Snake Bytes - Aces, Closers, & Health Updates

This edition: Dan Haren and Brandon Webb's bargain-basement contracts, Tony Clark defects to the Padres, more on Brandon Lyon as the team's closer, and health updates for Randy Johnson and Doug Slaten.

Snake Bytes

--With RHP Dan Haren joining RHP Brandon Webb, the Arizona Diamondbacks have "the two best starting pitching contracts in baseball," according to one scout at the winter meetings. Webb, who has finished 1-2 in the last two NL Cy Young Award votes, will earn $20.5 million over the next three years -- $5.5 million in 2008, $6.5 million in 2009 and $8.5 million on a team option for 2010. Haren is even more affordable. He will make $4 million this season, $5.5 million in 2009 and $6.75 million on a team option in 2010. The Diamondbacks asked Webb if he would consider an extension this offseason, but he said no.

--1B Tony Clark has nearly finalized an agreement with his hometown San Diego Padres for one-year, $900,000.  The Diamondbacks had reportedly offered Clark a two-year deal worth #3 million earlier in the winter.  Clark hit four home runs in 26 at bats against the Friars last season, including three of the four homers hit off RHP Chris Young before the pitcher's late-season injury.  The Padres therefore may have signed Clark primarily to keep him away from other NL-rivals.  He does not make an effective platoon partner with 1B Adrian Gonzalez, as both sluggers perform better against right-handed pitching.

--LHP Randy Johnson threw off a mound on Feb. 5 for the first time since October back surgery, as he fired 25 fastballs at personal trainer Brett Fischer's Athletes' Performance Center in suburban Phoenix. Johnson began playing catch last month. He is on pace to be 100 percent when spring training opens, unlike last season, when was forced to play catch-up and was activated the final week of April. Asked if Johnson will indeed be 100 percent for the opening of spring training, manager Bob Melvin said, "That's what we envision. Everything would support that."

--RHP Micah Owings may take some groundballs at first base this spring to re-familiarize himself with that position -- he pitched, DHed and played first base at Tulane in 2005 -- in case the Diamondbacks need his bat in an emergency. Owings won the Silver Slugger award as the best hitting pitcher in the NL as a rookie last season, when he hit .333 with four homers and 15 RBIs. He had two four-hits games, including a tour de force game at Atlanta on Aug. 18 in which he had two homers, a double, six RBIs and four runs in a 12-6 victory.

--LHP Doug Slaten, who underwent microfracture knee surgery after the playoffs ended in October, may be limited during early spring pitchers' fielding practice, manager Bob Melvin indicated. Slaten, who was 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 61 appearances (36 1/3 innings) in his rookie season, is expected to be ready for a regular season. His left specialist role is important in a division in which the Diamondbacks must face potent lefties such as Colorado's Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe, Los Angeles' James Loney, and San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez. The only other left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster is Bill Murphy.

--RHP Brandon Lyon has not pitched more than three days in a row since 2005, when he began the season as the closer (Greg Aquino and Jose Valverde were delayed out of spring training). He suffered a right elbow injury six weeks into that season after saving 13 of 14 chances. Lyon hit 95 mph on the radar gun in the second half of last season, convincing manager Bob Melvin that his arm strength had returned and the elbow was no longer an issue.

BY THE NUMBERS: 36 -- Holds for RHP Brandon Lyon last season, a statistic developed to measure the effectiveness of setup men that is calculated in a similar manner to how saves are calculated for a closer. Tony Pena, slated to pitch the eighth inning this season after being used in the seventh a year ago, had 30 holds.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "One runs on emotion, the other just the opposite. (Lyon) has a poker face. Nothing seems to bother him. I have a lot of confidence in Brandon. He's done it successfully. Each year he has shown we can use him a little more." -- Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, on the differences between new closer Brandon Lyon and former closer Jose Valverde, who was traded to Houston in the offseason.

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