Tagged: Miguel Montero

NLDS Preview: Brewers vs. D-backs

Photo by Jonathan Willey

By Greg Dillard

The past two seasons had been forgettable ones for the D-backs, with Arizona sputtering to consecutive last places finishes in 2009 and ‘10. They fell victim to high strikeout totals and a lackluster bullpen, with the postseason being a distant thought.

Things have taken a drastic change in 2011.

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Towers Sees a Lot of the 2010 Padres in the ’11 D-backs

Photo by Jon Willey

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

Two of a Kind

Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson have turned into the D-backs’ formidable one-two punch

By Greg Dillard

It was a misty June afternoon as Ian Kennedy approached the tee box, taking a couple of practice swings before driving his ball down the middle of the fairway. Daniel Hudson followed, splitting the same fairway with his tee shot.

The two, along with fellow starter Joe Saunders, were playing the 95-year-old Oakland Hills Country Club course during an off-day on the D-backs’ road trip to Michigan during Interleague play.

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Weekend Notes: D-backs Take 2 of 3 from Reds

Photography: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The D-backs picked up their first series win of the season, taking two out of three against the defending NL Central Champs, the Cincinnati Reds.

With a full count and two outs, Chris Young hit a three-run, go-ahead home run off Reds reliever Nick Masset in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The D-backs trailed 5-1 early, but Stephen Drew got things going with a ground-rule double in the third, and then the team broke things open with a five-run sixth.

Ryan Roberts provided the big hit in that frame, launching a three-run homer to left-center field to cap off a five-run sixth inning that gave the D-backs their first lead of the game.

Roberts grabbed one of the final roster spots after staying red hot through Spring Training while fellow utility infielder Geoff Blum had an injury that necessitated a DL stint. Roberts has taken advantage of the opportunity, going deep twice and reaching base safely seven times in his first five games.

Hudson brilliant in first Chase Field start

On Saturday night, Daniel Hudson bounced back from a shaky first inning to hurl seven solid innings in his first home start of 2011.

“I battled (with) my command a little bit in the first inning,” Hudson said. “I was throwing a little bit too much across my body, left a couple pitches up, but other than that felt good.”

The Reds managed to put two runs on the board in the opening frame, but that’s all they would muster through the rest of his outing. Hudson cruised, allowing only one hit after the first inning. He set the Reds down in order in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings.

Hudson went out with a bang in the seventh, striking out Jonny Gomes, Jay Bruce and Ryan Hanigan.

“(I was) really getting locked in with my arm slot. Staying on top of the ball and driving down hill is the biggest adjustment I had to make,” Hudson said.

In his seven innings of work, Hudson scattered three hits, allowed just two runs, and struck out eight batters. He even lined a single to left field in a fifth inning at-bat, giving Hudson a three-game hitting streak.

Saturday’s outing was Hudson’s 13th consecutive quality start, which tied him with Brandon Webb and Randy Johnson for third place all time.

“He settled in nice,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “Seven innings, gave up three hits, walked a couple, but he got stronger as the game went on for sure. He certainly did his job.”

Branyan makes Chase Field debut

In the D-backs’ second home game of the season, newcomer Russell Branyan received the starting nod at first base on Saturday. It was his second start of the season, the other being against the Cubs on April 4.

The slugger won a roster spot after an outstanding Spring Training performance. That hot hitting has carried into the regular season as he raised his average to .444 with two more hits on Saturday.

Branyan flashed the leather in the opening inning when he corralled a Chris Young throw with the bases loaded and one out, then quickly gunned out Jonny Gomes at third base for the double play. In the ninth, Branyan hauled in a line drive off the bat of Drew Stubbs and stepped on first base to turn the unassisted double play.

In his second at-bat, Branyan rocketed a stand up double off the right field wall, his first of the season. Later in the eighth, Branyan smacked a 102 mph fastball from Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman into left field for a single.

“He’s tough,” Branyan said. “He’s a hard throwing lefty. You don’t see that many in the game.”

The streak continues for Montero

With his single to center field in the fourth inning Saturday night, Miguel Montero extended his season opening-hitting streak to seven games. Montero’s streak is the third-longest season opening streak in team history.

Montero is off to an incredible start to the season. He collected three hits in yesterday’s home opener, and is now hitting .500 this season. Montero got his first day off Sunday, with Henry Blanco drawing the start.

Willie Bloomquist has also strung together a hitting streak to start the season, hitting safely in seven straight games.

Montero Excels, Heilman Fights for Rotation Spot in Glendale

By Greg Dillard
Miguel Montero has proven to be a force at the plate throughout his first five seasons in the Major Leagues. When he is hot, Montero’s bat can change the complexion of the D-backs lineup.
In a St. Patricks’ Day matchup against the Dodgers, Montero was the lightning rod behind the Arizona offense.
In the top of the second inning, he laced a single into center field to start a two-out rally. One batter later, Montero crossed home plate on Ryan Roberts’ double off the left field wall.
Montero struck again in the fourth inning. After Justin Upton and Russell Branyan reached base, Montero rocketed a Chad Billingsley offering into the right-centerfield gap to plate both runners.
As his sixth big league season nears, Montero is starting to find his stroke at the plate.
“Today, I think is the best I’ve felt all Spring Training,” Montero said. “I feel like I’m closer to the season so I need to get ready.” 
Heilman makes case for spot in rotation
Aaron Heilman entered Spring Training with his sights set on making his way into the D-backs starting rotation.
After spending last season as a reliable reliever in the Arizona bullpen, Heilman has done his part to possibly earn a rotation spot. On Thursday, Heilman started against the Dodgers and became the first D-backs pitcher to pitch through five innings this Spring. 
“I felt like I was settling in out there,” Heilman said. “Felt like I could’ve kept going out there. I didn’t feel tired. I felt like the work I put in the offseason has really helped, and put me in a position to compete.”
Heilman cruised through the first inning behind a strikeout and double play. In the second, Heilman struck out Matt Kemp and got James Loney to fly out. 
The right-hander then shattered Juan Uribe’s bat on an inside pitch to get a groundout and end the inning. Heilman would fight through the next two innings, allowing only Kemp’s two run homer to left.
In his fifth and final inning of work, Heilman ended his day on a high note by retiring Andre Ethier and Kemp on fly outs for the first two outs. Loney smacked a single, but that was all for the Dodger offense as Heilman struck out Uribe with ease.
Following his longest outing of the Spring, Heilman was pleased with the results.  
“I felt pretty good,” Heilman said. “I was able to make some adjustments from the last start, kept the ball down for the most part. Hung a pitch to Kemp, and he doesn’t miss many of those. Other than that, felt like a good job pitching out of a jam in the third. Arm felt good, body felt good, feel like I’m right where I need to be.” 
Competition for roster spots far from settled
Between the roster players and non-roster invitees, the D-backs knew this Spring would be a time for heavy competition.
As Spring Training heads into the final two weeks, the battle for the final roster spots are still yet to be determined. 
“We’ve got a lot of games coming up right now,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “We stayed around last night had a lot of discussion. I don’t think there’s a real consensus at this time. If I had to pick my team today, I’m not sure it’s as clear as everybody thinks it is.” 
Branyan and Wily Mo Pena have been pleasant surprises this Spring after entering camp on minor league deals. 
The competition for starting first baseman duties is still in full swing with Juan Miranda, Brandon Allen and Branyan all trying to make their case. 
The final two spots in the starting rotation are also wide open. Heilman, Armando Galarraga and Barry Enright are vying for inclusion. 
The strong play of several of these players will force Gibson and his staff to make difficult decisions in the coming weeks.
“It’s just a lot of things to take in consideration,” Gibson said. “Obviously, you want to pick your best 25 guys. You have to weigh other things like experience; sometimes you get fooled by Spring Training performance. At this point, I would say there’s a lot of things to be determined.” 

Friday Interviews at Salt River Fields

Pitchers, Catchers Have Last Workouts Before Full Squad Reports


Photography: Jon Willey


By Greg Dillard


Under an overcast sky in Scottsdale, D-backs pitchers and catchers took to the practice fields at Salt River fields for a variety of workouts on Friday.


Spring Training serves as a time to work on the fundamentals of the baseball. Pitchers and catchers devoted time to bunt defense drills, comebacks, pick-offs and much more.


On Friday, catchers participated in fundamental drills such as rundown plays.


“Those are little things you got to do in a game,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “That’s one thing that help you win a game. If you are not able to do it, then you aren’t going to win any games. It’s always important to do all those plays and do the little things to help you win a ballgame.”


Hudson looks to duplicate 2010 success


After being acquired by the D-backs from the White Sox last July, pitcher Daniel Hudson was nothing short of dominant on the mound.


Hudson came to Arizona and immediately made an impact by posting seven wins, a 1.69 ERA, and striking out 70 batters in his 79 2/3 innings of work.


So far this spring, Hudson is enjoying his first spring as a member of the D-backs.


“I felt great, getting into the full swing of things,” Hudson said. “You’ve got position players officially reporting tomorrow, full team workouts and everything. I’m pretty jacked up.”


After making a bold statement with his performance last year, Hudson is eager to continue his success for all of 2011.


“You got to keep getting better every day,” Hudson said. “That’s what I always tell myself. Just go out there and try to replicate what I did last year. If I’m fortunate enough to even come close to that then I’m good. I’m just trying to go out there and give the team the best chance to win and try and get deep into ballgames.”


Baylor brings experience to coaching staff


Don Baylor has seen it all throughout his lengthy career as a player, manager and coach in the Major Leagues.


Baylor was hired this past offseason as the new D-backs hitting coach, and is tasked with helping rejuvenate an offense that struck out at a record rate last season.


In 2010, Baylor returned to the Colorado Rockies as their hitting coach. Under his watch, the team plated 804 runs which was the second most in the National League. Baylor’s hitters also clubbed 190 home runs.


“Don is a guy who’s got loads of experience as a player,” Gibson said. “He’s been a manager. He’s been a hitting coach for a lot of good hitters. He’s got a good way about himself. If you had the chance to spend time around him, you might think he’s quiet. He picks his spots. He’s not over coaching at this point.”


Several position players report early


While the first full squad workout is not until Saturday, several position players have been at Salt River fields already.


These players ranging from infielders Geoff Blum, Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson and Willie Bloomquist to outfielders Chris Young and Justin Upton are here working out and getting a head start on their season.


Gibson said many of the position players are chomping at the bit to get going.


“We have staff so we can help them out,” Gibson said. “They want to be ready to go. You workout in the offseason, and then when you come to the field and you do all the elements you get really sore. Guys who have been here working out, it should help them out a little bit. They’re enthusiastic about it for sure.”


D-backs Open SRF with First Workouts

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.