Results tagged ‘ Kirk Gibson ’

Strong Night for Kennedy Lifts D-backs

Photo by Jordan Megenhardt

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. (more…)

D-backs recall Allen, reinstate Blum

Photo by Jordan Megenhardt

By Greg Dillard

The D-backs made a pair of roster moves just prior to the start of the second half of the season. First baseman Brandon Allen has been summoned from Triple-A Reno and veteran infielder Geoff Blum was activated off the disabled list.

(more…)

D-backs to face off against Melvin

Photo by Paul Connors for Arizona Diamondbacks

By Greg Dillard

When the D-backs take the field at Oakland Coliseum this weekend, they’ll see a familiar face in the opposing dugout. That man is A’s manager Bob Melvin.

The former Arizona skipper took the reins of the Athletics last month, when he was tabbed by General Manager Billy Beane to become interim manager. This came after Melvin had returned to the D-backs organization as Special Baseball Advisor. Oakland is Melvin’s third-career managerial post.

He guided the Seattle Mariners from 2003-04 before leading the D-backs from 2005-09. In the desert, Melvin’s D-backs claimed the 2007 National League West crown en route to NL Manager of the Year honors that year.

Nowadays, the D-backs are led by second-year manager Kirk Gibson who has his team six games above .500 and just two games out of first place. After serving as his bench coach just a few years earlier, Gibson will face off against Melvin in a three-game set that kicks off Friday night.

“It’ll be interesting,” Gibson said. “He’s going to want to be beat me good. I know that. He’s done a great job over there. I know his style. He’s very passionate. I know his players will play very tough. We just kind of went through something like this in Detroit where I went against my home team and a guy who was my Minor League manager. So, try and keep the distraction part out of it. We certainly respect each other, and it’ll be a good series.”

This series in Oakland is the D-backs’ final Interleague action of the season. Heading into 2011, the D-backs owned a 90-112 all-time record in Interleague Play. They have posted a 9-6 mark against American League foes this season.

The D-backs also finished the month of June at 14-13, which was their second-consecutive month with a winning record. They went 19-10 in May.

While Gibson is pleased that his former boss has returned to managing, he knows it’s going to be a competitive series.

“It’s a shame the way it ended for Bob.” Gibson said. “I know it stung him pretty good. We talked as friends about it several times. He’s back where he belongs in uniform in the dugout. That I’m happy for, but I’ll be put in a position where I’ve got to try and beat him.”

 

D-backs Notes: Bloomquist Riding 10-Game Hit Streak


Photography: Jordan Megenhardt

By Greg Dillard

In each game Willie Bloomquist has played in this season, he has collected at least one hit.

With a single in Friday’s contest against the Giants, Bloomquist extended his season-starting hitting streak to 10 games. It is currently the fourth-longest streak in the Major Leagues and sits in a tie for the franchise’s longest season-opening hitting streak. Steve Finley hit in 10 straight to open the season in 2000, and Danny Bautista opened with a hit in 10 straight in 2002.

In addition to collecting 16 hits, Bloomquist has swiped seven bases, driven in seven and smacked three doubles while playing both shortstop and left field.

“He’s played well,” Gibson said. “He keeps grinding. He adds something to our lineup.”

Blum making progress in extended spring

D-backs infielder Geoff Blum is continuing to make advancements in his return to the active roster.

Blum, who was signed by the D-backs in the offseason, was placed on the 15-day disabled list in March. He has battled right knee inflammation dating back to Spring Training.

“It’s been going decently,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “A little bit of soreness today. He got a couple hits the first day. I think he’s got 10 at-bats in the two days.”

Blum has been playing in extended Spring Training at the D-backs spring complex Salt River Fields. He has been limited to DH, but is expected to play third base in the coming days.

In non-game situations, Blum has been able to field ground balls, hit and do some light running. Although Blum continues to make progress, there is no definite timetable for his return.

“It’s possible by the end of next week he could go somewhere and start a rehab,” Gibson said.

Once he returns to the big league club, Blum figures to play an integral role off the D-backs’ bench. In his 12 year career, Blum has posted a .251 batting average with 468 RBI as primarily a role player.

Vasquez lights out in return to Major Leagues

Since being recalled from Triple-A Reno, relief pitcher Esmerling Vasquez has looked good the D-backs.

In two appearances, Vasquez has thrown 3 1/3 shutout innings. During that time, he’s struck out two and without walking a batter, while allowing only two hits.

“He’s throwing the ball good since he’s been here,” Gibson said. “He’s throwing strikes. The breaking ball is as good or better than it was at the end of Spring. His velocity has been up to 92 to 96.”

Gibson neutral in Coyotes/ Red Wings series

Gibson is among the many fans following the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. With a win on Saturday, the Red Wings hold a 2-0 series lead as the series shifts to Glendale.

The former Detroit Tiger used to have Red Wings season tickets, but gave them up when he moved to Arizona.

Despite his former interest in the Red Wings, the skipper won’t take sides in this playoff series.

“I don’t think I can lose either way,” Gibson said. “I’m pretty neutral on it to be honest with you.”

Friday Interviews at Salt River Fields

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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.

Miguel Montero:

 

Daniel Hudson:

 

Kirk Gibson:

 
Here is some video of D-backs prospect Jarrod Parker throwing a bullpen session on Friday:
 

http://www.twitvid.com/embed.php?guid=XRYXU&autoplay=0

Notes From Day 2 at SRF

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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.”

 

Former D-backs reliever Mike Fetters and left-hander Ed Vosberg, a native Arizonan who pitched 10 seasons in the big leagues, were the instructors on the pick fields.

 

“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:

 

 

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

D-backs Open SRF with First Workouts

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New D-backs closer J.J. Putz stopped to sign autographs for fans on Monday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.  Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
For the first time in the 13-year history of the Arizona Diamondbacks, pitchers and catchers began Spring Training workouts in Scottsdale.
There was a new feel and sense of excitement surrounding Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Monday afternoon as pitchers and catchers moved among the practice fields on day one of Spring Training. 
It was a busy day for the D-backs as a clubhouse meeting kicked off the day at 8:30 a.m. 
The meeting was led by new D-backs skipper Kirk Gibson, and he stressed the importance of competing. 
“We’re just talking about competing,” Gibson said. “How do we do that? What does it mean to be a pitcher? For me, obviously we want to command the zone with all pitches at any time in the game. We all know that, we focus on that stuff. Fielding your position, being able to control the running game, your sequences, your picks, how to handle the bat.
“I want guys to be able to bunt. I want them to be able to slash. I would love to hit and run with them. I want them to be able to handle the bat and help themselves.” 
Aside from throwing bullpens, pitchers participated in the usual Spring Training exercises such as bunting and hitting practice, PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice), pickoffs and comebackers. 
“Well no matter how many times you work out, or how hard you work out in the offseason, you never can prepare for the first day,” pitcher Ian Kennedy said. “Then just going out there, standing on the field taking PFPs, running around field to field, and then to do conditioning and working out after. This complex is amazing.”
The D-backs catchers not only caught the bullpen sessions, but participated in defense and hitting drills as well. 
“It was a good day, fun,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “It’s an unbelievable facility. It was good, kind of easy. I’m sweating a little bit because I’m probably out of shape. I caught a couple new guys and they looked pretty good so far. From what I see it looks great.” 
While day one of pitchers and catchers consists of plenty of baseball activities, it is also a chance for the players to meet the new faces and reconnect with the returning faces. 
“Just have fun,” Kennedy said. “This is the first day, first time I get to see some guys from the east coast that haven’t been here. Seeing the guys is a good thing, it’s a fun day.” 
Several position players including outfielders Justin Upton, Chris Young and Xavier Nady, along with utility man Willie Bloomquist were spotted around the complex several few days before their report date.
The first full squad workout will be on Feb. 19. 

Gibson To Auction 1988 Memorabilia

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Photography: Heinz Kluetmeier/SI

 

Kirk Gibson was a Tiger and a Dodger and a Royal and a Pirate in his 16-year career, but he’s a Diamondback now. And as he settles in as the manager of this team, he’s moving on from his past.

 

Beginning Oct. 27 through Nov. 13, Gibson will auction the jersey he wore during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, along with his road uniform from that series, as well as the bat and batting gloves he used to hit his iconic home run off Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley. Gibson is also selling the World Series Trophy and MVP Award he won in 1988, and the proceeds form those two pieces will go to the Kirk Gibson Foundation.

 

Gibson has been involved philanthropically for years, establishing scholarship funds at the schools where his parents were teachers. He has also help his alma mater, Michigan State University, to build facilities for student athletes.

 

In the past, I’ve raised probably $15 million for the university,” Gibson said. We built the student-athlete academic center and it’s just outstanding. I’ve given to many, many causes and a lot of athletes do that and this is why I want to continue to build that as long as I’m here.

 

I’m going to take a portion of the money that is raised and, based upon some of the items I’ve donated out of my foundation specifically, a certain amount of the money from the auction will go there.

 

The main message for Gibson regarding this auction is the same message he delivered to D-backs players this year, as he encouraged them to actively look for ways to give back to the community.

 

I’ve been a giver my whole life,” Gibson said. My parents taught me not to be a taker and this is just a mechanism for me to continue giving. It’s all for good reasons. It’s helping people. It’s helping children. I really don’t like takers and it’s my way of promoting giving and I hope to influence many other people that want to do the same.

 

Gibson had his 1988 memorabilia locked away in storage in Michigan, but decided it was time to move on.

 

I think many athletes wait until they’re gone and they let their children sort it out and that’s just something my wife and I decided we weren’t going to do,” Gibson said. We’re going to take care of that right now, so a bit of estate planning, too. You could say it that way. It’s time. I don’t know how long I’ll be around here. I’m going to take a bit of the proceeds and do something that I’m going to enjoy, too, while I’m still alive.

 

Some of the most interesting information Gibson revealed about the auction items was regarding the bat he used to hit the famous Game 1 homer. It wasn’t a bat he used during the regular season. There’s a lot to explain here, so let’s just let Gibson take it away:

 

The bat thing is pretty interesting. When you’re a major leaguer you get bats usually they come in dozens. That year I was using Worth bats and I always used 35 inch, 33-35 ounce. I never really liked lighter bats because they always felt too light in my hand. The other thing is I would experiment from time to time, like I’d try a 34- inch bat, but that always felt too short for me, so I really pretty much always stayed to the 33/35. When you get bats what you do is they weigh every one, then you go through and personally pick them up. You can look at the wood, you like the grain, like the wood. Do you like the balance and how they feel? Out of a dozen bats, maybe four, possibly five bats are what you consider gamer bats. So you take those bats and use them in (batting practice) a couple times and then you take those to the game.

 

Well, this particular bat, it was a reject, so I basically had it sitting there all year and if you look on the end of the bat , they put my number on the end and there was an X on there, which signified that bat was a 34- inch bat and it was too light for me. It was like a 30-31ounce bat so I just Xed it out. As I went through the year I started getting tired and struggled bad in September and when we went to the playoffs I got hurt, I had no legs at all, so I didn’t want to be swinging any big lumber. So I started to get this bat ready in the playoffs and I used it in BP. I used it in the Mets series and had some pretty good success with it in the Mets series.

 

So, when I got it and we took BP in the World Series, you feel the balance, it felt light, so what I did with it was put a lot of tar on the handle part and the middle of the bat. That way it made it feel a little heavier to me, and if you look at that bat you’ll see there’s a lot of tar on that bat. So it kind of just made the balance feel better, made it feel a little heavier but it wasn’t all in the head of the bat so it wouldn’t make it feel like it was head-heavy. You don’t want that, you want to be able to throw it and you want to have whip.

 

I ended up using that bat and if you look at the end of that bat No. 23 and you will see an X. If you look at all the tar on there it’s more than normal. If you look at the actual barrel of the bat you’ll see some red marks on there which was the foul balls that I hit. There was red ink on the World Series balls. Where I hit the actual home run you can see on the head, on the sweet spot of the bat, is actually chipped out of there. There is a little nick where I hit it. But then if you look on the backside of the barrel, the part where you didn’t hit the ball, it’s really cool because you’ll see all these nicks and that’s from me hitting my cleats. And if you watch the film you see me hitting my cleats. At the beginning of the bat, they weren’t very deep. Then as the at-bat progressed, I kept hitting it harder and harder. When it got 3-2 they’re really deep. So when you look at the bat, the whole bat has so much character. Everything about that bat, it’s like a painting, it’s like a story and it will tell you the whole thing.”

D-backs Retain Gibson, Dipoto

 

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.

 

Gibby Checks In at No. 2

Joe Posnanski has a fun exercise over on his blog today — if you were to stack up all big league managers based on their playing abilities, how would they rank?

You would assume that Kirk Gibson would do quite well on this list, and you would assume right.

Gibby checks in at No. 2 behind Joe Torre:

2. Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks
I remember there being a lot of argument about whether or not Kirk Gibson deserved the MVP award in 1988. The argument was usually for Darryl Strawberry, who had an OPS that was 50 points higher (though in those days the talk was more about how he drove in 101 RBIs while Gibson drove in 79), and was in many camps considered a more deserving choice.

What I find compelling is that, according to the much maligned Wins Above Replacement stat — at least the Baseball Reference version — the sportswriters got it right. Gibson had a 7.3 WAR — best in the league — while Strawberry’s WAR was 5.9. See, if WAR would just agree with what sportswriters already think MORE OFTEN, it might become the stat of choice.

The other four skippers in the top five managers-as-players are all good at their current jobs, actually (Gibby hasn’t even been at this for a full season). Career winning percentages:

1. Joe Torre – .539 (4 World Series wins)

3. Dusty Baker – .523 (one World Series appearance)

4. Mike Scioscia – .551 (one World Series win, over Baker, incidentally)

5. Ozzie Guillen – .528 (one World Series win)

 

Lest you think you actually have to have been a good player to be a good manager, you’d be wrong, at least based on the guys Joe has at the very bottom of the list:

31. Jim Leyland – .496 (one World Series win, another WS appearance)

32. Joe Maddon – .500 (one World Series appearance, almost certainly going to the playoffs this year)