Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Josh Greene
A pitcher during his playing days, Towers can appreciate how the team has persevered under Gibson this season, especially when you factor in the club’s 33 come-from-behind victories through mid-August, which includes overcoming a pair of six-run deficits against Houston. Continue reading
By Josh Greene
As the D-backs wind down their 2011 regular season road schedule with the weekend series in San Diego, Executive Vice President & General Manager Kevin Towers is once again back at his old PETCO Park stomping grounds. Continue reading
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:
Since Kevin Towers was named General Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks a little less than two weeks ago, he’s been quite clear about his desire to build a winning philosophy immediately. Those changes begin at the executive level and the coaching level, bringing in people who can create an atmosphere of high expectations.
The steps toward building that culture in 2011 began Monday, when the D-backs announced that Kirk Gibson was retained as Manager on a full-time basis, and Jerry Dipoto — who was a finalist alongside Towers for the G.M. job after serving as interim G.M. — is being retained as Senior Vice President, Scouting & Player Development.
Addressing the move to take the interim label off Gibson’s title, Towers referenced the similar philosophy the two of them share in building a ballclub, particularly citing Gibson’s history as being a winning player.
“Sometimes (the decision is about) gut intuition on people,” Towers said. “I’ve always felt that’s one of my greatest strengths, being able to know people and in a short period of time, knowing who I want to align myself with and who I don’t. I will say, I did my due diligence of talking to external people — coaches, managers, friends — to find out what really makes (Gibson) tick. This man right here is not going to take anything less than winning. I’ve got a lot of admiration for him, I think we’ve kind of hit it off and I’m ready to go to battle with him.”
The D-backs were 34-49 under the tenure of Gibson as interim Manager, but showed significant signs of moving in the right direction even in that short time. The club swept the San Diego Padres in a three-game series at Chase Field Aug. 30-Sept. 1. The Padres then went on to lose the N.L. West division title by one game. The D-backs also swept the Colorado Rockies in three games Sept. 21-23, as the Rockies began to spiral out, losing 13 of their last 14 games to knock themselves out of the race.
Gibson also talked philosophy, particularly pushing the D-backs to become a more aggressive club.
“When you pressure your opponent, when they lose their composure, they make mistakes and that’s how you get into big innings,” Gibson said. “On the other side, when they’re pressuring us, when things aren’t going well, we can’t self-destruct. We have to keep our composure and be able to cut it off and give ourselves an opportunity.”
While Gibson stressed aggression with the team to some degree in his three months as skipper, he plans to use the offseason and Spring Training to fully implement his plans. Among the first will be the way the team practices, which will be at full speed almost immediately.
“We’ll have simulated situations (in Spring Training),” Gibson said. “I’ve written down all of the good and all of the bad in every game that I have managed so far. We’ll recreate every one of those situations. It will be live. We’ve done a lot of practicing in the past at half-speed, quarter-speed. That’s great for the first couple of times, but when we get in shape, we’re going to practice at full go. That’s how it happens on the diamond. We’ll practice all of these plays that we didn’t execute and we’ll be better prepared to handle pressure much better, and we’ll be better prepared to pressure others.
“We’re not going to fall into ‘This is what we are.’ We’re going to be unpredictable and we’re going to do whatever we have to do to hold on and either make something happen or stop something from happening.”
Dipoto made some key changes to the organization in his three months as well, notably acquiring a package that included Joe Saunders and a pair of premier left-handed pitching prospects for Dan Haren, and acquiring Daniel Hudson from the White Sox in exchange for Edwin Jackson. Hudson was nothing short of brilliant, going 7-1 in 11 starts with a 1.69 ERA. He struck out 70 batters while walking just 16 in 79 2/3 innings. For comparison, that strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.38) if spread over a full season, would have been second best in the National League behind Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay.
Dipoto decided that the opportunity to help build a winner in Arizona was the most appealing option for him this offseason, and said he looks forward to helping Towers get there.
“I know grassroots baseball, I know going out and scouting players, I know finding them, I know putting them in a position to succeed,” Dipoto said. “The job description that has been handed to me is such that now I get to go expand the boundaries on the things that I know I’m good at, and why not get better at the things you’re good at? I’m really excited about what the future holds.”
That future — perhaps as soon as 2011 — should include the promotion of a group of excellent prospects in the D-backs’ farm system.
“We have a lot of prospects that have gathered up at the A-levels and we feel this is an opportunity for the organization to see some forward growth in short order,” Dipoto said. “What you were looking back on in 2010, at two or three years on the horizon of these players being in Phoenix, now we’re going to look and they’ll be at Double-A or High-A. We know, as baseball people, those who are at Double-A are a snap away. They can be here any moment. It’s an exciting time to be in the organization and I think we’ve done a good job particularly in the last few months of starting to mold that. I’d be crazy if I didn’t want to stay.”
The D-backs also announced Monday that First base coach Matt Williams and bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock have been retained for 2011. Third base coach Joel Youngblood accepted a position in the organization’s minor league system while pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. was offered the opportunity to stay in the organization in a different capacity. Hitting coach Jack Howell and bench coach Bo Porter were not retained.
The D-backs will hold a press conference at Chase Field at 12:30 this afternoon to announce the hiring of Kevin Towers as Executive Vice President and General Manager.
Towers is the third General Manager in team history, following Joe Garagiola Jr. and Josh Byrnes. The club also had two interim General Managers, first Bob Gebhardt in 2006 and then Jerry Dipoto this season.
Towers, who was already introduced to team employees this morning, was the General Manager of the San Diego Padres for 14 seasons after serving as the club’s Scouting Director previously. Under Towers, the Padres won four division titles and reached the 1998 World Series.
We’ll be back later in the day to bring you a Q&A with the new D-backs GM, and a look at his most impressive trade.