Tagged: Spring Training

Parra, Gutierrez Heating Up As Season Approaches

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Photography: Jon Willey
By Greg Dillard
The outstanding play of D-backs outfielder Gerardo Parra has turned some heads this Spring. 
After arriving to camp in stellar shape, Parra is enjoying the best Spring Training of his young career. He has emerged as a regular in manager Kirk Gibson’s lineup, and produced when given the opportunity. 
Parra is currently boasting a .350 batting average to go with his two homers and 10 RBI.
It was more of the same for Parra on Friday against the Mariners. In his first at-bat, Parra  drilled a single into center field to plate the D-backs first run of the game. After being hit by a pitch in his second plate appearance, Parra raced around the bases to score on Willie Bloomquist’s single. 
Gibson believes the impressive results are due to Parra’s hard work this Spring.
“He’s just playing well,” Gibson said. “All the hard work has paid off. He’s played a lot too, but he’s conditioned himself, strengthened himself. He’s worked a lot with Don Baylor trying to correct some things that he’s been doing the past few years.”
Gibson believes Parra is noticing the results of his new workout habits.
“I think he kind of feels the difference it’s making on him,” Gibson said. “His body is changing. He’s getting more cut, way stronger in his core, throwing a lot better, running a lot more.”
Since his arrival to the Major Leagues in 2009, Parra has seen regular playing time as the team’s fourth outfielder. Through his first two seasons in the big leagues, Parra is a career .277 hitter with 40 doubles. 
However thanks to his impressive Spring, Parra could possibly receive the majority of innings and at-bats in left field this season. 
While Parra could play center field to give Chris Young an occasional day off, Gibson believes his skills best suit him for the corner outfield spots. 
“He’s really effective on the corners, either corner,” Gibson said. “His arm comes into play. He really runs the ball down well in the corners. He’s running better, though, this year.”
Allen flashes leather at first base
Since Gibson took over as D-backs manager, he has stressed the importance of adequate defense.
On Friday, the Mariners kept first baseman Brandon Allen busy fielding his position. Through the first three innings, Allen hauled in four batted balls, fielding them with ease to retire each Seattle hitter.
Allen even turned in a highlight reel catch by diving to his right to snare a Josh Bard line drive. For Allen, defense could prove to be a deciding factor for the young D-back as he continues to fight for playing time at first base.
“I feel comfortable,” Allen said. “Getting in there, and just making routine plays. I got a lot of action over there finally. Past couple starts, haven’t gotten too many balls, but it was good today.” 
As Spring Training progress, the D-backs continue to focus on strong defense as a team. Allen said he’s just glad to contribute in the field. 
“Collectively as a team, we’re pretty solid defensively, I believe,” Allen said. “So everybody’s got to do their part, and being able to help out is awesome.” 
Gutierrez shuts down Mariners in seventh
In the top of the seventh and with the score knotted at 4-4, Juan Gutierrez toed the rubber against the Mariners in his seventh outing of the Spring. He made short order of the Seattle lineup by retiring the side in order.
The right-hander induced a ground out to first base off the bat of leadoff man Gabe Gross to start the inning. Mike Wilson was next and he didn’t fare much better as Gutierrez induced another ground out. One batter later, Gutierrez struck out Josh Bard to cap off the 1-2-3 frame. 
Friday’s inning against the Mariners was Gutierrez’s fourth consecutive scoreless outing. 
“I’m ready to go to the season,” Gutierrez said. “I fixed everything that I got to fix. So now I’m ready to go into the season.” 

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.” 

Miranda, Branyan & Allen Still Competing for Spot

Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
With less than three left in Spring Training, the position battle at first base still appears to be wide open for the D-backs.
The trio vying for playing time: Juan Miranda, Russell Branyan, and Brandon Allen all continue to hit well. 
It was Miranda who stood out in Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Angels. He received the start at first base, and took advantage of the opportunity. 
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Miranda launched a long two run home run to right field. That long ball was his third of the Spring. Miranda now owns a .294 batting average to go with a .618 slugging percentage. 
In his third plate appearance, Miranda rocketed a single back up the middle in the fifth. 
Miranda made it a three hit afternoon by hitting a leadoff single into right field to start the bottom of the eighth. 
It was a big offensive day for Miranda, who had cooled off a bit at the plate recently. 
“He’s had a couple crappy games,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “He came back and played well, looking good at the plate. He’s pretty competitive.”
Branyan entered the Spring as a non-roster invitee, but has proven himself to be a threat at the plate. The left-handed hitter has collected 16 hits, nine RBI, three home runs and an outstanding .794 slugging percentage.  
Against the Angels, Branyan pinch hit in the bottom of the fifth, and continued his hot hitting by lacing a single into right field.
After advancing to second base on a wild pitch, he would then score on Chris Young’s single.
As camp progresses, Branyan continues to make a statement for inclusion on the roster.
“He’s had a good spring,” General Manager Kevin Towers said. “He hasn’t done anything to hurt himself. He’s performed very well. He’s certainly probably been one of our better offensive players we’ve had this Spring.”
Allen has been off to a strong start at the plate this Spring as well, batting .343 with four doubles. 


D-backs, White Sox Reunite in Tucson

Proceeds Benefited the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund

Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
The D-backs took on the Chicago White Sox at Kino Stadium today, as the teams who once shared a facility in Tucson reunited in the Old Pueblo.
Proceeds from the game benefitted the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund. The fund was established at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona by the Green family to receive gifts in memory of Christina. 
Doug Padilla has a nice story from the White Sox’ perspective over at ESPN
. Christina’s mother, Roxanna Green, said the proceeds will benefit children in Tucson, starting with those at her daughter’s elementary school:
“Right now, we’re going to build a playground at Christina and Dallas’ school, Mesa Verde Elementary,” Roxanna Green said. “That’s something they desperately need. They’ve had the same playground equipment for years and years and years. We’re going to replace the PE equipment — possibly buy smart boards, computers, and a lot of companies hopefully will step forward and help us out if they’re willing to let us purchase it at cost so we can provide as much as we can for the children at the school.
“Down the road, we’ll help other schools. We’ll help refurbish other parks for children, help kids go to college, help the less fortunate.”
A crowd 7,419 was on hand to see the White Sox beat the D-backs, 12-1 (a D-backs split squad unit also played in Surprise against the Kansas City Royals, winning that game 8-6).
Our photographer, Jordan Megenhardt, was at the game in Tucson. Here are some of his images.?

Kennedy Cruises Through Second Spring Start


Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
It was a perfect day for baseball at Salt River Fields on Friday as the Arizona Diamondbacks hosted the San Diego Padres in front of a sellout crowd. 
In his second outing of the Spring, Ian Kennedy made it look easy on the mound as he mowed through the Padres’ lineup. Kennedy is counted on to be an important piece of the D-backs rotation once again this season, and the right-hander clearly threw well on Friday.
In the first inning, Kennedy allowed a leadoff single to Eric Patterson, who was then caught stealing by D-backs catcher Miguel Montero. Kennedy struck out Jason Bartlett looking and retired Orlando Hudson via a groundout to first base.
Kennedy said his command was much improved from his first outing.
“I think as soon as you get your rhythm down, your timing is all there,” Kennedy said. “My fastball command was good. There’s some times where I missed my spot, but it helped because I got some outs on it too.” 
Kennedy also said he has been watching film of his previous starts to gauge where his tempo and rhythm was. 
In the top of the second inning, Jorge Cantu grounded out to third for the first out of the inning. Kennedy then froze Chris Denorfia on a breaking ball for a strikeout. 
Jesus Guzman singled to center, but was stranded as Kennedy responded by getting the last out of the inning on an Aaron Cunningham fly out.
Kennedy’s third and final inning was even more impressive.
The first two batters of the inning: Guillermo Quiroz and Tim Stauffer both struck out. Patterson then grounded out to cap off the 1-2-3 frame.
That would be all for Kennedy as he finished with a final line of three innings, two hits and four strikeouts. 
“I was really happy with my tempo, my rhythm,” Kennedy said. “I wasn’t happy with that last time. Physically, I felt good my previous outing, but I wasn’t happy with my tempo. I was leaving too many balls over the plate. This time I felt like my tempo was good. I tried slowing down.”
Borchering sees time at third
Among the many D-backs prospects that have taken the field this Spring Training is third baseman Bobby Borchering. The former 2009 first round draft pick is starting to see more time at third base and in the batter’s box. 
In Friday’s matchup against the Padres, Borchering laced a two out single into left field in the bottom of the fifth. 
Borchering hopes to take advantage of the opportunities to play in the Major League games. 
“It’s great,” Borchering said. “Anytime you can get in there, get a chance to play in front of a lot of people like you will in the regular season and get in there and get a little action a little earlier, I feel is an advantage for me.” 
Last season, Borchering posted a .270 batting average with 15 home runs and 74 RBI while playing for Single-A South Bend. For his first full season in professional baseball, Borchering felt like it was a great learning experience. 
“South Bend was a great city for me,” Borchering said. “My manager, Haley, was just great working with me. I learned a lot through the year. It was a great year.” 
With his the start of his regular season over a month away, Borchering has high goals for the rest of Spring Training.
“My goals for the Spring are to try and keep a little bit of weight on,” Borchering said. “I can sometimes get weight off pretty quick. Trying to eat a little bit more, and rest a lot. Just mentally, get in my routines and sticking with those, and keeping things simple.”

Parker & Upton Shine in Peoria Thursday


Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
After making his 2011 Spring Training debut last week against the Colorado Rockies, D-backs pitcher Jarrod Parker returned to the mound on Thursday against the Padres.
The highly regarded prospect pounded the zone with strikes and threw two scoreless frames. 
With a 3-2 lead, Parker entered in the bottom of the fourth, and battled to a full count against Padres leadoff batter Luis Durango. Parker then retired Durango on a ground out to second base.
One batter later, Eric Patterson reached third base on a double and a stolen base. But Parker set down Chris Denorfia and pinch hitter Aaron Cunningham on fly outs to third baseman Geoff Blum, and got out of the inning unscathed. 
Similar to his first outing, Parker was able to tighten up and keep the opposing offense from scoring. 
“Definitely a lot more comfortable,” Parker said. “I relaxed a little bit. I threw a little less in the ‘pen going two innings. I wanted to get through the two clean and stay with a good energy level the whole time.”
Parker’s energy level certainly seemed rock solid when he returned to the rubber in the bottom of the fifth for his second inning of work. He picked up where he left off the inning before by retiring Chase Headley on a ground ball to Ryan Roberts at second base. 
The next batter, Nick Hundley, didn’t fare much better as he flew out to left field. 
After allowing a single to Oscar Salazar, Parker got Kevin Frandsen to fly out to center field to end the inning.
While Parker allowed three walks in his first outing, he did not issue a walk against the Padres. 
“I was getting over my front side, and getting ahead of guys,” Parker said. “Then going in and out as much as I could and just letting guys get themselves out versus trying to strike everybody out.” 
In his two innings, Parker threw 31 pitches, 20 of which were strikes.
“Much better (than his outing Monday),” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Parker. “I thought it was much better. Threw the ball better, ball was down more. Moved it all around better, had better location.” 
With Spring Training still in its early stages, Parker hopes to build off of each of his outings.
“I feel pretty good,” Parker said. “I’m just preparing for the season and I’m just trying to take each outing into the next one and keep building.” 
Upton heating up at plate
Most opposing pitchers are aware that when D-backs outfielder Justin Upton puts the barrel of the bat on the ball, it tends to go a long way. After doubling twice on Wednesday, the D-backs right fielder provided plenty of offense against San Diego on Thursday. 
Against the Padres, Upton singled in his first at-bat. Then in the top of the fourth inning he unloaded on a Greg Burke pitch, driving it into the left-field lawn seating for a two-run homer. 
That blast was Upton’s first home run of the Spring. 
“I just got a good pitch and hit it,” Upton said. “That’s what our goal is this Spring Training, get good pitches and put a good swing on it.”
While Upton has had a nice week at the plate, he is still not where he wants to be. 
“The more work we do out there in practice and beforehand helps us out,” Upton said. “As many days as we can get, as many reps as we can get in the game, the rust starts to come off. Near the end of Spring Training, you want to be comfortable. You get your work in now.”  

Pollock & Septimo Impressive on Wednesday


Photography: Jordan Megenhardt 

By Greg Dillard 

With high expectations heading into Spring Training last season, A.J. Pollock saw his season lost almost immediately due to a fractured growth plate in his right elbow. 

A year later, Pollock has returned to the diamond for the D-backs. 

In Wednesday afternoon’s contest against the Seattle Mariners at Salt River Fields, Pollock got the starting nod in centerfield and played all nine innings. 

“It was awesome,” Pollock said. “Anytime you get to start up here, it’s incredible. Just try to keep it simple, try to make some plays.” 

His presence was immediately felt as the speedy outfielder raced into shallow centerfield to dive and catch the third out of the first inning. 

“I always felt like I had that speed game,” Pollock said. “It’s just a matter of keeping your legs healthy. Everyone here goes through times where your legs just feel slow. I felt really good today, felt good to show it off.” 

Pollock stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third inning and again showed off his speed by beating out an infield single. After striking out in the fourth, Pollock rebounded by drawing a walk against Seattle’s Edward Paredes. 

In his final plate appearance of the afternoon, Pollock followed a Wily Mo Pena single with a single of his own down the left field line. Pollock later scored from second base on a Paul Goldschmidt hit.

After a strong first Spring start, Pollock is eager to continue his early success. 

“Obviously, I just want to come out here and make an impression,” Pollock said. “That would be the number one. I just keep it simple. Make some plays, whether it’s with the bat, on the bases, or in the field.” 

While it was only one game for Pollock, it’s clear why the D-backs think highly of their former first round pick. 

“He’s a baseball player,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “Good energy. His game’s solid. He’s got good skills. Puts the bat on the ball, pretty good in the outfield. He’s really young, just a year out of college. Goes about his business the right way.” 

Septimo solid in Spring debut 

The D-backs have long known that Leyson Septimo owns a talented repertoire of pitches and a dominant fastball. It was all a matter of putting it all together on mound for the southpaw. 

Against the Mariners, Septimo certainly looked like he’s headed in the right direction. 

Septimo took the mound in the top of the seventh, and faced Michael Saunders to lead off the inning. He then quickly retired Saunders on a fly out to right field.

One batter later, Brendan Ryan smacked a ground ball back to Septimo who fielded his position well by hauling in the comebacker and throwing on to Juan Miranda at first base for the out.

Septimo then got Johermyn Chavez to ground out to third base to cap off the 1-2-3 inning. 

Septimo has struggled with command since converting to pitching in 2008, last year in particular, so having him command his pitches is certainly a positive sign for the D-backs.

Scoreless Innings for Enright, Parker in Spring Debuts



Jarrod ParkerPhotography: Jordan Megenhardt


By Greg Dillard


Last season, Barry Enright made a name for himself in Arizona after his promotion to the Major Leagues in June.


In 2011, Enright finds himself battling for a spot in the D-backs rotation and the right-hander certainly started Spring Training with a strong performance.


Enright made his Spring debut in the third inning of the D-backs’ 6-5 loss to the Rockies on Monday afternoon at Salt River Fields, and did not disappoint.


In his first inning of work, Enright swiftly retired Dexter Fowler on a pop out to the catcher. Enright then showed off his glove work as he scrambled to haul in a ground ball off the bat of Jonathan Herrera for the second out of the inning.


Enright capped off the 1-2-3 inning by inducing Charlie Blackmon into an inning ending ground out.


In the top of the fourth inning, Enright returned to the mound and promptly retired Troy Tulowitzi on a line out and Todd Helton on a fly out to the shortstop.


Chris Nelson stepped to the plate and smacked a double off the left field wall, but Enright rebounded by striking out Cole Garner to end the inning.


While Enright fell behind a few hitters, he was able to fight back and avoid walking anyone.


“I struggled actually getting ahead,” Enright said. “So that was kind of frustrating. But (I was) able to get some balls down in the zone, get a few ground outs, which helped. It was good to only give up one hit, but to get behind in the count like that, I can hurt myself. Just got to work on getting ahead.”


In the end, Enright posted an impressive final line of two innings, one strikeout and only one hit allowed.


Like for many of his fellow pitchers, Enright enjoyed returning to competition.


“It’s good to get back out there,” Enright said. “Had to wait till Monday to do it and was kind of anxious. Good to get back on the bump and get a few pitches under my belt.”


Following Enright, it was Jarrod Parker’s turn to make his 2011 debut.


After missing all of last season due to an elbow injury and Tommy John surgery, Parker and the D-backs have long awaited his return to the mound.


On Monday afternoon, the return finally arrived. 


“I was excited,” Parker said. “Just tried to stay within myself and be as calm as I can. The adrenaline was pumping and I was excited facing the Rockies, a pretty good lineup in today.”


In the top of the fifth, Parker retired the leadoff batter Matt Pagnozi via the strikeout. Parker did get in some trouble, issuing three walks in the inning. But with two outs and the bases loaded, Parker responded by getting Troy Tulowitzki to fly out to right field to end the threat.


That would be Parker’s lone inning on the afternoon as he finished with three walks, one strikeout, and no runs allowed.


“It’s good to get the inning under my belt and get some outs and battle a little bit,” Parker said. “It was fun.”


Monday afternoon photos by D-backs photographer Jordan Megehardt:



Galarraga, Enright, Parker Pitching Monday

Spring Training

Photography: Jordan Megenhardt


By Greg Salvatore

Twitter: Insider_Writer


If you’ve been yearning to get a look at D-backs pitching prospect Jarrod Parker in action, today is your day.


The young righty will pitch against the Colorado Rockies. Obviously, pitchers aren’t firing with 100 percent of their velocity this early in the spring, but you’ll be able to watch Parker in his first professional game since July 2009, at least his first outside of instructional league.


It will also be our first glimpse of Barry Enright so far this spring.


After a terrific big league debut in 2010, he’s fighting for a rotation spot alongside veterans Zach Duke, Aaron Heilman and Armando Galarraga. Coincidentally, Monday is our first look at Galarraga in a D-backs uniform as well.


Here’s a look at who will be taking the mound for the next three days (* – indicates first Spring Training outing):


Monday vs. Rockies at Salt River Fields:

Armando Galarraga *

Barry Enright *

Jarrod Parker *

David Hernandez

Esmerling Vasquez

Kam Mickolio

Zach Kroenke

Backups: Matt Gorgen, Leyson Septimo, Micah Owings


Tuesday vs. Rockies at Salt River Fields:

Joe Saunders

Wade Miley

Juan Gutierrez

Mike Hampton

Brian Sweeney

Micah Owings

Yonata Ortega

Rafael Rodriguez

Matt Gorgen *

Carlos Rosa


Wednesday, split squad:

vs Mariners at Salt River Fields

Aaron Heilman

Josh Collmenter

Sam Demel

Leyson Septimo *

Yonata Ortega


vs. Giants at Scottsdale Stadium

Zach Duke

Kevin Mulvey

Joe Paterson

Jordan Norberto

Daniel Stange


Follow me on Twitter (Insider_Writer) for in-game updates.


D-backs, Rockies Using Special Baseball at Salt River Fields


Photography: Jordan MegenhardtBy Greg Salvatore


As if the home run ball or foul ball you catch at Salt River Fields this spring could be any cooler, well, it’s also historic.


The D-backs and Rockies will use special baseball with SRF logos on them throughout Spring Training. Although uniquely logoed baseballs are common in special events like the World Series or All Star Games, it is believed that this is the first time it has been done in Spring Training.


The Salt River Fields logo is based on a concept by local Pima artist and calendar stick carver Royce Manuel. Manuel chose to incorporate a rattlesnake to symbolize the D-backs and a mountain to symbolize the Rockies. The logo also emphasizes the scenic mountain ranges that surround Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and illustrates the role of the rattlesnake in southwestern Native American legends.


Zachary Mazefsky from www.bigleaguebaseballs.com posted a two-part blog on the subject. Mazefsky’s site chronicles the special edition baseballs that are used throughout the game.


From Part 1, in which Mazefsky introduces Salt River Fields:


Indeed, this is an MLB commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig officially stamped ROMLB gamer – not to be confused with any souvenir baseballs. And all fans attending spring training games will have a chance to snag one of these babies throughout the 2011 Cactus League season. So for our ballhawks on the site, if you’re in the area, get down to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and don’t forget your gloves.


I’ll post an update here when Mazefsky posts Part 2 on the subject, which includes an interview with D-backs Director of Special Projects (and friend & supporter of D-blog) Graham Rossini.


I’ll be here all day writing about the first game at Salt River Fields, and go ahead and follow me on Twitter (Insider_Writer) for a lot of updates, Twitpics and such.