D'Backs D'Blog: 4/8/05

D'Backs D'Blog, your source for information that you really wouldn't have any reason to know unless you were a real hard core D'Back fan.


***With the rosters announced (finalized…HA!  This is the minors kid, nothing is ever final) the biggest question on everyone's mind is where has Billy Murphy gone?  The young lefty was sought after by the Diamondbacks, enough so that the Dodgers traded to get him simply to move him to the D'Backs in the Steve Finley deal.  Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Mr. Murphy, please shoot an email to FutureBacks@cox.net. 

***Ramon Pena has been placed at Double-A Tennessee, something of a surprise since there was a #5 spot open on the Triple-A Tucson roster.  If Pena is unhappy with the placement it could make Tennessee Manager Tony Perezchica's job that much harder this season, since Pena would join Casey Daigle as starters not happy with their situations.

***It's never easy, but the job of finding at bats for all his outfielders will be especially difficult for Chip Hale down in Tucson this summer.  Top prospect Carlos Quentin is joined by Josh Kroeger, Doug DeVore, and Scott Hairston, all of whom saw time with the big league club last season, perhaps a softball lineup with a ‘short center' fielder might be in order.

***Hale should certainly have himself a squad that contends for the Pacific Coast League crown this year though, along with Hairston, DeVore, and Kroeger there are eight other players who have seen Major League experience on the Tucson roster this season, the others are pitchers Lance Cormier, Shane Nance, Adam Peterson, Edgar Gonzalez, and Oscar Villarreal, catcher Juan Brito, C/1B Alan Zinter, and utility man Andy Green.

***Brandon Lyon looks to have nailed down the closers job with the big league club, especially after two shaky outings from Greg Aquino.  Still young, Aquino might be due for a bump back to Tucson if his ineffectiveness continues.



***We waited, we waited until Game Two, because frankly, our mothers taught us if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all, but as bad as the Diamondbacks front office looked after Monday's opener, they started looking like geniuses on Tuesday.  Russ Ortiz and his contract, oft maligned, looked good against the Cubs, walking only two in route to a 5-4 win over the Cubs.  The final out was made on a stellar play by newly acquired shortstop Royce Clayton.  Craig Counsel went 3-4 with a run scored and a RBI, and while Troy Glaus and Shawn Green were a combined 0-8 on Tuesday, it was pretty obvious Greg Maddux was giving Luis Gonzalez better pitches than he normally would, and Gonzo took advantage, hitting two homers and driving in three.  Bob Melvin looked smart for keeping both his rookie catchers on the roster.  Chris Snyder got the start Tuesday and late in the game, with the tying run on second, he blocked five separate curveballs in the dirt that could have advanced Todd Walker…those curveballs, by the way, came from Brandon Lyon, who looked, acted, and pitched exactly like you'd like a closer to look, act, and pitch.

***While Alex Sanchez has become the first Major League Ballplayer to test positive for steroids under the new Steroid Policy, the bigger story was the 38 minor leaguers who also tested positive during Spring Training.  The names of these minor leaguers were released for the first time, and the Diamondbacks came out unscathed.  While it was only a small sample there is certainly pride up and down the organization that not a single player from the Diamondbacks tested positive, while eight different members of the Seattle Mariners system and seven in the Cubs system were suspended.  Scarier still for baseball, if not the Diamondbacks, is that all the players who tested positive came from the tests performed in Arizona, the Florida tests have not yet been completed.

***Three of the four full season minor league club's rosters have been announced, with the Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders the only squad not officially announced.  Notables:  Bill Murphy has not been named to a roster, leaving FutureBacks.com to assume he will get the bump to Triple-A Tucson, the same with Ramon Pena.  While Casey Daigle may not be terribly happy with his assignment to Double-A Tennessee, he'll be pitching alongside some of the brightest pitching prospects in the system and to one of the best defensive catchers in the system, Phil Avlas.  Among those pitchers starting with the Smokies this season are lefties Matt Chico and Clint Goocher, righties Adam Bass, Pete Sikaras, and Enrique Gonzalez, and potential closers Mike Schultz and Justin Wechsler.  As the season opens Wechsler will get the closing duties.

***Last season the Hi-A (California League) Lancaster JetHawks featured the ‘Three Amigos' of Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin, and Jaime D'Antona.  With Jackson and Quentin heading to Tucson and D'Antona starting the season in Tennessee, a new trio of future D'Backs stars could be emerging in Lo-A (Midwest League) South Bend where top pitching prospects A. J. Shappi, Stephen Jackson, and Ross Ohlendorf will be the featured starters in another exciting rotation. 

***Three former D'Backs have changed addresses in the last week.  Brett Prinz heads to the deep bullpen of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mike Myers moved from St. Louis to Boston, and Diamondbacks fans will get plenty of opportunities to see former closer Byung-Hyun Kim whose penchant for giving up the long ball isn't being done any favors as he heads to Colorado.


***Yes, it's April Fool's Day, but Casey Daigle isn't laughing.  Daigle started the Spring on the short list of candidates to snag the #5 spot in the Diamondbacks rotation, but didn't see many innings with the big league club this Spring, was cut from the big league roster early, and now has been assigned to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies.  A source with the Diamondbacks has characterized the assignment as a ‘motivational tool,' but rumors have persisted around the Diamondbacks that manager Bob Melvin was displeased with Daigle's shape coming into camp as well as his work ethic during camp, and this decision was a wake up call for the young righty.

***There were quite a few questions answered during the Diamondbacks exhibition game against the Red Sox last night, and quite a few that were unanswered.  Is Russ Ortiz worth his monstrous contract?  Let's be kind and say that one wasn't answered after Ortiz gave up walked four, gave up four hits, and six earned runs in 1/3 of an inning of work.  One was definitely answered when Troy Glaus went 2-3 with two homers and five RBI.  So for now the Diamondbacks are one for two in their big offseason pickups.

***Marland Williams will join Daigle at Double-A Tennessee, and while it doesn't come as a huge surprise, there was some speculation that he would start the year at Triple-A Tucson, but a Spring which saw Williams continue to have trouble making contact consistently has him heading back to Double-A where he will start between Jon Zeringue and Jarred Ball in the Smokies' outfield.


***Russ Ortiz has won more games than any other National League pitcher since the All-Star Break in 2000.  He joins Brandon Webb in a rotation that features three pitchers who walked more than 100 hitters last season. 

***How happy is Triple-A Manager Chip Hale going to be at the start of the season?  His potential lineup could be:

1—CF Marland Williams

2—2B Scott Hairston

3—SS Sergio Santos

4—RF Carlos Quentin

5—1B Conor Jackson

6—LF Josh Kroeger

7—C Craig Ansman

8—3B Brian Barden

Whoa.  That's a whole lotta thunder, and the Pacific Coast League should be afraid, very afraid.  Want more?  Okay, let's move Santos over to third and insert Jerry Gil at short.  Now let's say Kroeger plays a little center, Williams gets a rest, Hairston moves to left, and you could see scrapper Steve Garrabrants.  This is fun!  Maybe Jackson logs more time in left and Kyle Nichols is launching bombs over at 1st base.  And remember, Kelly Stinnett is there to give Ansman a day off here and there, where he will likely be old enough to be several of the player's, and at least one coach's grandparents.

***Ramon Pena, aka Tony Pena, aka Adriano Rosario, entered the Spring as the dark horse for the #5 spot in the rotation, and will head back to Double-A Tennessee to work on some things, namely throwing pitches other than his fastball.  Still, he impressed coaches, one of whom called Pena "the real deal, watch for him next year, he could be our #3."


***It might not have been the shock of the century, but it certainly wasn't expected when Bob Melvin made the call that both Chris Snyder and Koyie Hill will start the season with the big league club.  It had been assumed that only one of the still-eligible-for-Rookie of the Year players would open the season with the club and veteran Kelly Stinnett would back them up.  Now the only question is which will be the everyday starter.  With the dislocated thumb Snyder suffered, it seems likely that at least for a little while the job is Hill's.

***Scott Hairston was cut from the big league roster, leaving many to speculate that the veteran bullpen presence Melvin's been looking for all Spring could come via a trade for Hairston, who has performed well this Spring, but simply has no place to play on the D'Backs.  A young, able bat like Hairston's is valued by virtually everyone, except of course the Diamondbacks.

***At the moment the Diamondbacks have had more ticket requests for the two exhibition games against the World Champion Boston Red Sox than any official game except opening day.

***A source tells FutureBacks.com that Conor Jackson has been offered a small role in a baseball movie currently in pre-production and scheduled to shoot in ArizonaJackson's father is an accomplished actor, and he studied acting in college.  No word yet on whether he will accept the role.

***With the cuts made the roster now stands at 31, but there is really only one decision left to be made, Brad Halsey or Michael Gosling for the #5 spot in the rotation.


***At the end of last season it seemed the only player whose job was safe was Chad Tracy.  After being selected to the All-Rookie team Tracy seemed like as close to a cornerstone as the Diamondbacks could boast.  Then Troy Glaus was signed, but Richie Sexson and Shea Hillenbrand weren't, so Tracy moved to first.  With the emergence of Conor Jackson and his move from left to first there was speculation last year's cornerstone might be this year's bench bat.  Mark Grace has been working with Tracy this Spring, even going so far as to say Tracy will one day be a better hitter and fielder than he was. 

***Maybe it was the strained biceps tendon, or simply rust after missing most of last year to injury, but Jose Valverde may just have pitched himself off the big league roster this Spring.  Coaches are quietly happy about Manager Bob Melvin's decision to keep Oscar Villarreal in the bullpen, as he will fill Valverde's spot as the primary set up guy for Greg Aquino.

***Speaking of Aquino, the young closer took longer than expected to recover from an elbow strain, but had a solid outing Sunday, throwing a perfect 1-2-3 frame with a strikeout mixed in, allowing many in the Diamondbacks front office to exhale for the first time since March 5th when the injury was diagnosed.

***It is still a long way from happening, but Sergio Santos is making it difficult for the Diamondbacks to send him down.  He's hitting .275 and slugging .500 this Spring, unfortunately for him the man signed to play short for one more year while Santos recovers fully from shoulder surgery that ended Santos' 2004 early, Royce Clayton, is hitting over .300 and making more consistent contact, which is key since Melvin has indicated Clayton will likely hit in the #2 spot in the batting order.

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