D-backs, and is unsure of when those negotiations will be hammered out. All that matters to him is that it’s sometime in the near future.

“I want to get back out there on the field,” Bauer said. “I’m starting to miss it already.”

Whenever Bauer does sign, he will embark on what he hopes to be a rapid ascension through the minor league ranks. Despite being just 20 years old, Bauer hopes to be on the Chase Field mound in the near future.

“I hope to be up by next year at some point,” Bauer said. “I’m fully confident in my abilities, and that I can compete and give my team a chance to win at the big league level. That being said, it’s not entirely my decision. It depends on how I do obviously in the minor leagues and as the season gets going and (things) like that.”

Whether or not Bauer reaches the Major Leagues next season remains to be seen. However, the talented right-hander holds high expectations for his future.

“I’m a winner,” Bauer said. “That’s my goal, to go out there and win.”

D-backs host Giants in battle for first place

Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard

The ongoing battle for first place in the National League West continues at Chase Field this week, as the D-backs play host to the Giants in a three-game series that kicks off tonight.

San Francisco comes to the desert with a slim half-game lead over Arizona in the division standings. The D-backs inched closer to the top after claiming a 12-9 win over Florida last night to cap a successful road trip.

“We’ve been playing well recently, and it’s always nice to come home obviously and finish up a road trip like we did last night,” infield/outfielder Xavier Nady said. “You come home and just try to continue playing good baseball no matter who it is.”

Rookie hurler Josh Collmenter (4-1, 1.12 ERA) will toe the rubber tonight for the D-backs in the series opener. He is opposed by Giants’ right-hander Matt Cain (5-4, 3.36).

In these two teams’ last meeting, the Giants handed Arizona three one-run losses in mid-May. The D-backs are aware that while it’s still only June, this series is crucial to the division race.

“The way we’ve been playing, we’re in a good mood right now,” catcher Henry Blanco said. “We know what we need to do out there to win these games. We know it’s a big series, but all we can do is do our best. If the pitching, the defense and the offense are there, we’ll come out on top.”

After tonight’s opener, Joe Saunders will take on Madison Bumgarner in a southpaw duel on Wednesday. In the Thursday’s series finale, ace Ian Kennedy will take the mound against the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong.

The D-backs are keeping the same mindset they’ve used all season despite the increased hype surrounding the series.

“We want to keep the same approach,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “They’re a very good team. We know what their strengths are. We’re going to do what it takes to win. That’s our mentality. We’re going to grind it out. We’re going to try not to get frustrated, good or bad, (and) stay humble just like always.”

Fans who want to watch the fight for the top division spot can take advantage of the D-backs’ unique “BeatSF” series ticket package.

By using the “BeatSF” code, fans can receive 20-percent off tickets and receive 10 free D-bucks to spend on concessions or team merchandise. Baseline reserve seats are just $20 and include $10 in D-bucks. First and third base reserve tickets are now only $40 and also include $10 in D-bucks.

Who has been the D-backs MVP so far in 2011?

Roberts wins fan vote bobblehead contest


                                                               Photo by Jordan Megenhardt

By Greg Dillard

Since the start of the 2011 season, Ryan Roberts has captivated fans with his red-hot bat and highlight-reel defensive plays.

Whether it’s diving over the railing to haul in a foul ball or igniting a rally with a leadoff hit, Roberts has been a driving force behind the D-backs’ surge to the top of the division standings.

D-backs fans showed their enthusiastic support for Roberts by selecting him in the Fan Vote Bobblehead contest. Roberts’ bobblehead will be given to the first 15,000 fans in attendance for the D-backs game against the Giants on Sept. 24. The bobblehead will look very similar to Roberts himself, including an action pose and his well-liked tattoos.

In the online voting on dbacks.com, Roberts received the highest number of write-in votes from fans.

For Roberts, it’s an honor to have been voted in by the D-backs’ faithful.

“I want to say thank you to the fans for voting me the winner,” Roberts said. “It definitely means a lot to me. In this game, it is comforting to know you actually have people who recognize you and cheer for you. Winning a bobblehead solidifies the fact you actually have a fan base. I would also like to thank my teammates and coaches for helping me along the way. This honor is another of many memorable experiences I have had and hope to have as a D-back. I am definitely very appreciative.”

Receiving a bobblehead is just another highlight for Roberts this season. He has enjoyed a career year at the plate and has emerged as a mainstay in manager Kirk Gibson’s starting lineup. Through 55 games, he has set career highs in home runs with 10, stolen bases with nine and RBI with 27.

In addition to those impressive numbers, he is batting .257 with 48 hits, nine doubles and 35 runs.