Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
In last homestand’s edition of D-backs Insider magazine, Ryan Roberts was labeled a sparkplug. It was a perfect label for a player that consistently makes things happen in the field and at the plate for the D-backs.
On Tuesday, Roberts was up to his usual habits. With the score knotted at 4-4, Roberts led off the bottom of the ninth inning by drawing a walk against Indians left-hander Tony Sipp.
Roberts wasn’t about to drop anchor at first base, but instead he was soon off to the races. He quickly swiped second for his 10th stolen base of the season. Several pitches later, Roberts was in motion once again. This time he bolted toward third, reaching safely with ease.
“Every pitcher does something, and you’ve just got to wait until you see a key,” Roberts said. “When you see a key, (don’t) give it away by jumping (around) out there. Just try to stay calm and whenever I thought I could get it, (I) took off.”
All of a sudden, the winning run was just 90 feet away. Roberts was hoping to do anything he could to draw Sipp’s attention from the pinch hitter Wily Mo Peña.
“In a situation like that, the pressure is on him to throw strikes,” Roberts said. “If I can take his mind off the batter and off throwing strikes … maybe get him to balk then we get a run scored (and) we win.”
After missing on a breaking ball to start the at-bat, Peña drilled a two-run walk-off home run into the left-field bleachers to seal the 6-4 win. It was Peña’s second career walk-off homer.
“I said I was going to go and look for a breaking pitch,” Peña said. “Everybody saw the first swing that I took. It was so hard because I was looking for a breaking pitch. So the second one I said, ‘let him bring it up,’ and that’s what happened.”
Hudson firing on all cylinders
To say Daniel Hudson helped his team defeat the Indians would be an understatement.
The D-backs’ right-hander did everything he could against Cleveland on Tuesday night. Hudson turned in a complete effort by contributing both on the mound and at the plate.
In his 17th start of the season, Hudson unleashed eight solid innings, allowing just a pair of runs on six hits. Hudson retired the Indians in the second, fourth, and sixth innings. He also notched five strikeouts to raise his season total to 92.
It was Hudson’s 13th quality start of the 2011 campaign, which leads the Arizona pitching staff and is tied for third in the National League.
Hudson helped his cause by laying down a two sacrifice bunts in the game. He also laced an RBI double into the right field corner in the fifth inning. He now leads the D-backs’ pitching staff with seven RBI.
Despite not getting the win himself, Hudson was pleased with his overall effort against the Tribe.
“I didn’t have great command tonight,” Hudson said, “but I pushed through it and was able to help out and get a couple of guys in scoring position. I got a pretty good swing on a fastball.”
Castillo makes D-backs debut
Just hours after arriving at Chase Field as a new member of the D-backs’ bullpen, lefty reliever Alberto Castillo toed the rubber.
Gibson called on Castillo in the middle of the ninth inning to face Lonnie Chisenhall. The new D-back did his part by freezing Chisenhall on strike three to end the inning. He would also earn the win, thanks to Peña’s blast one inning later.
Tuesday’s appearance was Castillo’s first Major League outing since June 8, 2010, when he was a Baltimore Oriole.
CLAY ZAVADA — Photography: Rick Scuteri
Every year, teams have somewhere between 10-20 non-roster invitees at Spring Training, guys who aren’t on the team’s 40-man roster. It’s always a mix of prospects and veteran players who didn’t sign Major League contracts in the offseason. But every year, there are a handful of potential gems on the non-roster list.
Here’s the D-backs’ list of non-roster players that you’ll be watching in Spring Training (their names are clickable for statistics):
Some thoughts on a few of these guys:
Matt Gorgen — Gorgen was the player Arizona acquired from Tampa Bay in the trade that sent Chad Qualls there late last year. I’m interested in seeing Gorgen pitch and I’m really curious as to why the Rays made him available, especially when the team lost so many relief pitchers to free agency this year. He’s got pretty excellent minor league numbers and according to Jerry DiPoto, as Arizona Republic writer Nick Piecoro mentioned back in September, Gorgen has good stuff as well. If you’re looking to find an interesting sleeper to emerge out of the non-roster invitee group, Gorgen could definitely be your guy.
Jarrod Parker — Like pretty much everybody else, I’m anxious to see how Parker looks in Spring Training. When last we saw him pitch, he was fresh off throwing some really impressive heat in the 2009 Futures Game, but an elbow injury shut him down for the 2010 season. He gave updates on Twitter throughout the year on his conditioning. When Parker is on, he’s darn-near unhittable but the organization is going to be patient with him after major surgery.
Clay Zavada — Elbow surgery also cost Clay Zavada his 2010 season, so one of the bright spots of the 2009 D-backs is going to work toward getting back in the big leagues this year. You won’t meet many ballplayers that are nicer than Zavada, so I would imagine there are going to be a lot of fans pulling for him to succeed this spring.
Chris Owings — Of the D-backs’ highly picked high school draftees in 2009 (Bobby Borchering, Matt Davidson, Chris Owings), this shortstop out of South Carolina has been the most consistent both at the plate and in the field. A foot injury robbed Owings of about two-thirds of his season last year, but he was playing quite well before he went down. Considering the depth the team added this year with Melvin Mora, Geoff Blum and Willie Bloomquist, there are a lot of infielders in camp. There aren’t that many Spring Training at bats to go around, so Owings’ stay on the big league side might not last very long.
Marc Krauss — Along with teammate Paul Goldschmidt, Marc Krauss absolutely killed the ball in the High-A California League with Visalia last year. Krauss was then one of the few players below Double-A that get a chance to play in the Arizona Fall League. Playing for the 2010 champion Scottsdale Scorpions, Krauss was great, batting .298 with a .404 on-base percentage, with four home runs in 22 games. The guy can really hit, and I’m anxious to see what he can do against some big league pitching.
Wily Mo Pena — I’m mostly just excited to watch Wily Mo Pena take batting practice. He has massive raw power (link: check out this stunning home run he hit at Toronto’s Rogers Centre back in 2007), always has, and hit pretty well in limited duty for the Padres’ Triple-A Affiliate last year.
A.J. Pollock — With really advanced fundamental skills coming out of college, A.J. Pollock looked like he was on the fast track until he hurt his elbow going after a ball in the outfield in Spring Training last year and lost a whole season because of it. He also played in the Fall League and hit quite well for average — batted .313 with six doubles in 16 games — and hopefully his power comes along with health.